THE NEXT GENERATION of YouTube influencers is here and kid-sized, leading major toy companies to begin shifting their marketing budgets towards leveraging on the power of authentic digital content to sell their products.
According to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek, some of the most influential YouTube stars today are aged around 12 years old and below. Channels such as KidToyTesters have shot to fame due to the fun, familiar atmosphere their videos project, which has helped the family of five siblings gain clout as a major force of cultural influence. Major toymakers such as Mattel Inc., Hasbro Inc. and MGA Entertainment Inc. are now turning to these pint-sized stars to help create content and market their latest products.
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From unboxing videos to haul rundowns, influencers like KidToyTesters have become a focal point for toy retailers ahead of poor market sentiments. Toys R Us has slid into bankruptcy, while Mattel and Hasbro both reported poor earnings over the summer. In a increasingly digital world, physical toys may be on their way to becoming obsolete as more and more youths turn to the Internet for their entertainment.
In comparison, toy unboxing videos have gone viral, and have become staples of YouTube’s most viewed videos lists. Videos by young influencers an garner millions of views and have incredible staying power. The most popular video by the KidToyTesters – in which the kids reenact The Little Mermaid with rubber mermaid tails – has racked up 38 million views. .
Hence the innovative turn to digital content aimed at reinvigorating the market.
“I said to myself, How are we going take advantage of [the viral video] phenomenon and make the ultimate unboxing toy?” Isaac Larian, the CEO of MGA, said to Bloomberg. “I challenged my design team, and they came up with the idea.”
MGA tested out a toy called LOL Surprise!, which brought the element of suspense inherent in unboxing videos to toy-life. The plaything, simple as it was, was a small plastic sphere concealing a tiny, accessorized doll, and it became a hit. This happened without any kind of television marketing, prompting MGA to go bigger with LOL Big Surprise.
The secret? Larian relied entirely on YoutTube kid influencers to market his toys, as well as more social media-focused programming that could prompt tech-savvy youths to share their experiences with their friends. The shift has also been characterized by the drop in TV engagement among kids.
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Ratings company Nielsen said that compared to 2008, the number of kids aged six to eleven watching Disney Channel on TV has fallen 53 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, eMarketer research house said that 32 percent of young viewers said they would prefer to watch content on a non-TV device last year .
“There was a time when you would put a product on TV and watch it sell, but kids aren’t watching Nick anymore,” Larian said to Bloomberg.
“So we aren’t wasting money with TV anymore. We’re going with digital influencers’ viral marketing.”
Among young respondents, YouTube’s brand was ranked highly according to Smarty Pants LLC, and it’s resulted in companies pouring money into the platform. According to PwC LLC. YouTube was ranked as the most influential platform for 72 percent of young viewers, leading companies like Mattel and MGA to invest millions in buying up influencer content.
The KidToyTesters, for instance, now produce toy videos that can earn around US$3,000 to US$20,000 per sponsored video (information about a sponsored video must be disclosed). Bloomberg reported that a toy feature can cost a company up to US$200,000 if they engage an influencer with a significant audience base.
“It’s the Wild, Wild West,” said Justin Kline, the COO of Markerly Inc., a company that matches brands with influencers, to Bloomberg.
In the case of the KidToyTesters, brand deals now make the bulk of their revenue since Google’s tweaked algorithm removed many ads from the videos.
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The rise of influencers all across YouTube has led to some big bucks flowing into the pockets of video content makers. There’s always some chatter about the falling power of influencers today, but they remain a staple for brands because of the authenticity they can project to their audiences. Some of the best influencers build communities with their audiences, but kid influencers bring a kind of spontaneity that can often be absent in adult videos.
“Influencers are able to relate better to kids than a scripted or overly produced traditional TV advertisement would,” said Victor Lee, senior vice president for digital marketing at Hasbro, to Bloomberg.
Samantha Cheh is a writer based in Kuala Lumpur, and has previously written for various online publications. She’s interested in the intersections of tech, culture, business and politics. Get in touch with her for interview, or tweet her a GIF.