Tapping the Power of Moms Online: The Lessons of Zhu Zhu Pets

Zhu Zhu Pets exploded onto the toy scene during the holidays last year and they’re still among the most demanded toys this season, according to the NPD Group.

So how did the small Missouri-based toy company do it? They certainly didn’t have the big marketing dollars and reach of major toy makers like Mattel and Hasbro. But earlier in the year, Cepia, the company behind Zhu Zhu Pets, had sent out the electronic pet hamster to mommybloggers across the country. They were invited to host a hamster party for their children and their friends. Naturally, the mommybloggers then wrote about it, reviewing the toy and posting photographs online.

There was a risk, said Laura Kurzu, senior vice president of marketing for Cepia. The mommybloggers could easily have panned the product. Luckily for them, the feedback was glowing and the buzz began to build. By the time the holidays rolled around, children and their parents were clamoring for the toy hamster.

Of course, there were other factors that made Zhu Zhu Pets such a hit (its inexpensive $10 price tag helped, given the economy), but the sales spike shows just how influential moms can be. In fact, a new study commissioned by Child’s Play Communications from the NPD Group Inc. found that 79 percent of moms with children under 18 are active in social media.

Of these moms, the report said, about one in four said they have bought a children’s product because they had read a recommendation from a social networking site or blog.

That figure jumps up for moms who are daily users of social media — 43 percent have picked up a children’s product because of an online recommendation. Personal review blogs were more influential than Facebook, but both drove moms to make a purchase.

Even now that Cepia has more marketing power — there will be a Zhu Zhu Pet in the Thanksgiving Macy’s Parade next year, for example — it continues to tap its core mommybloggers. For the holidays, it sent 100 bloggers 100 Zhu Zhu Pets each to give away to charities of their choice in a campaign called “Random Acts of Zhu.”

Of course, they blogged about it.

About Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a business and technology freelance writer in San Francisco. Reach out to her at ellenleeonline@gmail.com.
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