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How YouTube Influencer Marketing Created 2017's Toy of the Year

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While some brands will only work with the most popular influencers, WowWee works with creators at all levels, from those with hundreds of followers to those with millions. Doing so helps smaller creators develop their networks and build a relationship with the brand. It also helps build a more engaged following, Kayar believes.

Yes, influencers are paid—they don’t just do it for the toys. Creating a YouTube video that entertains an audience and communicates the spirit of a new product is work, and influencers expect to be compensated. There isn’t an average price, since influencers are paid by their popularity. WowWee will pay a smaller influencer a couple thousand dollars, and up to a hundred thousand for a really popular one. That’s right, up to $100,000 for one video.

“I think it’s important to talk about those figures, because there is definitely a lot of, I would say, lack of transparency within the industry and I think it’s important for brands to talk about what they’re looking into and the different influencers that they’re working with, and to start to educate about the work that these creators are doing,” Kayar says. “A lot of the times, I’ll find that creatives are very undervalued in their space, and they really deserve the compensation for the amount of production that they’re putting in.”

Creating the Toy of the Season

When did WowWee realize it had something really special on its hands? Not from the start, but close. Once it had a working model and started showing it to toy retailers, it kept getting the same reaction: “Wow, this is something different. I’ve never seen something like this before. This is something special.”

While the team tried not to get too excited, they were aware they had a possible best-seller. But toy trends change quickly and the public is finicky, so there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Even Sydney Wiseman, the line’s creator, wasn’t absolutely certain until the day after Christmas. Once she and the rest of the team saw social media posts full of happy kids who had gotten Fingerlings, and when parents started writing online reviews saying how much their kids loved their new toys, they knew.

Fingerling Friday on YouTube was a big part of what propelled the toy in the right direction. While WowWee had worked with influencers before, it had never created a campaign this involved, with this level of detail. A week or two after the event, WowWee started getting positive feedback. The toys were selling out across the country.

WowWee saw positive comments and strong video engagement rates following its event, but the metric it really cared about was shareability: “That’s a term people confuse with virality, but it’s really the shareability of content and the shareability of feedback that gets to that optimal measure of information that you’re looking for,” Kayar explains. “When you have people tagging each other in things, when you have them sharing something on their own pages and on their own channels, when they’re forwarding things along with messages, things like that is when you know it’s something that people want other people to know about.”

And that’s how WowWee created the biggest toy success in its history.

The question is, can the company do it again?

The successor to Fingerlings isn’t cuddly—it’s scary. The company’s focus now is on Untamed Raptors, pocket-sized dinos that kids can tame or leave wild. To give them a strong send-off, WowWee once again turned to YouTube. May 18 was Ferocious Friday, where multiple influencers put out videos about their toothy new friends. So does WowWee have another hit on its hands? Wait until the day after Christmas to find out.

[This article appears in the July/August 2018 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "How YouTube Influencer Marketing Created the Toy of the Year"]

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