Small Business Grit & Social Media Buzz Turn Zhu Zhu into Holiday BonanzaDecember 8th, 2009 | News,shopping,Small Business,Social Media | 1 Comment »
I have to admit, I never heard about a Zhu Zhu until this past weekend. I did not even know what the big holiday toy was this year. Chalk it up to traveling, being busy, not having any kids (yet, my first is due in 4 weeks!), or being distracted by our last minute (before baby arrives) home renovation that my wife and I are undertaking (its being chronicled over at another blog).
That brings me to opening up the Saturday Washington Post and reading all about the Russell Hornsby who has had a family toy business for over 35 years. He has spent a lifetime fighting the likes of Mattel and Hasbro who each have million dollar marketing and R&D budgets. His story and the story of the family business that is behind this year’s holiday must have toy should bring a smile to any small business and inspire everyone. Zhu Zhu is this year’s Pokemon and Furby (my wife actually still has this must have gift of holiday past).
The Zhu Zhu Idea
In Spring of 2008, Hornsby and his daughter, who are employees in the family business named Cepia, literally put their thinking cap on and debated whether a hamster toy could sell. As market research, he literally watched hours of YouTube clips of hamsters to learn their peculiarities, unpredictableness and just how they can be plain cute. From this research came the Zhu Zhu idea. But not just the pet hamster, but a bunch of accessories such as a ramp, slide, skateboard and even a fun house. So they had the idea, the product, accessories but how the heck did they plan on marketing the Zhu Zhu and all of the accompanying accessories?
Social Media Creates the Zhu Zhu Buzz
Most small businesses face the same challenge of a limited marketing budget, Hornsby and his company were no different. This is where social media and some very thoughtful planning lead to a smashing small business success.
Mommy Party: Hornsby with the help of mommy marketer, BSM Media first, held 300 “mom mavens” parties where 10 moms and their children were invited to parties where they could play with the Zhu Zhu toys and all the accessories. Brilliantly, nothing was for sale at these parties, but the kids and the moms got hooked and went home thinking about Zhu Zhus.
Zhu Zhu Twitter Party: Then they decided to have a party for moms and kids on Twitter to talk about…….Zhu Zhus. According to the article, more than 1,000 people attended and there were over 8,700 tweets in a one hour period.
All of this buzz helped start the Zhu Zhu craze. From there it was word of mouth marketing and further coverage in the lead up to the holiday season. The rest is truly history. Hornsby’s Zhu Zhu has crushed anything comparable from the big guys of Hasboro and Mattel.
The Zhu Zhu story gives me hope that through a good idea, great execution via social media and word of mouth marketing, that any small business can recreate this success. This type of glass half full optimism that we highlighted before is the fabric for small business success.
Tell us your thoughts on the Zhu Zhu success story.