March 2010 | Vol. IX - No. 3
Zoobies Unfold With New Themes and Licenses
Functional Plush Thrive on Customer-Driven Success
This customer-driven business approach, combined with multi-purpose plush toys that appeal to the cuddly-play factor children love, have fueled a success story that began with Zoobies’ founders (and brothers) Reid and JC Smoot’s desire to invent something for kids that was fun, innovative and functional.
DIVING RIGHT IN
Zoobies made a big splash when it entered the toy business in 2007.
“We launched the company without any previous experience in the toy/gift industries,” Treft told TDmonthly. “In a way, this has been a huge advantage. We are always seeking insight from customers and retailers without assuming we know what they want.”
This research methodology has resulted in Zoobies channeling most of its marketing dollars into trade shows.
“It also allows us to interact with our retailers, potential retailers, and other exhibitors — all of whom have a lot to offer,” Treft explained. “We are not afraid to ask questions and even allow our retailers to participate in our product development process. We have a ‘retailer board’ that consists of some of our biggest customers. They are always willing to provide great ideas.”
Although Zoobies was successful at its first Toy Fair, in 2007, and received feedback on elements of the line that could quickly be changed, Treft advocates “taking product samples to the buyers for the ideal sales channel and modifying the product according to the feedback. … Do everything you can to line up interest in your product before you officially launch.”
Today, Zoobies are in nearly 2,500 specialty stores in the United States, with distribution in 60 countries. (See a report on Zoobies’ growth from September 2008.)
OFFERING VALUE WITH FUNCTION AND LICENSES
With dozens of awards to the company’s credit, Treft described Zoobies as plush with a purpose.
“Plush is a huge category with a lot of competitors, but there isn’t a lot of functional plush out there. Function and value allows us to stand out in a crowded market,” he said.
Current collections include Safari, Wildlife, Bugs, Zoo, Baby and Jumbo Zoobies. A Barnyard Collection is in the works.
The company’s willingness to adapt and seek new opportunities has fueled successful new directions.
“One of the best moves we’ve made is doing the Very Hungry Caterpillar Zoobie/book combo,” Treft told TDmonthly. “Like many of our ideas, making book characters came from listening to feedback from consumers. We received several emails from parents who tell us they wrap their child up in the Zoobie blanket as they sit on their lap during story time. … We have recently signed licensing agreements with more classic books, such as Peter Rabbit, Olivia, and Spot the Dog.”
“The Zoobies company has been great to work with, and they are continually looking at new designs to keep their line fresh,” said Retha Davis, co-owner of Kid’s Center in Tucson, Ariz. “Combining (the Zoobies) with classic book characters has been a great way for the line to reach new audiences, with the Eric Carle Very Hungry Caterpillar leading the way. For us, as a children's book and toy store, it has been a great seller and we are looking forward to their new book character designs.”
TEAMING UP WITH RETAILERS
Treft and his team work closely with retailers to ensure the product’s functionality is communicated to consumers. Demonstration is crucial when promoting Zoobies, he said, but the company also provides helpful visuals.
“The last thing we want is for a Zoobie to sit on a shelf with nothing to indicate that they are more than a stuffed animal. We are offering several POP materials and displays with great graphics that show Zoobies in all three phases,” Treft told TDmonthly. Such displays, he said, have significantly boosted sell through.
Read Zoobie Pets Invade 1,100 Stores in Under 2 Years
See fresh Zoobies, as well as some older designs, below:
Zoobies Very Hungry Caterpillar Toy, Blanket & Book Combo by ZOOBIES
Other products from ZOOBIES
Zoobies teamed up with the World of Eric Carle to launch the Zoobies Very Hungry Caterpillar Toy, Blanket & Book Combo. This plush character folds into a pillow with a butterfly print blanket zipped inside. The package also includes the classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” board book.
Awards: 2010 NAPPA Gold Award.
Launch date: February 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 27348 (added 2/23/2010)
Zoobies 3-in-1 Patch the Pinto plush toy pony, super-soft blanket & comfy pillow is ideal for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Patch also makes a great baby shower gift.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 27129 (added 2/15/2010)
Zoobies 3-in-1 Furbie the Feline plush toy, super-soft blanket & comfy pillow is ideal for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Furbie also makes a great baby shower gift. Launch date: February 14, 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 27127 (added 2/15/2010)
Zoobies 3-in-1 Poco the Pup plush toy, super-soft blanket & comfy pillow is ideal for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Poco also makes a great baby shower gift. Launch date: February 14, 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 27128 (added 2/15/2010)
Saba is not only an adorable snail, but also a comfy pillow and super-soft blanket all in one. Perfect for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Suishy Saba also makes a perfect baby shower gift. Launch date: 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 25097 (added 8/25/2009)
Bound to become a child's best friend, Lilly is not only an adorable ladybug, but also a comfy pillow and super-soft blanket all in one. She's perfect for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. Lilly also makes a a great baby shower gift. Launch date: 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 25096 (added 8/25/2009)
Coming to you from Africa's wild Okavango Delta, this jumbo cuddly croc's toothy grin is sure to warm a child's heart. Kojo is not only an adorable crocodile, but also a comfy pillow and super-soft queen sized blanket all in one. Perfect for lounging on or just cuddling in bed. Features include: Microbead stuffed head for ultimate squishibility; Large, super-soft coral fleece blanket inside: 90"x59"; Bumpy Green Plush Body Material; 100% polyester. Blanket detaches for easy washing. Launch date: 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23549 (added 5/5/2009)
This cuddly Zoobie is designed to be ideal for road excursions or just cuddling in bed. In addition to a teddy bear, it also serves as a comfy pillow and soft blanket — all in one. "We are the only company that turns a plush animal into a pillow and a blanket," CEO JC Smoot of Zoobies told TDmonthly. Bubba received a 2009 Top Fun award from Tillywig and a 2009 Best Vacation Children's Products award from Dr. Toy. Launch date: February 15, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23415 (added 4/27/2009)
Now even the tinest Baby can have a Zoobie. The Baby Mashaka plush toy un-Velcroes to become a comfy pillow, then unzips to transform into an infant-sized blanket. The blanket even features fuzzy "comfort corners" to stimulate Baby's interest in textures. Release date: 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20531 (added 9/18/2008)
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Writer's Bio: Claudia Newcorn has been a freelance writer and editor for over 10 years, after having spent more than a decade in marketing and product management. She writes for both businesses and individual clients, crafting copy, content and advertising. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines and specialty publications nationwide (www.acornmarketing.com). She is also the author of an award-winning fantasy fiction book, "Crossover," and several published short stories (www.claudianewcorn.com). Read more articles by this author
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