TikTok is quickly becoming a marketing destination for toy companies with the help of influencers and original content

TikTok is quickly becoming a marketing destination for toy companies with the help of influencers and original content
TikTok.Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images
  • TikTok is quickly becoming a force in the toy-marketing industry.
  • Toy maker Zuru Toys' senior digital manager predicts TikTok will be on par with YouTube as a toy-marketing destination in the next several years.
  • Several toy companies, like Zuru Toys and MGA Entertainment, use a mix of influencer marketing campaigns and original content to boost TikTok engagement.
  • Zuru Toys' Mini Brands line is now at its "strongest point" with continuous weekly growth due to its TikTok marketing efforts.
  • While the toy companies are creating videos that are engaging and feature toys, they maintain they aren't technically advertisements since the social media platform doesn't allow "advertisements marketed specifically toward children."

TikTok is quickly becoming a force in the toy industry as more companies continue to invest time and effort into creating TikTok-specific marketing campaigns.

TikTok was Apple's second-most downloaded app in 2020. Despite the new social media platform's tumultuous year, the app will likely continue to grow. According to App Annie, a mobile-analytics firm, TikTok may reach an average of 1.2 billion monthly active users in 2021.

All of those eyes, and the potential for future growth, has made the short-form video-sharing app a hot destination for industries looking to create marketing campaigns based on new toys.

However, according to TikTok's policies, advertisements "marketed specifically towards children" aren't allowed. This is where the topic of toy advertising on social media becomes a bit more complicated.

In the past, the social media platform has had issues with violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In order to comply with personal information collection age restrictions, TikTok currently doesn't allow users younger than 13 years old, and anyone younger can join the app with the "TikTok for Younger Users" setting.


However, according to a report from The New York Times in August, over one-third of its daily users in the US are 14 years old or younger. (According to a statement from a TikTok spokesperson provided to Business Insider in August, the company doesn't "disclose user demographics.")

"We're proud to provide a fun place for families to create content and spend time together, particularly during the pandemic," the statement read. "We're committed to protecting the privacy and safety of the people and families who come to TikTok for entertainment, self-expression, and connection."

As a result, toy companies aren't making actual advertisements for its toys on TikTok. Instead, the companies are creating content and campaigns that are TikTok friendly and based on new toys.

As the chief marketing officer of toy company MGA Entertainment Jamie Gutfreund explains it, it's all about creating engaging videos for the growing TikTok audience.

"We're just trying to figure out how to navigate and do it safely," Gutfreund said.


Despite these complications, several toy brands have now started attributing these viral TikTok campaigns to a strong spike in toy sales and popularity.

"The toy industry has seen a massive [boost] on TikTok, solely because our entire user base is either there, or across other platforms such as YouTube or Netflix," toy maker Zuru Toys' senior digital manager, Liam Bates, told Business Insider.

TikTok's toy-marketing space has one competitor: YouTube

TikTok is quickly becoming a marketing destination for toy companies with the help of influencers and original content
YouTube.Mateusz Slodkowski/Getty Images

Despite the widely acknowledged TikTok boom, YouTube still holds its ground in the toy-marketing industry.

According to a survey of parents and grandparents by data and analytics firm NPD Group, advertising influences 9% of toy sales, social media platforms about 11%, and word of mouth about 16%. Most of the remaining respondents noted there was no external reason that influenced a toy purchase.

Juli Lennett, the vice president and industry advisor of NPD Group's US toy division, says YouTube is still the top platform that influences toy purchases and interest, especially among children up to 8 years old, which is an age bracket that holds the majority of toy sales.


Read more: How much TikTok influencers can earn from song promotions, according to 2 music marketers

According to Lennett, a company that has positioned itself as an "innovator" in using social media is MGA Entertainment and its LOL Surprise brand.

Like other toy makers, MGA Entertainment currently prioritizes both YouTube and TikTok marketing efforts, Gutfreund. The company also has a team dedicated to creating original TikTok content, although LOL Surprise's presence on the app also includes influencer marketing partnerships.

"TikTok is obviously newer, but growing rapidly and requires navigation," Gutfreund told Business Insider. "One of the reasons why TikTok, as well as YouTube, is memorable is because it gives you more flexibility, and it's not an interruption, it's a destination."

However, Gutfreund is hesitant to say that the future of toy marketing will fall solely on TikTok, in part because of the rapidly changing media landscape, and the potential for a new social media platform.


The future potential of toy marketing on TikTok

TikTok is quickly becoming a marketing destination for toy companies with the help of influencers and original content
Walmart's Mini Brands toys.Walmart

Despite YouTube's stronghold in the toy-marketing space, Bates predicts TikTok will be on par with YouTube in the next two to three years.

TikTok's platform allows toy companies to produce new types of marketing campaigns that haven't traditionally been used on a grand scale. It's also conducive to "fun, energetic, and authentic" content, therefore engaging the younger target audience, according to Bates.

"We're playing the game TikTok has provided for us of understanding the content, audience, and algorithm, and really capitalizing on what we believe is probably the most unique platform we've seen since the rise of other social media," Bates said.

Read more: 10 TikTok creators break down how much money they earn from brands

Zuru Toys' Mini Brands has found particular success on the growing social media platform through organic growth and influencer partnerships. Mini Brands, which is Zuru's largest offshoot, saw an "absolutely phenomenal year" on TikTok after hitting almost 266,000 followers following the channel's launch in March, according to Bates.


The brand, which started 1.5 years ago, is now at its "strongest point" while still seeing weekly growth. Its viral TikTok success has ultimately pushed Mini Brands past all previous sales projections and records, and Bates predicts the same will happen again in the future.

As a result, Zuru Toys is now focusing its Mini Brands' marketing efforts into digital spaces like YouTube and TikTok instead of "traditional media" like television ads.

Two of the faces behind the TikTok campaigns

TikTok is quickly becoming a marketing destination for toy companies with the help of influencers and original content
Ashley and Emily of We Wear Cute.TTPM Influencer Talent Management

"TikTok opened the door to a ton of new creators we haven't seen on other platforms that have stood on their own because the content style and the platform allows them to be their true selves," Bates said.

The partnership and influencer campaigns that helped launch Mini Brand's success include sister duo Ashley and Emily Grieco of WeWearCute, a TikTok "variety show" that features different toys, crafts, and project ideas. The sisters were previously at the forefront of Mini Brands' TikTok influencer-marketing campaigns, and helped set the brand on a path toward viral success.


Mini Brand fashion for a first day of school look #minibrands #backtoschoollook

♬ original sound - wewearcute

"Everything we do is 100% authentic from our brains and what we feel our followers should see and experience with us," the Grieco sisters told Business Insider. "We see a lot of trends start from us, like Mini Brands."


Like Mini Brands, the two TikTok influencer sisters have grown rapidly since the launch of their TikTok channel. Last September, the sisters had 900,000 followers. Now, WeWearCute has 10.5 million followers.

Read more: A TikTok creator gained over 200,000 followers by making videos about thrift shopping. Here's how much money she charges for brand sponsorships.

Given the nature of the channel, the Grieco sisters constantly receive comments from other users saying they want to purchase toys and crafts that have been featured on WeWearCute.

"[Our videos] make people say, 'Oh my gosh, they did something totally unique with Mini Brands, and I have to go get that and see if it's real, or see what Mini Brands is all about,'" the sisters said.