Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Search of the Next Beanie Baby.

Maybe I’m out of the loop as far as cute, inexpensive collectibles go. I did get swept up in a craze not too many years ago, adorable little stuffed critters with the big heart tags. Despite not having a young child in my family I was drawn to them. So I bought a few: A poodle, a lobster, a crab. 

I even bought the protectors that prevent the tags from creasing.

And, in the height of their popularity, by some luck, Beanie Babies became a quick opportunity for me to make a few bucks.

Being a big fan of garage sales, off I went one Saturday in 1997 or 1998 after carefully planning my route. Walking up a long driveway I spotted a woman dragging out a large plastic container from the garage; a quick glance nailed it for me. I quietly asked her how much for the contents inside. She said “Well, there’s about 30 of them in there, so how does $60 sound?” I forked over the funds and dragged the container out to my car. 

Now being the proud owner of some 30+ Beanies, I had to do my homework. A quick run to Barnes & Noble to purchase a softback pricing guide, an hour of study, and I was prepped to make my next move. 
“Helloooo Ebay” I cried, as I launched eight new listings. 

And the bidding began. My $60 investment in beanies + $5.95 for the latest quarterly price guide turned into over $500 in three days. After that I put out some more Ebay listings; this time it didn’t include the rarest ones, however my profits continued to increase as more bidders fought to win a stuffed animal. 

So what’s my point? Having a clever marketing strategy in place works.  Nice going, Ty Inc. You got me and I’m not even the target audience! What contributed to their success? 
  • Sure they were for kids, right? But yet, they were for everyone.
  • $5 is little to pay for something that can bring much joy. And another $5. And another. You get the idea. 
  • People were talking about them. Word of Mouth travels. Sure it’s “old fashioned” but it’s a great resource for any company. And it’s free. Who needs social networks to talk about a product?                       
  • Supply and demand. Special editions, scarcity, and variations of the product made them more collectible. 
  • Variety. Keep pumping out new designs so that people keep adding to their collections. I think I had at least 10 birds; there were probably more than that!
  • Never saw them advertised on TV or in print. That’s going to keep the costs down!
  • I recall buying them in card/gift stores. A few sources online say that they weren't even sold at big box stores. So the “where” or placement comes into play.
  • We all could learn a few things from this fad’s marketing. Wait a minute! Was it really a fad? The craze went on for a few years. Let’s call it a success story. 

Now to go find my Garcia Bear. Yes, he was in that large plastic container. I kept him!

Speaking of Garcia, Jerry and his band released this fine tune in the early 70's. Enjoy.

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