December 2, 2009

Zhu Zhu Pets: The Season's Hot Holiday Toy

Media Evangelist

This past Thanksgiving weekend was an interesting one for me. I got the opportunity to spend time with my adorable nieces, ages 3 & 5, and since I don’t yet have children of my own, I am constantly learning new things each time we get together.

A few of the valuable lessons I learned this weekend include:

  1. Children’s books are apparently meant to be read 2 to 3 times in a row, per sitting.
  2. Some days kids will just wake up and decide that today is their day to be in a bad mood.
  3. Marketing of retail items to children during the holidays – or any time for that matter – works. And perhaps more notably, search activity can serve as a proxy for interest and buzz.

Obviously today’s post is about item #3. Let’s take a look at Zhu Zhu Pets. Have you heard of them? They’re robotic hamsters that scurry around on the ground and make various cooing noises, and they’re apparently on the top of most kids’ “wish list” this holiday season, including my two nieces who barraged me with questions this past week about their likelihood of getting the tiny creatures for Christmas. A recent article from confirms that Zhu Zhu Pets are in fact the hot toy of the season (“Zhu Zhu Pets Madness” is compared to “Tickle Me Elmo Disease” in the article).

Zhu Zhu pets are actually a relatively new toy – they officially launched nationwide in August 2009 – and the rest, as they say, is history. Parents immediately started blogging about, searching for and trying to get their hands on these furry creatures. If you take a look at the below chart, you’ll see that searches related to Zhu Zhu Pets (including misspellings such as “Zu Zu Pets” and the like) spiked as soon as the toy stormed on to the scene. In August, we see over 129,000 searches for these branded terms, followed by 193,000 in September and up to 234,000 through October. As our November numbers are coming online, the searches and searchers are increasing still.

Parents who searched for and purchased their Zhu Zhu Pets early are likely heading into the holiday shopping season a lot more care free than those who are still trying to hunt down a Zhu Zhu Pet in time for Christmas. The lesson here is not just for moms and dads to start searching and buying early, though. Retailers and manufacturers can also gain a lot from analyzing search activity leading up to the holidays. They can use these insights to try to identify and hone in on the hot toys of the season, allowing them to make informed strategic decisions about production and inventory levels.

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