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  • Writer's pictureLolly Atherton

Squishmallows and the ever prevailing prowess of social media marketing.



Who has heard of Squishmallows?


Squishmallows are a brand of soft toys developed by the brand Kelly Toys in 2017. They are identifiable due to their soft velvet-like texture, and plush insides, making them easy to squish. These toys grew to great acclaim due to the nature of “Squishmallow Hunts” during the Covid19 pandemic as these items were sold in many essential retailers in both the US, UK and Australia. This meant that people could go on a pilgrimage for these toys-turned-collectors-items in most chain supermarkets whilst purchasing eggs or bread or milk, and other essentials.


Despite being a toy marketed explicitly to infants, Squishmallows gained popularity with a much vaster audience than the initial target audience. This is, mostly, because of social media.

Most people who have heard of Squishmallows may be familiar with them due to the social media platform TikTok, with the toys’ acclaim rising astronomically throughout the various worldwide locations at different points. However, in the UK, Squishmallow hunters only became a frequent aspect of my For You Page, personally, as of November 2020, during the UK-wide Tier System and subsequent lockdown prior to Christmas of 2020. Without discussing the politics of the Tier System and National Lockdown, it is clear that due to the absence of other forms of entertainment a variety of hobbies had the potential to manifest.


With many adolescents being on social media, unable to go outside, many on furlough and unable to return to work, the use of apps such as TikTok increased. This, of course, meant that businesses great and small could gain greater profits through collaborations and advertisement, particularly on this app.


None however, could rival the success of the Squishmallow. Many may argue that Tesco’s sweet treat Little Moons could engage in such a battle royale, however a TikTok trend of such nature rarely sustains longevity, and although they may have more people purchasing Little Moons due to them having taken a liking to them, it would not be able to retain the demand from the short period of them being a viral trend, circa January 2021.


Unlike Little Moons, the demand for Squishmallows has been retained for an extended period, with many on social media declaring the extremes they would go to in order to attain “rare” products such as Wendy the Frog, Archie the Axolotl and Connor the Cow. This is further demonstrated by the fact that Aldi had to launch a pre-order for the Easter 2021 line, which sold out for most stores within the first day, meaning that individuals would have to chance a lucky sighting of their desired plush companion in-store instead. Regardless of this, and the mass produced nature of the product, many stores cannot keep up with the demand of the products, often selling out for weeks at a time unable to get new ones in stock.


This, like with Little Moons, had to do with TikTok.


For those who are unfamiliar with the app, TikTok is a platform which allows for individuals to share videos to music etc. Users with significant followings can apply to be part of the Creator Fund, which means that you as an individual can acquire revenue for simply posting content and getting engagement. Although it is unclear how many of the accounts in this program are dedicated to the habit of collecting Squishmallows, its presence cannot be ignored.


With a constant stream of new, seasonal releases being distributed, primarily in the USA, the ability to gage the market’s interest in the products was certainly risky. Kelly Toys appears to have certainly been tested over what would be of greater value to them, appealing to children, or appealing to the older audience. This was demonstrated through discourse between many users online about whether some of the designs were cute. Since Squishmallows are actually children’s toys the use of unicorn horns on these products is reasonable and appealing to the market, however, it can be noted that the figure of unicorns that were released post this sudden new demand for the product is significantly lower.


The trend of collecting these toys was, surprisingly, not instigated by the manufacturer, as the target audience is young children. However, instead, they have managed to acknowledge that there was a greater market and continued to produce products that would appeal to both the original audience, but also, this new demographic, who are purchasing these plush toys for comfort during such stressful times.


They managed to utilise an app that advertises for them, with users benefitting from getting engagement on a personal level, whilst also offering free advertising for Kelly Toys in general. All they had to do as the manufacturer was listen to customer and consumer feedback, and keep producing quality products to meet demands to the best of their abilities.


But what about these supposedly rare Squishmallows, are they actually rare? Theoretically, no. Eight inch Squishmallows are usually distributed for sale in the United Kingdom at stores in multi-packs with up to eight different characters in each of the boxes purchased by a shop. Currently, most supermarket retailers, who do not sell exclusives, have a one-in-five chance of getting a particular box. This means that really, searching for these items is more a game of mathematics, probability and ratio, as there is no explicit guarantee of where a specific plush toy may appear in your local Tesco, but, if one were to check enough supermarkets, you would be more likely to encounter it. However, that has not meant that certain characters such as the aforementioned Connor the Cow, have been elevated to a higher status due to the demand for the design.


Kelly Toys have, evidently acknowledged the correlations between the cow Squishmallow design, and the demand for their product. Their ability to acknowledge that their product was trending and manage to retain the interest by releasing new yet similar appealing designs (whilst also meeting an increased demand) demonstrates that they were able to work in an agile manner. How so? Well, with Kelly Toys acknowledging that the older consumers were not as big of fans of what were dubbed “cat-icorns”, cats with unicorn horns, they reduced the run of such products, without discontinuing them, in order to still provide these toys for their initial target audience. Instead, they started releasing designs which resembled Connor the Cow. Within approximately six months, over in the USA, Connor the Cow was joined by his fellow cows, Belana the Blue Cow, Bubba the Purple Cow, Patty the Pink and Purple Cow and Ronnie the Brown Cow, with many international collectors paying significantly inflated prices for these items second-hand. This was a great strategic move on their part, and certainly meant that Kelly Toys would be able to recognise that releasing some of Connor’s fellow cows internationally would certainly prove to be a fruitful venture.


Although not a traditional agile working process, the ability to utilise the indirect feedback, from trending TikToks that discussed designs that users liked, versus ones they loathed, recognising these videos traction, they were able to supersede the idea of having a focus group of young adults, as TikTok was at their fingertips. Furthermore, allowing TikTok’s algorithm to advertise new collections, of their products meant that they needn’t waste unnecessary money in their budget on making targeted advertisements for the app itself. Their ability to be flexible, quick thinking, and utilise a non-conventional marketing strategy makes them a company worth recognising for their organisational agility.



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com




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