OAKBROOK, IL: Announcing the discontinuation of its cherished Beanie Babies might have been the savviest PR move yet by toy giant Ty.
OAKBROOK, IL: Announcing the discontinuation of its cherished
Beanie Babies might have been the savviest PR move yet by toy giant
The company stirred up a PR firestorm on August 30 when it posted - and
then just as quickly withdrew - a 16-word message on its web site saying
Beanie Babies would be discontinued at the end of the year. While
calling the move unorthodox, PR pros said the announcement may turn out
to be the ideal tactic to revive the flagging Beanies line.
’If I were to cast my vote, it would be on the side of marketing
genius,’ said Kim Kumiega, EVP and deputy GM of Edelman’s reputation
The message, which remained on the privately held firm’s web site for
less than 24 hours, has sparked increased demand for the plush toys by
as much as 300%, according to Bean Bag World editor Mary Beth
Sobolewski, whose publication tracks the Beanie phenomenon. ’It enabled
retailers to clear off shelves that were filled with overproduced
product,’ Sobolewski said.
Ty, which began selling Beanies in 1993, is the brainchild of
businessman Ty Warner, a low-profile individual who shuns the spotlight
and has used neither PR nor advertising to promote his brand. This,
however, is not to imply that he is anything less than very skilled at
playing the PR game. In early August, the company started dropping hints
about an upcoming ’major announcement,’ which drove up the buzz in the
Beanie community to deafening levels.
The toys began as cute, low-priced items for small children, but have
garnered a massive adult collector following. As the company grew its
number of Beanies to more than 100, Beanie web sites - often sporting
price lists and auctions - have proliferated. Annual sales estimates for
the company have ranged as high as dollars 674 million.
Some see the August announcement as a first step by Ty to refocus the
brand on its initial core audience: children. ’They were letting the
brand image of the product be controlled by others,’ said Ron Culp, VP
of PR and government affairs at Sears.
But unlike Edelman’s Kumiega, Culp isn’t sure if the recent announcement
will be a PR boon for the company: ’Either Ty Warner is one of the most
mysteriously creative people I have ever seen, or he has shot himself in
The Beanie community is said to view the announcement as a precursor to
the launch of some new line of Beanies, a theory with which Culp and
’I think the issue is how well they handle it from here on out,’ said
Ellen Ryan Mardiks, Golin/Harris’ worldwide director of brand
strategies. ’I think the presumption is that something else just as
wonderful is coming around the corner.’
But Ty has shunned conventional communications strategies so far and
likely will continue to do so.
’We really don’t do any PR or marketing or anything like that,’ said Ty
spokesperson Anne Nickels, who would not comment on future plans for
announcements or PR. ’I think the thing we do best is drive marketing
and PR people crazy,’ she said.