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codeforchildren | A toy startup is using YouTube to get kids to beg their millennial parents for its new Star Wars kit
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A toy startup is using YouTube to get kids to beg their millennial parents for its new Star Wars kit

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From “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
  • The educational toy company littleBits is trying to roll out the hot new toy for the holidays.
  • Its ‘Droid Inventor Kit’ lets kids build their own versions of R2D2 from “Star Wars” while letting parents feel like their children are learning to code.
  • The company may be writing the new playbook for a kids media strategy, as it eschews TV for YouTube and kid influencers.

LittleBits, a startup that makes toys that combine elements of Lego-like building and electronics and coding, is trying to turn its new product into the must-have toy for the holiday shopping season: the Droid Inventor Kit. The kit lets kids build their own tricked-out R2D2 droid from the Star Wars movies.

“We see this as Lego for the 21st century,” said founder and CEO Ayah Bdeir. She’s describing the company’s products, but might as well be referring to how littleBits is going about marketing the toy.

Whereas Lego and most other industry giants continue to rely on TV ads to spur kids to nagging moms and dads about putting their toys on their lists for Santa, littleBits is eschewing TV ads on kiddie cartoons entirely.

Instead, it’s opting for a heavy dose of YouTube ads, social media posts, and videos created by kid influencers. The media strategy is recognition of the rapidly changing media landscape, where the rules of marketing are constantly being upended

Here’s how littleBits plans to break out during the cluttered holiday toy wish list bonanza.

LittleBits is using R2D2 to try and get kids into coding

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LittleBits is using R2D2 to try and get kids into coding
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LittleBits

Forget Nickelodeon and Saturday Morning Cartoons

Even as kids become heavy consumers of digital media, many toy makers have kept their ad budgets anchored to 30-second ads on TV – as there’s a general skittishness about marketing to kids on the web.

LittleBits says the only way to tell its story was on social media. “TV wouldn’t be my first choice,” said Peter Dille, head of marketing, who joined littleBits over the summer from Sony. “Kids are not watching the same ways they used to.”

Go long on digital

LittleBits on Wednesday is debuting out a new cinematic, two-minute ad on YouTube, featuring kids cast deliberately to look like Star Wars characters like Rey meeting for an underground building rebellion:

“Next to the toy giants, we have to be really smart,” said Trevor Guthrie, founder of the marketing agency Giant Spoon, which oversaw the littleBits holiday ad plan. “For this product, we knew we had to show kids at play. In a 30-second spot, there would be too much going on.”

Get kid influencers

LittleBits worked with the web video firm Fullscreen to broker deals with child YouTube stars like EvanTube, who’s known for unboxing toy videos. Since August, this clip has generated over 700,000 views.

LittleBits has released several other kid influencer videos to date – including What’s Inside and Kyle’s Toy’s and Games, with a handful more planned before the holidays.

“This allows you to have this great moment with kids and parents,” said Guthrie. “It’s not just an ad in front of content, you actually become the content.

A few years ago, for a different product, littleBits planned out an influencer campaign featuring the likes of comic YouTubers such as Magic of Rahat and – PewDiePie (who was thrust into the spotlight earlier this year after making a series of very questionable videos). “We looked at the buy and pulled out the night before,” said Bdeir. “There was a lot of misogynist content out there.”

This year, the company stuck with squeaky clean kid influencers.

Even though kids don’t use Facebook and Instagram, their parents do. So use them.

There’s also content on sites like Fatherly and even ads on podcasts. And of course, where the parents shop: The droid kit is being promoted at Walmart and on Amazon.com. It’s landed the coveted number 2 spot on Amazon‘s holiday toy list.

And of course, blend a 40-year old iconic brand with a massive parenting trend

Not only did littleBits land a licensing deal for Star Wars months before the much anticipated “The Last Jedi” hits theaters, but littleBits toys are promoting themselves as being good for kids’ coding skills when every parent is obsessed with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics)

“This is really in the sweet spot of millennial parents,” said Guthrie.

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