“The last thing the world needs is just another stuffed animal,” says Chuck Hengel, founder of Minnetonka-based Marketing Architects, which has brought more than 1,000 products to market since 1995. But that didn’t stop the firm from creating a stuffed animal as its first home-grown product.
Stuffies are large, soft stuffed animals with pockets. And an inspired creation they have proven to be.
A little more than two years ago Hengel says he saw an opportunity in children’s toys for a fun toy that instilled a value. After months spent developing the toy, an advertising strategy, and a business plan, Stuffies hit the market for holiday 2011. At that time there were six different Stuffies advertised exclusively on television via direct sales.
According to Hengel, Stuffies got a positive response that year, and didn’t have a single return after the holidays. So in 2012, Marketing Architects expanded the line, increasing advertising and selling the product in 50 different retailers. Marketing Architects declines to release sales figures, but says 2012 sales were more than 50 times that of 2011. Marketing Architects actually reduced advertising by half to control demand.
Though Marketing Associates won’t share sales metrics, retailers do attest to the Stuffie’s popularity.
“We got 22 in mid-November and they sold so quickly we had to reorder 22 more two weeks later,” says Mary Sasse, owner of Dandelion Rose in LeSueur. “We then ordered another 24 of the best-selling Stuffies two weeks after that. The message behind the toys makes a huge difference.”
But why is the Stuffie not just “another stuffed animal”? The premise is that the pockets create a secret inner aspect to the animal, reinforcing the value that what’s on the surface isn’t all there is. That’s why Stuffies are marketed with the message “It’s what’s inside that counts.”
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