Brands of Christmas Past

Maybe it was a little too much eggnog and cookies or just the nostalgia of the Christmas season, but I was thinking about some brands that created serious buzz at Christmastime over the past few decades.  These toys were so must-have that normally sane parents were willing to risk life and limb to get them for their kids. 

Here are some of the ones I remember:

Cabbage Patch Kids  – In 1984 Coleco did not make enough of them to meet demand, which caused near riots whenever a new shipment arrived at a store.  A neat hook with this toy was that you did not “buy” them, you “adopted” them.  This is the first toy I remember causing total chaos, but maybe I just wasn’t aware of prior fads.  I remember my Mom searching for one of these for my niece because my niece looked a little like one of the dolls.  Can’t remember if Mom was successful.  The rights to the Cabbage Patch Kids have passed to a number of companies in the last 20 year and the dolls are now available from Play Along Kids.

Tickle Me Elmo – I love Elmo and still watch the Elmo holiday video.  I remember trying to get my hands on a Tickle Me Elmo, but can’t for the life of me remember for whom I was buying it.  I seem to remember being successful but that may just be the haze of nostalgia.  In any case, the Elmo brand is still going strong and there have been a number of additional Elmos that have been hits over the ensuing years.

Wii – How many of us have a Wii machine sitting in our family room that gets used three times a year?  It’s hard to believe the frenzy these created in 2006 when every family “needed” one.  And if you were lucky enough to get one, you probably couldn’t get the accessories you wanted.  We bought one three years later.  Walked into Target, took one of the six boxes on the shelf, paid and left.  No wrestling matches, fistfights or camping out overnight.  Patience has its advantages but we weren’t very cool in 2006 because we didn’t have one.

Furby – These little electronic animals were the rage for Christmas 1998.  My son just saw a picture of one and said it looks like a cross between a Chihuahua and an owl.  Pretty accurate description.  I scored one of these for my daughter.  I walked into KB Toys (whatever happened to them?), asked the clerk and was shocked to be directed to the back of the store, where I found a shelf of the little critters.  After careful examination, I determined they were the real deal, bought one and was my daughter’s hero.  As far as I can tell, Furbies have gone the way of the Palm Pilot.  A side note:  I like that KB Toys buried the hot toy in the back of the store and made me pass all the other merchandise to get to it. 

I am sure you all have similar experiences with hot holiday toys like Transformers, Game Boy, Play Station, etc.  But I am wondering why we have not seen similar craziness over the past five years or so:

Am I out of touch about these things and it is happening, but I am not aware of it?

Has the economy put such a damper on consumer demand that nothing is “hot”?

Are marketers better able to anticipate consumer demand through predictive analytics so they can match supply to demand? 

Has the internet altered the dynamics by making anything available to anyone anywhere? 

It might be a combination of all these factors.  So I wonder:  Will we ever see another toy create headlines like these brands of Christmas past?

Mind you, I am not complaining.  I think we could all do with more civility during the holidays. 

And with that I wish you happy and relaxing holidays.  And if you are taking to the air, rails or roads to see family and friends, I hope you have safe travels.

© 2011-2017 Bill Fellows, Top-of-Mind Branding All Rights Reserved