A mini-explosion of Elf on the Shelf-like properties has occurred over the past couple of years. All are book-and-doll properties with many elements in common, although each has a slightly different objective, positioning, storyline, and target audience:
- My Buddy McSpuddy. Known in its home market of Ireland as the Irish Elf on the Shelf, My Buddy McSpuddy debuted in November 2018 after an appearance on the U.K. TV program Dragon’s Den—a Shark Tank-type show—and receiving an investment from judge Barry O’Sullivan. The package comes with a book, toy, pot of gold, and gold coins. Children watch over their pot and find a new coin in it after they exhibit good behavior; when they collect seven they get something from a wish list they have created in collaboration with their parents or guardians. The doll also has social-emotional benefits; kids can rub one elbow patch for luck and the other to reduce anxiety. Merchandise, distributed initially through Irish retailers including Arnotts, Toymaster, Carol’s Irish Gifts, and airport stores, was an immediate hit. The property sees 35% of online sales occurring in the U.S. and has plans for expansion in that market.
- My Gnome on the Roam. This book, toy, and adventure kit for kids 3-12 is designed to encourage exploration, creativity, and outdoor adventure. The toy gnome—including the original, Gustav, and several friends—is an unpainted figure that children can customize. It comes with a storybook to set up the play pattern as well as a journal to allow kids to tell and preserve their own adventures in words and pictures. It also includes an app, through which they can share their stories and learn about other kids’ experiences around the world.
- Troop on the Stoop. Launched by an Army veteran and his young family, the plush doll, Troop, is intended to be a “battle buddy” that helps children and their families deal with the difficult period of separation when a parent goes off to serve. The first production run of the in-house-managed product—which includes a hardcover storybook, keepsake frame, and plush soldier—was a sell-out; the second run is launching in early 2019. Consumers can purchase the product for their own friends and family or to donate to a family on a list maintained by the marketers. Five percent of proceeds on all purchases, donated or otherwise, go to the Yellow Ribbon Support Center.
- Mensch on the Bench. Launched in 2012 with an appearance on Shark Tank—resulting in two judges investing in return for 15% of company ownership—this property was created as a Jewish alternative to The Elf on the Shelf that adds “more funakkah to Hanukkah” while teaching kids about Jewish traditions and encouraging them to be kind to others. Products include the original Mensch, Moshe, as well as several other characters. More than 200,000 Mensch on the Bench products have been sold to date, with books and plush available separately and in bundles. Currently, distribution is online, but the product has been in stores including Target, Michael’s, and Bed Bath and Beyond during previous holiday seasons. The play pattern involves naming the Mensch, moving him around each night, and giving him a Shamash candle, used to light the menorah. If children are good, he will let go of the candle; if they don’t behave, he will not give it up and they may not receive presents that evening. November 18, 2018, was the property’s first Mensch Day, meant to promote kindness and good deeds.
Meanwhile, the property that spurred all of this activity in the first place, The Elf on the Shelf, marketed by Creatively Classic Activities and Books, has been expanding in recent months. In addition to new initiatives including an extended roster of licensees in the U.K. market and a stage show with Mills Entertainment, CCA and B founded a subsidiary, Scout Elf Productions, to create animated content for digital and traditional distribution. Scout Elf’s first venture is Elf Pets: A Fox Cub’s Christmas Tale, a DVD production based on a new book in the Elf on the Shelf series, Elf Pets: An Arctic Fox Tradition. Both will debut in 2019.
Our detailed feature on the trends seen at last month’s New York Toy Fair has been posted. Read the coverage here.