There are some things that we can predict being popular or a mainstay in a marketplace. For example, people will always want food, because they need it to survive. There are also things that are dictated by environment. For example, if a person from Decatur, AL wanted a dessert, chances are they will eat apple pie over green tea pie because the former is more familiar and we have apple orchards nearby. However, things get harder to predict with luxury items or promotional products.
The consumption of pop culture is a relatively recent phenomenon, and we all consume it differently. The promotional products can vary by age, social standing, personal preference, gender, and a whole other host of variables that can drive the market up and down. Also, styles, and personal preference changes over time, so promotional products have to match with those changes. However, there is one particular type of promotional product that has seemed to stand the test of time. And, there is no need for it to be pragmatic either. The product I am talking about are stuffed animals.
Plushies and Stuffed Animals for Promotional Products
What is interesting about things like dolls and stuffed animals is no matter how old they can have value long after a company stops manufacturing them. And I don’t have to spend much time convincing you. All you have to do is google “beanie baby collections” and you can learn just how valuable they can be. But what has made them so popular over the years? Is it universal nostalgia? Or is it just a few people not willing to grow up? The only way that we know the answers to those questions is if we look at the first ever case of a stuffed animal promotional product.
The Teddy Bear: The First Stuffed Promotional Product
While the teddy bear was not directly invented first in America, (that distinction belongs to German seamstress, Margarete Steiff and her nephew Richard Steiff), it was certainly popularized there. After it was put on an exhibit in one of Germany’s toy fairs, a series of events would make it the first example of a promotional product.
First, an American distributor bought the bear for his toy company. Second, Teddy Roosevelt was satirized in a political cartoon for not shooting a bear while hunting.
The second was a very important historical footnote. Until this point, they White House and the media depicted Theodore Roosevelt as a “manly man”. He was a hunter, a tough man, that was a representation of the U.S. Presidency.
During a particular bear hunting trip, Theodore’s assistants tied a black bear to a willow tree, and urged him to shoot it. The president saw it as unsportsman like and refused to make the kill. The media ate it up, and everyone thought it was a cute anecdote worth putting on newspapers and political cartoons.
To both market the bear, and to popularize the story further, the same American toy company owner sent the President a stuffed bear. That bear served as a replica of the bear he refused to shoot and called it, “Teddy’s bear”. The president either was moved or had a good sense of humor. Because he gave his permission for the company to use his name to be used in what we now know as the teddy bear.
What started out as a toy idea became a promotional product for a politician. And, it was surprisingly wholesome.
Why we Still Love Stuffed Animals
You would think that once a child grows past a certain point, there would be no attachment to stuffed animals. Suprisingly, that is not the case. More than half of American adults still have their childhood teddy bears, with the Southern United States having the highest population of stuffed animal owners. So, what is the reason why we still carry those into our adulthood?
It turns out that we have a deep psychological need for objects of comfort during transitional periods in our lives. According to an interview with clinical psychologist Dr Shefali Tsabary, “As we enter adulthood and leave home for the first time, it’s no surprise that the same object re-enters our life. It provides comfort while also helping us work through feelings of uncertainty as we transition into a new life stage”.
And part of living is constant transition. Our lives are always changing with the seasons. So, it is no surprise that we still need that comfort even in adulthood. We might even need that comfort in our deathbed because even that transition is scary.
So, if you want to stand out to feel special to a select few people that need comfort in their lives, a stuffed animal would be a great promotional product.