YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Forget LiveStrong bands. The hottest thing for kids are Silly Bandz, ZanyBandz and Crazy Bandz -- and now brands are getting involved.
The latest kid craze is virally setting off retail madness, skipping from state to state aided by social media, instant messaging and texting. "It's akin to what happened with Beanie Babies and Webkinz across our stores," said a spokeswoman for Hallmark, which is having trouble keeping Silly Bandz in stock. "They're a very big seller right now." She said the brand is featured at the 390 corporate-owned Hallmark Gold Crown stores, as well as some of the independent Hallmark stores, where -- like in the era of Webkin collecting -- many stores have put "We have Silly Bandz"-type signs on their doors.
Silly Bandz, marketed by Brainchild, claims to be the creator of the themed packs of the thin silicone bands that kids wear up their arms and trade among their friends.They cost about $3 for a pack of 12 and about $5 for a pack of 24. The brand has a Facebook page with more than 163,000 fans and a Twitter feed with more than 1,500 followers. The company got a national media boost when the young girl who got lost in the Everglades mentioned them in her "Good Morning America" interview. (One of her friends gave her a green frog band when she returned to school.)
It was only a matter of time, then, until brands got involved. Forever Collectibles, marketer of Logo Bandz, is licensing brand names from sports leagues and entertainment properties to put on its products, which are also selling briskly. "It's 100% viral, and it's the No. 1-selling product in the country right now -- and accelerating daily. An individual store can sell 1,000 packs in an hour," said CEO Michael Lewis. "And it's all word of mouth, no advertising. The New York Yankees [pack] is white hot right now. When one kid finds it at a store, in two seconds the kid or his mother is on the phone texting that they've found them, all right from the store."
His company makes licensed Logo Bandz for Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association as well as 200 colleges. Soon it will also sell Disney- and Marvel Comics-licensed bands, it is finalizing deals with Warner Bros., DC Comics and Thomas the Tank Engine, and it is in talks with several other brands. Mr. Lewis said he currently sells 500,000 licensed packs of bands daily, and expects to be selling 1 million packs by next week through national retail partners including Walmart, Kmart, Target , Walgreen's and CVS.
Like Silly Bandz, most of the other retail bands sets are generic shapes with themed packages such as animals, beach shapes, dinosaurs, shopping or sports. But Mr. Lewis believes his licensed bands will standout among the racks of plain Janes -- that is, whenever retailers can eventually keep them in stock. Already, the licensed versions are more desirable, he claims, with sold out Yankee-branded bands fetching trades of double, triple and more compared to plain bands, he said.
And the Disney and Marvel bands that Forever Collectibles begins shipping next week have already have gotten buzz on the internet. Responding to the Disney Parks' April blog post announcing the custom bands, Debbie from New York wrote: "My daughter is having a heart attack over the thought of Disney-shaped rubber bands! They are so popular where we live."
So why haven't other brands jumped on the rubber bandwagon? Imagine how many Happy Meals McDonald's might sell with the toy as a custom silicone pack of bands shaped like the "M" logo? It could be an expense decision or simply lack of knowledge. "I talk to a lot of buyers for major retailers, and I'm shocked at how many people don't know about these," Mr. Lewis said.
Jackie Breyer, editor in chief of the trade magazine Toy Book, agreed that the trend is certainly hot, thanks to a combination of widespread appeal, collectibility, price and tacit parental approval, but she's not as sure about the licensing.
"Licensing [with the right brands] can certainly kick things up a notch when applied appropriately. Disney Fairies, the Yankees, these would have a great shot at popularity when combined with a fad like Silly Bandz. However, they aren't as likely to have quite as widespread an appeal as generic bands. It's easy for plain, brightly colored bandz to find appeal with many different kids as they aren't asking kids to commit," she said. "Kids don't always want to flash their favorite brands, because by wearing a brand you are making the statement that 'I like this,' and you're leaving yourself open to critique from other kids."
There are downsides to the trend, too. Some schools have banned the silicon bands because they can pose a distraction (e.g., kids trading in class) or even dangerous (e.g., used as rubber bands to snap others). And Alicia D., on the New Jersey Moms blog, wrote a recent post titled "Silly Band Fever Is Giving Me a Headache," about her kindergartner's penchant for being talked out of her bands. Ms. Breyer said, "It's impossible to say how long a trend or fad will last, but school bans could easily put a damper on the situation."