BAD BEANIE

Published on .

When we began our reporting on the Beanie Babie brouhaha, we expected to uncover the stirrings of a consumer backlash to toymaker Ty's brazenly manipulative marketing ploy. Instead, analysts and observers were quick to applaud the brilliance of CEO Ty Warner's brief and mysterious announcement that all Beanies will be retired at yearend ("that man is an incredible marketing genius," said one).

Savvy consumers instantly identified the announcement as pure marketing, then strangely walked right into the trap. "Please don't stop making them! It would make all your Ty collectors sad just like I am now," read one note on Ty's Web site. Another admiringly pointed out that "The success of the Ty company is the ability to keep the consumer in a constant state of panic."

Since we didn't find a backlash in our reporting, our story focused on the mostly positive reaction. But we can't help noting our surprise that Ty's calculated move didn't backfire in its face. We recognize the importance of spin as a marketing tool in the current media culture-a tool Ty used successfully to create the original Beanie boom. But the retirement announcement was over the top and smacks of the desperation of a company whose star product is about to be obliterated by the Pokemon craze. The lack of follow-up information of any kind resulted in a flood of media exposures but showed a complete lack of respect for consumers who have already been manipulated by artificial scarcity and other tricks of the trade.

Enough is enough. Ty should come clean to Beanie fans about the story behind the "retirement" story. The consumer is not a moron, David Ogilvy would remind us. The Beanie legions have made Ty look smart. Now Ty should treat them smartly-and

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