YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Who could have imagined that animal-shaped rubber bands would set off a trend the likes of which hasn't been seen since Webkinz? BCP Imports CEO and owner of the Silly Bandz brand, Robert Croak, did.
He jumped into the market in late 2008, ahead of rivals such as Crazy Bands and Zanybandz, and got an enviable head start. SillyBandz now does more than $100 million in annual sales and sells more than 1 million packs (with a retail price of $5.95) every week.
Silly Bandz traveled from playground to playground, first catching on in the Southeast and Florida last year, then spreading up the East Coast and then out toward the Midwest and on to California more recently. While the bands are easier to find in stores these days, collectors and fans still snap them up, especially the retired and rare packs.
Much like Webkinz, Silly Bandz doesn't do paid advertising and instead relies on fans and retail partners such as Hallmark and other independent retailers to spread the word in local markets. Add in its own national social-media push on Facebook and Twitter, and the gotta-have-it rubber-band craze has taken off. Silly Bandz is now closing in on 1 million Facebook fans, and has more than 15,000 Twitter followers (at press time).
As with many fads, there have been imitators. Rivals have carved out their own silicon-band niches -- glow-in-the-dark or color-changing bands, for instance -- and Silly Bandz in October filed a lawsuit against one rival, Crimzon Rose, and the retailer that carries it, Walmart.
After the original Silly Bandz shapes such as zoo animals, sea creatures and princess shapes couldn't be kept in stock, the company diversified with a wider variety of shapes and added licensed bands as well. The company now carries Dora, SpongeBob, Hello Kitty, iCarly, Barbie and, most recently, Justin Bieber Silly Bandz. The company also inked a deal with Quiznos to put the bands in kids' meals, teamed with a video-game developer for a holiday release of a Silly Bandz Nintendo DS game, and created a host of accessory and related products.