It's an odd-looking thing, really: big, goofy eyes; seven floppy arms radiating octopus-style; wacky colors. But infants, toddlers and parents have fallen in love with it, and its popularity-and sales-have grown since it was first introduced in 1996.
It's Whoozit, marketed by Manhattan Toy Co. A soft baby toy designed to encourage imaginative play, it has added more than 25 branded products including Whooz-it Musical Mobile and Whoozit Blankie.
A small company with no consumer-advertising budget, Manhattan Toy has held to a strict marketing strategy of selling Whoozit only in boutiques and specialty retailers such as F.A.O. Schwarz, says Marketing Manager Jane Love, 54. An FAO spokesman says Whoozit is one of its most popular baby toys and that it sells the entire line. The product's "advertising," meanwhile, has been limited to word-of-mouth, grassroots efforts. "Someone buys it, goes to the park with it, and because it is so unique and different, people ask, 'Oh, where did you get that?' " Ms. Love says.
In addition, Ms. Love-whose career includes stints at Hasbro's Tonka Toys and another small Minneapolis company, Magnetic Poetry (which was a Marketing 100 in 1999)-has spearheaded efforts to make all packaging and in-store displays consistent. "[We've tried to] get some clear, concise branding through packaging, catalogs to retailers and our Web site."