Fast Company: Make a Hit Toy

b_300_140_16777215_00_images_Fast-Company-AirSwimmers-viral.jpgBy Ben Paynter - Want To Make A Hit Toy Like Air Swimmers? Engineer The Video Before The Product. Instead of making a toy for kids, Mark Forti made one for YouTube--and now all his products are crafted for virality.

Air Swimmers was one of the hottest toys in the U.S. last year, and yet the company behind it didn’t spend a dime on advertising. Instead, Mark Forti, founder and CEO of the William Mark Corporation, filmed a gag reel about the surprising ways that people could actually use Air Swimmers--those remote controlled inflatable sharks or Nemo-fish--and uploaded it to YouTube. In one shot, the nimble mini-floater exits an elevator in a crowded office building trailed by an operator in full scuba gear. In another, the shark looms over a cat hunting a smaller fish in a fishbowl, scaring the bejesus out of it. Forti sold millions of the $40-dollar toys as a result of his YouTube antics, but he’s more interested in his view count: It’s at nearly 9 million and counting. "I’m a millionaire in the attention economy," he says.
Forti’s YouTube success didn’t just change his marketing tactics, it flipped the way he creates products in the first place. His brainstorming process is now literally reversed. "The first question we ask is whether this will make a great couple minute piece of entertainment," he says. "We’ll scrap an idea if it doesn’t because that leveraging effect is so powerful and it’s just sheer profit." This August, the company will release an Angry Birds-themed Air Swimmers. No doubt fans are eagerly awaiting the YouTube sequel.
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