Tickle me Elmo is a plush toy for children created by Tyco Preschool. The doll was created and named after a Muppet’s show known as Sesame Street. Although the doll may have been in existence before, it came into the United States in 1996 and broke the sales record that same year during Christmas. When squeezed or tickled and says “that tickles,” this doll laughs hysterically wand that invokes laughter to the child who owns it.
After seeing two kids helplessly tickling each other, Ron Dubren got the idea of translating the silliness into a toy children would love. However, at first the toy did nothing but laugh. Like all good ideas, this one too faced a lot of challenges because it was rejected by 12 companies. However, Tyco realized that there was potential in the idea and tested in among adults in a bid to find a way to make the toy work better. That is how they took a motor similar to that which makes mobile phones vibrate and used it in the doll.
How it became such a sensation
In 1996, Tyco’s marketing team sent the doll to Rosie O’Donnjel’s one year old son as a gift. They also sent 200 more dolls to the producer of the show. The producer and O’Donnels then decided to give the dolls to their audiences. As part of a show known as, ��you bet your life’, O’Donnel would throw the doll at anyone of the audiences who said the word Wall.” According to market analysts, this was amongst the first methods of marketing that made the doll very famous by November 1996. Another booster to the popularity of the doll was the fact that in every episode of The Today Show, Bryant Gumbel held the doll. Because of being air and being loved by famous people, the doll sold out two hours after the stores opened on black Friday right after thanksgiving.
Tyco had not expected such fame for their doll and had only produced 400,000 dolls. They were unable to match the demand for the doll amongst their consumers. The high demand caused a doll that was initially sold at $28.99 to be sold for as much as $1500 by the time the year came to an end. Between 1996 and 1997, the company had allegedly sold over 5 million dolls.
News reports about the doll during this time showed that people were literary fighting for the doll in shopping malls all over the United States. When it came to the purchase of the doll, there was no special treatment. Even famous people would have to wait for weeks after ordering the doll to have it delivered. Even then, the delivery depended on whether an individual was at the right place at the right time or not.
Retailers such as Carter took advantage of the hype to make sales too. Carter put the doll as a gift for anyone who would purchase a bracelet and necklace worth $1 million. The hype was not just beneficial to retailers, it was also beneficial to the character the doll was made after on the sesame street show whose fame skyrocketed and the show got even more fans.