Breaking the Internet: How TikTok Introduced Mini Brands

Brittany Chaffee

04 December 2019

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It was a normal Wednesday. At least it started off normal.

Then, around 2PM, I was barreling through Walmart and Target to get my hands on some Mini Brands.

Now, before I tell you what a “mini brand” is, let me tell you how I was feeling at this very moment. I’m 32-years-old (or young, glass half full). And for the first time in 15 years, I felt that silly childish urge to experience something intensely. You know – the same feeling that popped up when you walked into a convenience store to purchase a Beanie Baby®. Or the fluttery butterflies in your chest opening up a Kid’s Meal from McDonald's to see which type of mini Beanie Baby you received. Surprise and delight really is real - and we can feel it at any age. This is how I felt running to the toy section of Target in the blazing daylight for the first time in a long time, scouring the aisles for Zuru’s Surprise Mystery Mini Brands.

So, what are these things?

They are, quite literally, what they say they are. Tiny, fit in the palm of your hand, brands.


They are packaged in a small ball that held five different compartments. Consumers can unwrap them individually to reveal a mystery brand (i.e. bottle of Hawaiian Tropic the size of a pinky or a box of Moon Pies that could fit in a small pocket). Each package (of five mini brands) is sold for $6 and accompanied by a Collectors Guide for fans to check off which Mini Brands are added to their collection. In total, there are 111 small packages of grocery items you can take home.

This sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yes. What’s even more silly is there's no product in any of these packages. They serve no practical purpose.

So, how did they become so popular? The answer comes simply in a six letter word that rhymes with "on the clock."


Meet the new “going viral.”

Take it from me. I discovered Mini Brands through a (younger) colleague that was digging around on the app. When I started watching the unboxing videos, I couldn't help myself. I HAD TO HAVE THEM (to put it as light as I can through a professional blog post). The best part? I had to share on social media. 


Young fans started unboxing these adorable Zulu Mini Brands, taping their experience, and posting on TikTok. From there, Mini Brand popularity spread like wildfire. Fun, carefree, and unique unboxing content is the type of stuff TikTok thrives upon. The app that shares videos on an easily viewing (and editing) platform; offers an incredible element of social discovery and hilarity, opening up a world of creativity for all.

So, why does TikTok own the responsibility of Mini Brand’s exponential growth? Because TikTok is rewriting the way social media works. In a recent New York Times article, they explore how TikTok has evolved discovery itself: “Imagine a version of Facebook that was able to fill your feed before you’d friended a single person. That’s TikTok. Its mode of creation is unusual, too. You can make stuff for your friends, or in response to your friends, sure. But users looking for something to post about are immediately recruited into group challenges, or hashtags, or shown popular songs. The bar is low. The stakes are low. Large audiences feel within reach, and smaller ones are easy to find, even if you’re just messing around.”

Content is effortlessly delivered on TikTok to audiences large and small. The app is as basic as ever. You don’t need friends to curate the content and the app does what you tell it to do. So, when moments like unboxing Mini Brands are created, they can easily spread to big audiences that want to see that kind of content. Then, the audience incubates the content, makes their own, and the story explodes again.

TikTok has insta-fame klout.

TikTok is making people popular, too. Consider Charli Damelio's story. Charli created her TikTok channel in June of 2019 and started posting videos of her dancing. In the quick span of six months, she's gained 5 million followers. For someone who isn’t associated with any celebrity background and comes from a normal family, social popularity of that caliber is pretty rare. But, that is the beauty of TikTok. Users decide who they support. Users have full control.

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The same thing happened to Alex French. She's gone from a few hundred thousand followers to a quick 1.3 million in less than a month. The viral star is known for lip-syncing to music in her videos. Yep. It's that simple.

So, how do not-so-mini-brands take a ride on the TikTok train?

Great question. Our short answer is this: download the app and do whatever you want. Unbox some mini brands. Who really cares! That's the TikTok philosophy anyway. The sports industry has thrived on the app. As of December 1st, he NBA has 6.2 million followers on TikTok (in less than a year of its presences on the app). The NFL has 1.7 million and the MLB tips at nearly 900,000 followers. TikTok is a great platform for brands to explore who they are, showcase what they love, get a little weird, and embrace the creativity of play. Oh, and sponsor some really viral content that supports their values.

The most mind-blowing stats are in the audience numbers. 

On November 18, Business Insider reported that the app had reached 1.5 billion downloads across both the App Store and Google Play. It already hit 1 billion downloads in February of this year and has accumulated 614 million downloads in 2019 alone - a 6% increase from this time in 2018. So, TikTok isn't slowing down.

So, how will you dive into the conversation?

Have any questions about what we do at STAR? Want to talk experiential marketing? We're happy to chat with you. Contact us here.

Brittany Chaffee


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