For those who haven’t heard, mini brands have taken the toy market by storm over the last couple of years, particularly among Gen Z and Millennials who have shown immense love for these tiny replicas of everyday consumer products. What started as a niche trend has now become a full-blown phenomenon: on social media, mini brand videos have amassed billions of views. The growing subculture of mini brand collectors ultimately centers around the fun and novelty of it, but also, in a world where new product drops can feel mundane and repetitive, mini brands offer a unique and playful twist. Collecting and displaying mini brands can feel like a fun hobby, plus the surprise element of not knowing which brand they’ll get in each of the mystery boxes adds to the excitement.
As the trend continues to grow, there are a variety of opportunities for brands to innovate and evolve their mini brand offerings and content. For example, Imposible Foods recently hopped on the tiny food trend to celebrate Earth Day. As a subsect of mini brand products, tiny food in particular is a huge social media trend that has Gen Z, Millennials, and even Gen Alpha obsessed with mini versions of their favorite foods or kitchen items. In fact, mini kitchen-style clips have amassed 2B views on TikTok and appear in nearly 40K videos on Instagram. As the centerpiece of its Earth Day campaign, the plant-based company (along with Deloitte Digital) released a few short teaser videos called “The Mini Impact Kitchen” that showed tiny plastic hands making various mini versions of food that incorporate Impossible meat. Each video shared “eco-friendly stats that said Impossible uses 92% less water, 96% less land and 91% less greenhouse gas emissions to produce than animal beef” proving how just about any brand can tap into the world of mini products and use them to convey various marketing tactics.
Because YPulse research shows how these gens thrive off of connectivity and find solace in niche communities, it’s important for brands to understand the subcultures they lead. In order to understand how other brands can engage with this trend, we explain exactly what mini brands are, what makes mini brand fans love their tiny products so much, and what kind of content it inspires:
One brand is defining the mini market, and has captivated Gen Z and Millennials
Not unlike miniature replicas from The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge or Legos, mini brands are essentially miniature versions of everyday consumer products, ranging from snacks and beverages to cleaning supplies and beauty products. They’re often sold in small capsules or boxes, much like a toy vending machine, and are mostly marketed as collectibles—piquing young consumers’ interest, especially since YPulse data shows Gen Z loves limited edition products: 35% say they’re willing to spend more for them. But mostly, the appeal of mini brands lies in their cuteness, convenience, and affordability. They are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, making them easy to store and display, and they are often priced under $5, making them accessible to a wide range of consumers.
When it comes to who’s designing and selling these minis, ZURU Toys‘ Mini Brands is considered the most well known in the tiny products game. The brand markets their products to younger Gen Z and sells them in small spherical packages, which open like an orange to reveal each mystery mini branded toy inside. A wide variety of real brands are featured in ZURU’s minis, including Heinz Ketchup, Cheez-It, Twizzlers, Oxi-Clean, Wet Ones, Bitcoin, and many, many more. Their products include something for all types of consumers, ranging from regular Mini Brands to Mini Brands Disney Store, Toy Mini Brands, Foodie Mini Brands, and Mini Fashion. With each new series of mini brands, the items become one in a full collection to complete, making the small spends even more enticing. Other brands have hopped into the market as well, but the ZURU toys’ iconic packaging and huge array of brands throughout their series’ make them one of the top, if not the number one, in the industry.
And though one may assume these tiny toys are primarily for Gen Alpha and young Gen Z, older consumers are pulled in by the nostalgia factor (as well as a love to collect). Many mini brands are replicas of products that older Gen Z and Millennials grew up with, such as Pop Tarts and Kool Aid. As we know, nostalgia can be a powerful marketing tool, as it taps into consumers’ emotions and creates a sense of connection with the product. In fact, some of the most visible mini brand influencers (yes, influencers) are actually Millennials, who have made a whole career of their mini brand collections.
Gen Z and Millennial creators are driving social media popularity for mini brands
Of course, one of the main reasons mini brands have developed such a devoted fan base is because of visibility on social media and influencer marketing. On TikTok alone, the hashtag #MiniBrands has 5.5B views, and the official Mini Brands account has 1.8M followers. But mini brands have also become a popular subject for unboxing videos—and many influencers have built their entire brand around collecting and displaying mini products. For example, @loveminitoys on TikTok has gained 1.6M followers and 25.6M likes for showing off an assortment of mini objects like tiny food items and furniture. And as their collections grow, creators even make full mini stores, and allow their followers to request a shopping trip from the fully stocked mini aisles. The small size and unique packaging of mini products also makes them highly Instagrammable, which has helped to fuel the popularity of other creators: @meineschoenensachen has amassed 17.9K followers on Insta and considers themselves a “Mini Toy Food Cooking YouTube Video Creator” and posts aesthetically pleasing and organized mini kitchen set-ups.
And it wouldn’t be Gen Z and Millennial content if there wasn’t a little ASMR, too. As part of their unboxings, some creators let the ripping of plastic speak for itself and tap their nails against the packaging for added sound. One toy influencer, @meecatmovie (494K followers) even makes mini boxes to unbox the mini brand items, which according to the comments, their viewers absolutely love. This aspect of the content highlights another draw of these toys: Gen Z and Millennial consumers appear to find it relaxing and satisfying to watch someone collect and display mini brands, tapping into their inner child the same way nostalgia does. So, while mini brands may not have originally been made for them, older members of these generations are just as big a part of their fandom as the youngest ones—maybe even bigger.
How can brands engage with this huge mini trend?
Though ZURU Toys’ official Mini Brands collection seems to run the market, and already have tons of brands included in their range, other brands can get in on this subculture by making their products mini, too. Mini products could be used as a way to introduce new product launches or to capitalize on the nostalgia factor by creating mini versions of their most popular items. Another way is to partner with existing mini brand companies to create branded capsules or boxes that feature their products, which will quickly reach influencers and collectors seeking limited-edition items.
But if a brand isn’t interested in having mini, collectible products of their own (but really, why wouldn’t they?), mini content like Impossible’s is also a route they can go. Tastemade, for instance, started a “Tiny Kitchen” series several years ago (making them way early to the game) which did not use mini brands but made real tiny foods in tiny kitchen set ups. Even now, the account has 2M followers on Instagram as they continue to post their tiny recipes. Brands interested in mini-content making can take advantage of whatever product they market and really scale it down, whether producing their own minis videos or tapping minis influencers to help them out.