Samuel Yi
Samuel is Category Director of Retail, Technology and Media at Mintel, for China market. Samuel has rich research experience focusing on retail market research, product innovation, consumer research and business strategy etc.

At the end of 2020, the designer toy brand POPMART was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and its market value once exceeded 100 billion HKD. Aiming at the young consumers’ enthusiasm for trendy toys, the brand took off with the “blind box” and has gradually grown over the past ten years to its current scale.

Blind box refers to a toy box that consumers cannot know the specific product style in advance, thus having a level of randomness to it. Only when you open it will you know what you have bought. The IP attributes of blind box products can be divided into three categories: Designer Original IP, Cartoon IP and Derivative IP. The ability to continuously identify and sign high-quality designer original IP is also one of the core competitiveness of blind box companies. China’s toy industry and IP licensing industry is in a stage of rapid development, and the market demand for IP toys is currently in a period of rapid expansion. 

How Blind Box Brands Can Stand Out in Competition

POPMART’s first annual report after going public showed year-on-year revenue and profit growth, but the growth rate slowed down significantly compared to the previous two years, which was related to the fierce market competition. For blind box brands, the development of new IP and innovation of existing IP is the key to business.

The blind box market is becoming more and more crowded with brand competition. Other than the old players in the market, MINISO launched its own brand TOPTOY, and domestic museums and other cultural institutions have also entered the game. At the same time, the attention of new generation consumers to blind boxes is also shifting rapidly. The top brands need to keep strengthening the attractiveness of IP to consumers in order to keep the brand’s future development prospects optimistic.

IP Socializing for “Grown-Ups”

In addition to the most well-known “Molly” series of blind boxes, there are currently more than 90 IPs under POPMART. In fact, IP is not only used in trendy toys, but also widely used in cultural and creative products, food, cosmetics and other fields. Mintel research shows that as consumers continue to pursue added-value products, IP cultural elements are seeping into consumers’ lives. As brands continue to use IP in marketing innovations, China’s IP-licensed commodity market has maintained a steady growth in the past few years.

In Mintel’s research last year, we found that in addition to young people aged 18-29, 30-39-year-old consumers are also the key segment for purchasing IP-related products. And meanwhile, more than half of consumers do not think that only children and young people will chase IP.

The phenomenon of cultural circles allows consumers who love the same IP to gather and share bits and pieces related to IP through social platforms. There is a fact that consumers now pay more attention to their own characters, this trend is also mentioned in Mintel Trend Driver Identity.

What We Think

To achieve longer-term development, the use of IP should be more diversified and cover more consumer groups. The inner emotional drive is the key for consumers to pay for IP goods, so the only way to stand out in the competition is to differentiate and really win the mental and emotional recognition of consumers.