Mattel taps into social media craze with Puppy Tweets
Twitter Inc. has gone to the dogs.
Tapping into the social media craze, toy giant Mattel Inc. is preparing to release Puppy Tweets, a high-tech toy that will allow dogs to publicize their everyday activities on Twitter via a sound and motion sensor.
Attached to a dog’s collar, the plastic tag randomly generates one of 500 canned tweets when it detects barking or movement and automatically posts an update to Fido’s own Twitter page.
A round of woofing could lead to a tweet of “I bark because I miss you. There, I said it. Now hurry home.” A frenzied run through the backyard might garner “I finally caught that tail I’ve been chasing, and . . . OOUUUCHH!”
But before you begin to drool over the prospect of having your own Dug, the animated dog from Disney-Pixar’s “Up” whose translator collar allowed him to talk, Mattel executives caution that the toy is just a toy.
Unlike advanced pet gadgets such as GPS tracking collars that keep tabs on roaming cats, the technology behind Puppy Tweets is simply sending out random messages triggered by movement or sound.
So even though Fido’s device may be tweeting about tracking a squirrel, he could actually be digging a hole or scratching himself. And that might be a letdown for people hoping for the real thing.
“I mean, really what is it telling you?” said Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, a pet shop with locations in downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach. “It’s like a Magic 8 Ball toy.”
Puppy Tweets is Mattel’s first foray into the pet market and just one of thousands of toys that the El Segundo company plans to release this year through its various divisions.
Executives say the toy bridges Americans’ love of pooches with the growing popularity of sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which keep users constantly updated on their friends’ whereabouts and goings-on.
“It is a new frontier for us,” Mattel Brands President Neil Friedman said. “We think it could be the start of a new wave of products for people to interact with their pets.”
Designed by Mattel’s Radica division, Puppy Tweets is expected to hit toy stores and pet shops nationwide in the fall for $29.99, although the company will show the product to industry watchers in New York on Friday. Retailers such as Amazon.com Inc. have already signed on to sell the toy.
“Our customer base tends to be active online and savvy with social media, so it will be a good match,” said Sarah Wood, director of Amazon’s toys and games store. “It’s definitely unique from anything we’ve seen before.”
Sean McGowan, a toy analyst at Needham & Co., said Mattel was right to incorporate the Internet into its toys. But he said today’s tech-minded consumers would probably expect more.
“It reminds me of other gimmicky novelty items that seem great at first, but it’s possible that it’ll get old quickly,” he said.
Executives at the nation’s largest toy maker aren’t concerned that the toy’s pre-written tweets could grow tiresome, saying Puppy Tweets is intended to be more entertaining than high-tech.
“Eventually it will certainly repeat itself,” Friedman said. “But people repeat themselves, too.”
To use Puppy Tweets, dog owners are provided with a USB receiver that they connect to their computer. They then download the toy’s software online and create a Twitter account for their dog.
When a dog moves or barks, a signal is sent from its Puppy Tweets tag to the receiver, which updates the dog’s Twitter page. Owners can then check Twitter to see their dog’s latest posts.
Although the toy can update your dog’s Twitter page, it won’t be able to use the social media website’s other features, such as sending direct messages or re-tweeting other users’ tweets -- after all, Friedman joked, dogs “don’t read too well.”
Christian Velasco, 23, said he planned to check out Puppy Tweets because he often wondered what his dogs, Bailey and Casey, were doing during the day.
A Twitter user and co-owner of West Hollywood pet boutique D.O.G., Velasco said he thought the toy would resonate with consumers.
“It’s a dog market,” he said. “Now Apple just needs to make an ‘iPawd.’ ”