What are successful examples of kids products that are marketed and/or sold through a mobile app targeted specifically for parents? In any language or country.
New kids products that are marketed through mobile app experiences include Popup Play printable play sets, Potatoyz 3D-printed toys, and the Type 1 diabetes educational app and companion toy, Jerry the Bear. Several established brands are also using apps to market their physical toys, including LEGO, American Girl, and even McDonald's. All told, I was able to find nine strong examples of this phenomenon. Below you will find a run-down of each of these examples.
I started by trying to find examples of apps that specifically market one physical product from a new brand if possible (these were mostly toys) -- there was a limited amount of information about these apps, so I expanded my search to companion apps or marketing games for established brands like LEGO, American Girl, and Crayola. These apps still market products to kids, though not as directly. Most of these apps are aimed at marketing products to kids, but often they are improved by parent interaction -- I wasn't able to find any apps aimed at parents that marketed kids' products through games or other experiences. Below you'll find my full list of nine example apps and the products they market.
Popup Play is an app that allows kids to design a custom cardboard playhouse in several different basic outlines -- the company prints and ships the customized set to each customer, though kids can just play with the app and design new sets whenever they want. The app was funded on Shark Tank with an investment from Chris Sacca and has won several startup awards since.
Bloxels is a game design toy set and mobile app for kids (it's most effective when parents help, as it can be complicated). The free app lets kids play other people's creations and, when they have the physical set, scan their own created characters and levels.
Potatoyz is a French startup whose mobile app lets kids design their own toys. The company 3D prints and sends the customized toys to the kids.
Crayola Virtual Design Pro is a free mobile app with a whole line of physical companion kits available for purchase, including cars, Star Wars, and fashion. The free app works with printable design templates that kids can color in but has marketing material (and in-app purchases) for the companion kits baked in -- it also serves as a marketing tool for Crayola products generally.
LEGO has a host of free apps that market its brand, if not its products directly. Most notable on the marketing front are LEGO AR Studio, which lets kids combine augmented reality 3D LEGO with their own physical bricks, and LEGO Life, which is an Instagram-style social networking app where kids can see others' creations and upload their own. LEGO itself often uploads building challenges and professional builds to the platform, so kids can get inspired to build (and probably buy).
Jerry the Bear is a mobile app built to educate kids with Type 1 diabetes about their condition and how to manage it. The app is free but is used as a marketing tool for the physical companion teddy bear, as some app functionality (AR insulin dosing and blood glucose checking for example) requires the bear.
Elf on the Shelf is another established brand using mobile apps to market its physical product. They have a line of several apps, including a pose suggestion app for parents, elf-themed virtual pet apps for kids, and other games.
American Girl, like LEGO, has several mobile apps for kids that bring them into the brand's ecosystem, allowing for new play experiences with the dolls the kids own or exposing them to new dolls they might want to buy.
McPlay is McDonald's tie-in app for Happy Meals, letting kids play with an anthropomorphized Happy Meal box, color pictures, and scan their Happy Meal toys, incentivizing them to go back to collect more.
Both new brands like Popup Play and Potatoyz and established players like LEGO and Crayola are marketing their physical goods with the use of mobile companion apps or games. Most of these experiences are tailored toward kids with the goal of encouraging parents to buy the toys, but some (like Bloxels' game design toy set) are improved with parent help and could appeal as much to adults as to kids.