It’s Ooshie Season: a time for kids to obsess over tiny little objects for a short period before such items find their forever homes buried in the ground.
For the uninitiated, Ooshies are small figurines presented as ‘collectables’. Woolworths are offering one for every $30 you spend, individually wrapped in clever packaging that’s easy to tear open but impossible to guess what’s inside. They spark endless conversations among parents, grandparents and neighbours. They became the source of ‘battles’ and various negotiations between friends and siblings and for some parents, they become handy rewards or bribes.
Each Ooshie Season brings about its very own myths and legends regarding rare items. You’ll inevitably catch a headline regarding an eBay auction where a seller is asking for thousands of dollars in return for the ultimate Ooshie collectable. Although you’ll rarely ever hear of somebody actually purchasing such items at these prices.
And each Ooshie Season always results in questions regarding the environmental impact of these little land fillers, yet they keep coming back, more popular than ever before.
Indeed, this season’s Disney collectables are a major step up from 2019’s Lion King special. All your Disney favourites are featured in the 2020 line, including those from Frozen, Toy Story and even Star Wars. With 36 to collect all up, there is something for every taste.
But really, there is a lot in this for Woolworths.
The supermarket giant was hardly in need of another gimmick to get people through the doors, given stay at home orders have created a 2020 supermarket shopping boom. But just like with fashion, Ooshie Season plans are likely determined well in advance of any warnings of a pandemic approaching — although the “difficult year” was cited in the Woolworths press release launching the program, with it hoping to bring “more magic, surprise and delight to our customers” as they navigate this challenging period (the program is on hold in Victoria).
Ooshie season: Here’s what it’s really costing you
Leaving aside the environmental impact as well as managing disappointment, the arguments and the frustration of seeing these things dotted about your home, there are more subtle consumer changes that occur during this period that may be sucking you in.
The first is obvious: the temptation to buy just one more thing in order to round up to the next $30. In addition to this, Woolworths features a number of products each week that will earn you a bonus Ooshi. Some of these items may fall within your ‘usual’ purchase lists but in many cases these products will become additions that shoppers could have lived without.
Then there’s the marketing push to shop at Woolworths, when you may otherwise shop around to get the best bargains and deals from week to week. You may find yourself skipping a regular shop for basics at a cheaper supermarket option, or overlooking the latest specials at Coles (unless your kids are on to Coles’ most recent collectable rage, the Little Treehouse books).
The Woolworths and Disney+ partnership that’s behind this Ooshie Season is also designed to get your kids asking you to sign up to the new Disney subscription service, so you can play with your Ooshies while watching your favourite Disney classics.
But a far more subtle factor is how these tiny Elsas, R2-D2s and Buzz Lightyears are cementing the brand name of the place where they come from into your kids’ brains. As I walked out of the school gates on Monday afternoon, I couldn’t help but overhear the question from one six-year-old to his mother: “Are you going to Woolworths this afternoon?”
Of course, this isn’t a new marketing tactic to develop brand recognition in young kids’ minds. Kids have long been marketed to for decades via the sweetener of a piece of plastic or the promise of some awesome competition. It’s the Happy Meal with it’s always-changing surprise. It’s the Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmite program that has been going on for 92 years, offering kids numerous different yellow-themed promotional items.
This season’s Ooshies arrived in our home without me knowing. We had picked up a large Woolworths shop via ‘Click and Collect’ and as I unpacked the groceries at home, I saw six Ooshie packets had been included and yelped. By that point, it was too late: they had already been spotted by the older two kids in the family who knew exactly what they were and ripped them open to reveal the “magic and delight” inside. The 2020 collection had begun.