It’s a zhu out there.

First it was the Cabbage Patch Doll. Then Tickle-Me-Elmo and Furby. Now, hold on to your hat – and your small wood shavings – because this year the must have holiday toy that really rocks the worlds of retailers comes in the form of a tiny robotic hamster. Say hello to the Zhu Zhu Pet – the starring character in the latest holiday toy craze. And say hello to innovative and integrated social media marketing that helped create this craze.

Cepia LLC, the company that created Zhu Zhu Pets, describes its flagship invention as the next best thing to the real thing.

The hamsters come equipped with artificial intelligence and the ability to react to outside stimuli. Accessories include a skateboard, small car and hamster wheel.

Why are the toys such a hit? Perhaps it is the unorthodox marketing techniques Cepia used to jump-start the popularity of its new product.

The first step in the process is simple: They had a good product. You might think that’s overly simplistic, but it’s not. Cepia took the time to do the proper research and find out what kind of toy robots consumers wanted. It was decided that the robot should take the form of a pet – and hamsters, in particular, were “cute” pets that parents hated to buy, since they were often seen as large rats. For this reason, a robotic substitute might be in order: It could be as cute as a real hamster, but without the stigma a live rodent brings with it. and without having to clean any cages.

Of course, after the company perfected the product, it came time to implement the marketing. Instead of opting for high budget TV ads, Cepia LLC decided to take its product to the people. Over the summer, marketers held product demonstrations at Major League Baseball games in states such Georgia, Arizona and Texas.

Social media also played a significant role in Cepia’s marketing strategy. Mothers who maintained active online blogs were given free Zhu Zhu Pets so they could test them out with their children. The face-to-face demonstrations, combined with the online buzz that was building in the blogosphere was enough to generate the demand we see today.

Even the toy retailers themselves have found their own ways to help sell the product. A report on I4U News explains how Walmart was able to use TwitPic to post images of new Zhu Zhu shipments arriving on planes, thus getting the word out that its local stores would soon be restocked.

The moral of the story: Despite what you may have heard, good marketing is not all about big budgets and lots of on-air time. Smart marketers understand that success is more about creativity and meeting consumers where they are. Do that, and you’ll soon see that even the smallest of rodents can run with the big dogs.

And, know that corecubed uses a strategy based integrated marketing communications model and we are experts at reaching targets where they are with powerful messages that resonate and cause the target to purchase. Sound simple? If it were simple, everyone would be able to do it!

Watch a Fox News story on the Zhu Zhu: