Why Germany is going crazy for unicorns
June 25 2017 09:56 PM
Unicorn shower gel is among the many unicorn-themed products available in German shops. The country has been gripped by unicorn fever this year.

By Doreen Fiedler

Bright pink “unicorn” sausages, unicorn hoof gel with glitter, candy floss-scented unicorn toilet paper – in Germany these days, you can buy pretty much anything with a hint of unicorn.
“It’s crazy. These products are selling really well,” says Christian Gossens, who runs the Edeka supermarket in the western German town of Hueckelhoven and has more than 30 unicorn-themed products on his shelves.
The demand for everything unicorn exploded around carnival time in February and hasn’t let up since, he says. “There are always promotional products for things like the European Championships and the World Cup – but I’ve never experienced anything like this,” he adds.
Some of his unicorn products – the toilet paper, for example – come from a company called Metsae Tissue. It has its own market and design research department and jumped on the unicorn bandwagon several months ago. “In most cases it’s all about novelty products,” says director Christoph Zeiler.
Marketing expert Martin Fassnacht from the WHU business school in the German town of Vallendar says the trend has been so successful because customers associate unicorns with positivity: childhood dreams, refusing to grow up, hope, happy endings.
“The idea comes from interacting with customers. You can do that easily and quickly online without elaborate questionnaires,” he says.
It was actually a marketing coup by the German chocolate company Ritter Sport that first got unicorns galloping into German supermarkets.
Customers had been campaigning for unicorn chocolate, and so the company brought out a limited edition bar – which crashed the company’s website when too many people tried to buy it.
“Our servers broke down. We had more than 150,000 attempts to order in the first few seconds after it was released,” says Ritter spokesman Thomas Seeger. 
Seeger is well aware of the free marketing the company gets when customers post selfies and videos of themselves with their new chocolate bars. “These kind of promotions recharge the brand, keep it up to date,” he says.
Ritter Sport’s average customer is male and not too young –but the unicorn promotion attracted a new, younger, female target group.
Marketing psychologist Joost van Treeck of the private Hamburg university Fresenius also recognises the magic powers of the unicorn. “With a unicorn on their packaging, brands are showing that they’re young, fresh and funny,” he says. 
They’re also trying to say, “We’re not the big company while you’re just the little consumer – we can talk to each other,” he says.
“There’s a general tendency for otherwise inaccessible firms wanting to show a softer, more emotional side by interacting with consumers,” he adds. Even herbs and spices manufacturer Ankerkraut has got in on the unicorn action. “Suddenly barbecue retailers were ringing us up and hysterical girls were standing in our shop demanding it,” says company spokeswoman Anne Lemcke.
The company came up with a unicorn dessert sprinkle which is basically just sugar mixed with a bit of cherry powder and coconut sugar.
“It was meant as a joke,” says Lemcke. “It’s not the best spice mix we have.” But that hasn’t stopped the unicorn lovers.
In a similar vein, confectioner Katjes has come up with “Wunderland” fruit gums, made from “pixie dust.”
Discount supermarket Lidl stocks unicorn smoothies, unicorn biscuits, unicorn chocolates and unicorn yoghurt. Zeiler doesn’t think the craze can last much longer. “Unicorns are shy creatures. You catch a glimpse of them and then they vanish,” he says.
“When something is no longer fresh, unused, informal, it becomes boring,” adds van Treeck. And Fassnacht believes there are clear signs that the trend is coming to an end.
The German chemist’s chain dm recently introduced its own brand “Bye bye unicorn” shower gel with two dinosaurs on the packaging.
One is asking the other, whose mouth is suspiciously covered in rainbow colours, “Did you eat the last unicorn?”
“We’ve chosen to feature the unicorn in an ironic way,” says Kerstin Erbe, director of product management at dm. “Now we’re looking for the next trends.” – DPA

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