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27 July 2014

Baby Toys: The History Of Sophie the Giraffe

Sophie the Giraffe, a natural rubber teether, is one of the most beloved baby toys of all time! For those Mums who learn the history of how Sophie came to be an international hit, they seem to cherish her all the more!

In 1960, the idea of Sophie the Giraffe was born in Asnieres sur Oise, a small town north of Paris France. She was the genus of Monsieur Rampeau, who worked for the Delacoste Company, producing toys from the sap of the Hevea tree, native to Malaysia. In that era, animal toys in Europe were basically limited to barnyard animals like cows, pigs, and chickens or pets like dogs and cats. In other words, they were limited to animals that children would already be familiar with.

However, Monsieur Rampeau had a different vision. He wanted to create an animal toy of an exotic animal that would fascinate children and stimulate their mind. He also felt that the shape of a giraffe would be the perfect for a baby to hold and manipulate. This is how the idea of creating a giraffe teether for babies was born. However, no one then could have ever imagined then how popular this toy would eventually become. Some things that start out small "simple" ideas just develop a life of their own!

Sophie was first introduced to the public on May 25, 1961. It was no coincidence that this day was also the celebrated Feast Day of Madeleine Sophie Barat, the Catholic nun who founded the Society Of the Sacred Heart and was later sainted. She is often referred to as "Saint Sophie" and Sophie the Giraffe is her namesake! However, when Sophie the Giraffe was first introduced, there was no marketing fanfare for Sophie like we now see when the major toy companies roll out a new toy today. This was long before graphic pop-up ads on the internet. There were no extended TV commercials that ran non-stop like there are now for toys. In fact, there were hardly any print ads for Sophie until another French company, Vulli, bought the rights to manufacture her in 1991. However, even without much marketing, it was said that more than nine out of ten babies in France were given a Sophie the Giraffe! Plus, she was almost as popular in other European countries too!

Sophie the giraffe

So, without any marketing to speak of, how did Sophie the Giraffe become so wildly popular in France and around the rest of Europe in her first three decades?

WORD OF MOUTH!!!
Mums told other Mums who told other Mums who told other Mums, etc...
And.. they told Grandparents, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, etc...
Sophie the Giraffe went "viral" in an age long before the internet and even before TV was the mass communication tool it eventually became!

Then, four decades after Sophie's birth, when efforts were first made to get the big manufacturers of baby toys in the United States interested in her, the marketing executives of those big companies essentially said she'd never sell well -- they didn't see any potential (don't you know they are smacking themselves on the forehead about now!). The buying gurus of these big manufacturing companies agreed! 

So, how did Sophie the Giraffe become so incredibly popular in the United States if the big manufacturers of baby toys snubbed her? One lady who sold toys to the Hollywood elite decided to start sending samples to the Mummy bloggers around the country. Guess what happened?!? Sophie the Giraffe went viral again!!! 

The Mummy bloggers LOVED her and they sang her praises. They posted pictures of their happy babies hugging Sophie and laughing and smiling! They talked about how fascinated their babies were with her, how she soothed their gums better than any other teether, how they giggled when they heard her squeak, and how she was their baby's favorite toy! The social media universe lit up like the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York and Sophie the Giraffe sales took off with a bang and grew exponentially in the states.

Sophie the giraffe

People have often asked, "Why do babies love Sophie the Giraffe so much?" Is it the shape of her long lovely neck? It does seem to be the perfect size and shape for a baby to manipulate in her tiny little hands. Is it the cute caramel candy colored spots all over her body? Babies do seem to respond at the mere sight of Sophie with smiles and playful gurgling! Is it the semi-flexibility of the natural rubber as a baby chews on her? She does seem to almost immediately soothe a baby cutting his teeth. Sophie the Giraffe just seems to be a winner all the way around. And.... even after we're all grown up and having a baby of our very own, Sophie still makes us smile! Of all the baby toys we had, this is the one that seems to remain endeared to our heart always.

If you have never seen Sophie the Giraffe before, you will be smitten the instant you lay eyes on her and so will your little one. Standing seven inches tall, Sophie exudes personality and charm. She is totally non-toxic as she is painted with food dyes and made of natural rubber, instead of the toxic synthetic polymers found in other baby toys. Plus, of course, babies love to chew on all four of her legs, her ears, and her baby horns.
When parents begin preparing their nursery for the upcoming joyful arrival of their new baby, they often select Sophie the Giraffe as one of the first baby toys they purchase. It remains a sentimental favorite from one generation to the next. Sophie is also a popular gift given by Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members. She's often the star at baby showers too! Sophie will likely continue to be one of the all time favorite baby toys for a very long time to come.

To quote Saint Madeline Sophie Barat, for whom Sophie was named after, "Be humble, simple, bring joy to others." This is certainly what Sophie the Giraffe has been doing for more than five decades! She is a timeless classic that will never go out of style!