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5 Times Hot Wheels Used Social Cross-Promotion to Win on Instagram

Hot Wheels, “your source for the world’s raddest cars,” is the original, much-loved toy car company, and has continued to build its brand in the 21st century with cartoons and computer games, among other ventures. Hot Wheels maintains relevance largely through their social activity, especially the brand’s work on Instagram.

Specifically, this takes the form of cross-promotions with other major brands like Back to the Future and Porsche. In fact, every single one of Hot Wheels’ top-performing Instagram posts in the month of October focused on various cross-promotions.

Hot Wheels Instagram Posts

By offering followers the chance to experience real-life events through their toys, Hot Wheels has seen their engagement numbers soar on Instagram. Here are their most successful pieces of Instagram cross-promotion in October alone, and here’s how they’re touching followers.

Back to the Future

40% of Hot Wheels’ top-performing Instagram posts in October were tied to #backtothefutureday, and it’s top post of October was #delorean-themed.

Hot Wheels Delorean Instagram

Why It Worked: Hot Wheels took advantage of the #backtothefutureday cultural zeitgeist by essentially creating a holiday and product around this day. When everyone on social media was buzzing about #backtothefutureday, they served up a piece of content to fit the need — and people reacted accordingly, by tagging their friends (more engagement! Great brand awareness generation!) and getting swept up in a wave of nostalgia.

Also Worth Noting: This post (and many of Hot Wheels’ posts generally speaking) uses hashtags savvily, casting a wide net here with everything from #hoverboard to #backtothefuture to #backtothefuture day, which makes it much more likely that anyone searching for Back to the Future-related content will find theirs.

Formula Drift

This video was one of Hot Wheels’ second-most engaging post for the month of October, with over 3,000 engagements.

Porsche Hot Wheels

Why It Worked: By pairing a real-world event (the Formula Drift Professional Drifting Championship Series in Irvine, CA) and their toy in one video, Hot Wheels gains traction with Instagram users who are interested in the #FormulaD hashtag and event, who would be likely to also have interest in their toy cars. Since this video was taken right next to the actual race track while the actual race was happening, it also adds an element on behind-the-scenes excitement that appeals to car fans.


This post was Hot Wheels’ third-most engaging during October 2015, with over 3,000 engagements total. A huge part of that success was derived from the cache of the luxury Porsche brand.

Hot Wheels Urban Outlaw Instagram

Why It Worked: In addition to the cache of Porsche’s name, this post generated top engagement because it tagged a well-respected car designer, regrammed Magnus Walker’s original post, and used the #carsofinstagram hashtag, which is usually associated with “real” cars — but hits Hot Wheels’ target demographic for this product, too.


Two of Hot Wheels’ top-performing Instagram posts in October were cross-promotions with Nintendo.

Hot Wheels Nintendo

Why It Worked: This post generated significant engagement because it tagged the internationally beloved video game brand Nintendo in the photo, thus enhancing discoverability, and because it announced the release of a new Hot Wheels product.


Again, the power of nostalgia. This post uses nostalgia (not to mention product placement next to a real Chevy) to rake in the Likes and comments.

Hot Wheels Cars 'N Coffee

Why It Worked: This post generated significant engagement because, in addition to its nostalgia-worthy content, it asks a question of the car aficionados that follow Hot Wheels (a big comment-creator) and uses those ultra-relevant hashtags to foster brand awareness, once again.

Takeaways for Your Brand

  1. Play on events. Make your post a part of an event. Put your product at the event. Use the event hashtag.
  2. Play on hashtags. Use a wide swathe of hashtags, from specific to your product to the different interests of the people you want following your brand.
  3. Play on nostalgia. Think about what your audience remembers fondly about the past. Create Instagram content around these nostalgic feelings. Run tests to see if you’re on the right track.
  4. Play on excitement (with video). There is no better excitement-builder on social than video. Create videos which amp people up on your Instagram account.
  5. Tag the other brand. If you’re cross-promoting with another brand or leveraging an influencer, make sure you’re tagging them in your content to enhance discoverability.

Want more Instagram engagement-boosters? Download our 10 Tips for Increasing Brand Engagement on Instagram by clicking below.

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Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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