Do Mattel and Hasbro, by far the toy industry’s biggest companies; have a responsibility to the rest of the industry? This was the question I asked myself as I listened, during Toy Fair, to a similar refrain from leaders of mid-tier companies: “Hasbro and Mattel, through a failure to innovate, are hurting the toy industry.”
The leaders I spoke with are concerned that, by putting their emphasis on endlessly synergizing and promoting existing brands, the industry’s leaders are making the toy department boring. For example, some argue that all of the game companies are impacted by Hasbro’s emphasis on filling shelves with multiple variations of Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and even Jenga. The more brand duplications there are, they argue, the less variety for consumers.
To me it’s like having a book store that is filled with variations of Gone with the Wind: Horse Gone with the Wind; Chattanooga Gone with the Wind and Star Wars Gone with the Wind (which is actually, when you think about it, a very compelling and doable concept). If this were the case all of these versions would be, in any bricks and mortar store, forcing the retailer to reduce the number of other kinds of books. For a while, the book store would do a great business with those who are Gone with the Wind
enthusiasts but after a while, the average consumer would cease to visit the store due to its limited variety.
Mattel and Hasbro already have a responsibility to their stakeholders (employees, shareholders, suppliers and more). Do they, however, have a responsibility to the rest of the industry? In other words, are those who work in the industry stakeholders by default?
In my opinion, Mattel and Hasbro do not have an obligation to innovate in order to better the toy economy for the rest of the industry. They do, however, have a self-interest that says, the more compelling the toy industry as a whole, the more people will visit the toy aisle or store and buy their products.
Self-interest should dictate that Mattel and Hasbro get a little crazy and come up with more innovation and less synergistic marketing. Will self-interest win out; we’ll have to wait and see. Keep your fingers crossed.