One of the most interesting and possibly most important articles about the toy industry appeared December 18, 2020, in WWD (Women’s Wear Daily). The piece, “Moore From L.A.: What Fashion Brands Can Learn From Mattel and Toys,” is an interview by Booth Moore with Richard Dickson, Mattel President, and C.O.O.
I am not going to attempt to summarize the article. It is far too broad and deep for that. It demands reading, and I strongly recommend that you do so…twice at least.
However, what did strike me about Richard Dickson’s comments is an overarching sense that toys need to be more than a piece of nostalgia. A memory that adults rediscover when they become parents. Rather, toys and toy brands need to remain relevant as children become teens, young adults and then parents. One way to accomplish this is to match up Mattel’s classic brands with hot, new street styles.
Mattel is, through its Mattel Creations initiative, reaching out to companies like The Hundreds and Herschel. Some of these brands may be unfamiliar to those of us born in the 20th century but not to Mattel. As an example, with The Hundreds, Mattel has produced the limited edition “Uno x The Hundreds” card game featuring The Hundreds’ character, “Adam Bomb.” In a similar manner, Mattel is working with accessories company Herschel, producing a limited edition”Herschel x Hot Wheels Land Rover Defender 90.” (I checked and it is sold out).
Mattel is connecting with young adults through the brands they love and using art and messaging that reflects an American and world culture that is fragmented and therefore viewed through a multitude of virtual and physical platforms. As Richard Dickson puts it:
We need to create content for YouTube, short form, long form, TV commercials, TV series, digital gaming, it’s really complex today. For a company that was built on the 30-second commercial and Saturday morning cartoons, the whole model is completely new.
Being in the toy industry today means being multi-faceted in how we approach the public. Its complex. Building a marketing plan today is more like creating a mosaic or doing needlepoint. Like an artist, the marketer uses many small elements to create a message that is both diverse and unified. Mattel seems to be well along that path. Its one well worth following.