By: Marlene Sharpe
Pink Poodle Productions
An Interview with Drew Vernon, Marketing Director, tonies®USA
Welcome to part 2 of GLOBAL TOY NEWS’ TOY TITANS interview series! It is pure bliss to serve as tour guide. Expect to hop, skip, jump, coast and alight on milestones from several storied careers. To suggest a jolly giant for future spotlights, then please dispatch your pitch(es) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t attempt to put our second Toy Titan in a box – literal or figurative – unless it is a product of German tech toymaker tonies®. He is Drew Vernon, Marketing Director of tonies®USA, a.k.a. the American arm of aforementioned manufacturer. tonies® is the corporate force behind the Toniebox: a red, sound-rich, screen-free, kid-friendly smart speaker. Drew’s 3-year tonies®USA tenure includes bragging rights to a showy LeVar Burton collab; huge 2022 corporate revenue growth; and successful partnerships with several iconic brands, such as Disney, Calm, and Steiff.
Drew’s career is the personification of out-of-the-box thinking. His employment history contains multiple kinds of businesses and myriad job descriptions that range from stock broker to brand manager, with side hustles of podcaster and child care entrepreneur. Shining atop his LinkedIn profile, Drew’s self-awareness adorns his headline. It states ‘former child.’ A chat with Drew reveals that he is not far removed from his erstwhile self. He elaborates below; answers are paraphrased for space limitations.
Marlene Sharp: How did you begin your career in the toy business?
Drew Vernon: I went to school for marketing; I’ve always had a passion for business and psychology, and I thought marketing was at the intersection of understanding why consumers do what they do. I have an MBA from the University of Wisconsin in Brand Product Management. After school, I went to P & G, where I learned marketing fundamentals and analyzed disruptive technologies to launch new products . . . then, I went to Jergens (Kao is the parent company) for the launch of its wet skin moisturizer. Following that, I wanted a change, and I had the opportunity to join LEGO, where I managed the U.S. preschool business.
Marlene Sharp: What is your favorite toy and why?
Drew Vernon: Besides the Toniebox? Well, I’ve always been a fan of LEGO. I got my first set in 1989 . . . But my favorite toy is my stuffed Rhinokey (half rhinoceros, half monkey) from a short-lived TV series called THE WUZZLES. I still have him to this day!
Marlene Sharp: What is your proudest moment?
Drew Vernon: It’s a work-in-progress, a journey, but it started with my creation of Prescription for Play, a LEGO viral campaign. It is a program administered by primary care providers during routine wellness exams and promotes 15 minutes of play per day for children 18-36 months.
Marlene Sharp: What are your goals for the future?
Drew Vernon: I have a passion for education and improvement of the childhood experience. I hope to get kids off screens as their default babysitters. The act of listening to adults reading books is an effective way to encourage literacy in young children.
Marlene Sharp: To humor this true crime obsessed interviewer, could you share at least one toy-centric scandal, mystery, or urban legend that might be unfamiliar among readers?
Drew Vernon: Um, I gotta process that question. I don’t think that I have anything too big or serious . . .
Marlene Sharp: That’s okay! Give it a shot! Maybe something along the lines of the Cabbage Patch Kid riots of 1983?
Drew Vernon: One thing that I’ve grown prouder of through the years is the cease-and-desist letter from my own company. When I was at LEGO, I started Brick Names, a program that allowed people to purchase their child’s name in Duplo brick letters. Our global legal team flagged it, and I had to go back and clear it up, and tell them that it was an official LEGO program!
Marlene Sharp: Outstanding! YOU were involved in the scandal! This exceeds all expectations, Drew!
We draw the story of Drew Vernon to a close, and take leave to cover the next Toy Titan! Stand by for TT #3 . . .
To listen to Drew host the official TONIE TIME show, visit Apple Podcasts here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tonie-time/id1613429123
To ingest more toy industry copyright infringement drama and related transgressions, please patiently await the probable podcast from your lawful ladies of DOGGONE CRIME . . .