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How Mattel is building its core brands’ franchise potential

We chat to Lisa Weger about how the company’s power brands are making big moves.

“The CP team is very much part of the business plan for growth,” states Lisa Weger, regional head of consumer products for Europe at Mattel, when we catch up with her following a busy start to her tenure at the company.

“We want to reinvigorate the core brands’ franchise potential by building on the success that the toy business is currently seeing, particularly on Barbie and Hot Wheels, with both enjoying double digit growth following a strategic long-term plan to reinforce the brands’ core USPs and purpose for parents.”

Mattel has some of the most well known and iconic brands in the industry – its enviable portfolio not only includes the aforementioned Barbie (who celebrates her 60th anniversary in 2019) and Hot Wheels (50 this year), but also Thomas (75 in 2020), Fisher-Price, Enchantimals and Polly Pocket.

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Lisa re-joined Mattel earlier this year (she was previously at the company back in 1997, leading the licensing business for Canada and Latin America), having spent 14 years in New York leading the franchise management, visual branding and licensing for Turner Kids.

And, while Mattel has a wealth of evergreen brands, there is also a great deal of untapped opportunity, something which Lisa is very excited about.

“We are currently in a very stable position – with such a lot of change and volatility in the retailer landscape and consumer buying patterns we are pleased to be maintaining a healthy business,” she tells LSB. “We have seen some great growth in our core toy business and this is allowing us to leverage this momentum and drive exciting partnerships and opportunities.”

While Barbie has been busy making headlines (see separate box out), the activity around Hot Wheels has been revving up, too. “The anniversary has been a great milestone for us,” says Lisa. “Our partnership with former F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg and the energy and momentum the brand has is great. We really want to capitalise on this and translate it into some exciting streetwear partnerships, as well as some exciting new developments in the toy space.”

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Meanwhile, Thomas & Friends has seen some significant changes to its content to make sure it maintains its position in the market.

Lisa continues: “Thomas & Friends is a much-loved classic, but with any classic brand it’s important that it evolves to stay relevant. The brand is undergoing a huge evolution to ensure it remains competitive for today’s audiences and the new movie – Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures! – exemplifies this in a wonderful way with entertaining content that will help children discover and learn about the bigger world with a trusted friend. The much anticipated movie also offers the brand several additional opportunities across the franchise from theatrical/live events to consumer products, as well as a range of new exciting toys.”

In addition, a new TV series – which airs on Channel 5 – features multi-cultural characters, new female protagonists and is also the first ever preschool TV show to collaborate with the United Nations.

As for brands with untapped potential, Lisa believes that Mattel is in a great place to capitalise on the opportunity with Fisher-Price, and is ready to explore the “heritage and love” for the brand.

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Polly Pocket has also been relaunched, with a fashion partnership secured with Mimi Wade and stocked exclusively at Selfridges. “This helped us to take the brand and play in a high fashion space that was unexpected and surprising for consumers,” says Lisa. “The collaboration drove some great PR noise across Vogue, Dazed, Drapers and more – helping society to rekindle the love for this brand so we again have an exciting CP strategy planned to support its relaunch.”

Lisa also believes that Enchantimals has strong licensing potential, with kids being able to digitally immerse themselves in the world with episodes online and an engaging Popjam channel.

It certainly sounds like there’s no resting on any laurels at Mattel, and Lisa has clear objectives for what she would like to achieve by the end of the year: “To have made real tangible strides implementing our strategic plan driving the CP business to new growth opportunities.

And her response is equally emphatic when asked how she would describe 2019 for Mattel from a CP point of view in five words… “Power brands making big moves!”

Living Doll

2019 is going to be a “noisy year” for Barbie as the iconic fashion doll approaches its 60th anniversary.

“We are seeing some real momentum behind the brand, the evolution that we have been on for the past few years is really resonating and translating into sales,” says Lisa. “As we head into the 60th anniversary this will only continue to build. It’s going to be a noisy year for the brand and we are excited about the opportunities.”

The brand’s fashion partnerships have been a key highlight with the Barbie x Missguided partnership now going into its fourth season, as well as successful collaborations with some world-class partners in fashion, stationery and beauty – Moleskine, Sephora, Spiral and Primark.

Lisa continues: “Our success in fashion and the continued work we do within the fashion industry, along with the work that we have done with our role models campaign, certainly plays a part to keep us relevant and part of society conversation.

“We are also looking to develop that special relationship that a girl has with her Barbie to explore the opportunities in kids fashion that will enable us to develop a true fashion brand rather than a character brand playing in a fashion space.”

Lisa adds: “Parents are looking for Barbie to have a more purposeful identity – the idea of Barbie as a canvas to ignite girls imaginations is what continues to make Barbie not only relevant today, but a purposeful brand for tomorrow.”

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2018 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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