Richard Dickson, the president and COO of Mattel, highlighted the crucial role IP plays in the company’s overall brand-building strategies at the TV Kids Festival today in conversation with Anna Carugati.
The session, which you can view in its entirety here, began with Carugati asking Dickson about Mattel ramping up its focus on IP-driven entertainment. “Following the completion of our turnaround in 2021, we evolved our strategy last year from transforming Mattel into an IP-driven, high-performing toy company to growing our IP-driven toy business and expanding our entertainment offering,” Dickson explained.
“Film and television, consumer products, digital experiences like games and NFTs—these are directly adjacent businesses to the toy industry. We’re making a lot of progress on capturing the full value of our IP in what we believe are highly accretive business verticals. And while it’s still at the early stage, we’re excited about the progress that we’re making and in success, this can be truly transformative for Mattel.”
Dickson then talked about how the company both stokes nostalgia and attracts new audiences for its treasure trove of beloved brands.
“It’s always rewarding and heartwarming to see adults rediscover our toys and our brands, either through their children or becoming collectors as they reunite with that particular part of their lives. I believe that we’re striking the right balance. We use our Mattel Playbook. It’s a game-changing approach to brand reinvention that balances the art and the science of creativity, essentially, to deliver what we call brand longevity.”
The “Mattel Playbook” has four key areas of focus, Dickson noted, the first being “brand purpose. This is the distinctive reason for being that lives in every one of our brands—meaningful and motivating to our teams and collaborators. Brand purpose is also increasingly important to consumers who want to align their purchases and decisions with their values.
Dickson also highlighted the focus on “design-led innovation,” “cultural relevance” and “executional excellence—bringing great ideas to market better and faster. Great ideas are great ideas, but if you can’t execute them and bring them to life at retail, it’s nothing but a great idea. The Mattel Playbook is the heat behind the incredible Barbie brand turnaround we’ve been leading over the past five years and a blueprint for re-energizing brands across the entire Mattel portfolio.”
Dickson then went on to discuss the film and TV slate at the company, which includes projects based on American Girl, Barney, Magic 8 Ball, Major Matt Mason, Matchbox, Masters of the Universe, Polly Pocket, Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, Thomas & Friends, Uno, View-Master and Wishbone. “We’ve also developed a concept called Christmas Balloon, which is based on an all-new IP.” Dickson also highlighted the summer release of the new Barbie movie from Warner Bros. Pictures.
“The Barbie movie is a perfect demonstration of Barbie’s evolution from doll to IP,” Dickson said. “It delivers purpose, epic fashion, irreverent humor. It explores topics like gender equality and what it means to be human. This is not the Barbie movie you think it is. And in large part, that’s thanks to the visionary Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the script with her writing partner Noah Baumbach, and the brilliant Margot Robbie, who’s not only executive producing but, of course, starring as Barbie. Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Ken is stoking what he calls a certain ‘Ken-ergy.’ And he is genuinely hilarious. Margot and Ryan lead a diverse A-list cast that is truly electric on-screen. We love that this film is being created by genuine fans who recognize the power in Barbie’s purpose and its relevance in today’s cultural conversation. As inspired as it is fun, our film promises to continue evolving the brand.”
Dickson also highlighted the TV and movie content around Hot Wheels, “the single largest vehicle toy brand in the world, multiple years running,” Dickson said. There’s a live-action film with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros., and “we’re also gearing up to announce several TV titles based on Hot Wheels,” Dickson said.
“In addition to films and television shows, Mattel produces a broad range of content, including short-form and digital gaming, and ultimately are looking forward to unlocking the value of Hot Wheels and how we can bring it to life to new audiences for multiple generations to come.”
On Mattel’s overall approach to serving content across multiple platforms, Dickson noted, “Our objective is always to put our brands where our consumers are. Mattel will always make sure that our brands are discoverable in innovative and exciting verticals, which include, of course, physical toys, television, film, digital gaming, YouTube, Web 3, the metaverse, literally everywhere and anywhere in between.”
There are 12 series and specials on the television slate. “We also continue to rapidly expand our digital gaming footprint,” Dickson noted. “We’re going to continue to double down on content and digital gaming in ’23. Ultimately, everywhere that our consumer engages, Mattel brands will be there.”
On the impact digital gaming is having on the physical toy market, Dickson said, “Physical play is not going anywhere. The industry of physical play is projected to grow by Euromonitor. But as technology advances and new platforms emerge, consumers are hungry to see Mattel IP in these cutting-edge spaces, such as digital gaming. We don’t view traditional play and digital experiences as competitive but complementary to one another. It’s just a larger playground. So we’re excited about Mattel’s unique opportunity to pioneer what’s possible in both the digital and physical worlds, continuously bridging the gap between the two and, most importantly, creating unforgettable experiences for our fans.”