Mattel’s new toy story

Proving Barbie and Hot Wheels aren’t child’s play, Réidín Goode is appealing to fans of all ages.
Reidin

Réidín Goode’s story has a perfectly ironic symmetry that’s almost like a fairy tale: who could have predicted that Goode, the girl who grew up without having owned a Barbie, would one day be responsible for leading the regeneration of the iconic doll brand?
Five years into her career at Mattel Canada, Goode has tipped the scales to great. In her early days as brand manager for Barbie (a job she won even after admitting she didn’t own one while a girl in her native Ireland), she brought the brand to new heights with a series of campaigns around the doll’s 50th anniversary in
2009. The results: a flurry of brand partnerships and media attention, not to mention a huge lift in sales that continued into 2011.
A year into her gig as director of marketing for Mattel Canada, overseeing such brands as Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, Goode has continued to evolve the brands she represents – not by mere fairy-tale luck, but through thoughtful strategy that has transformed a roster of iconic brands from mere toy category into cultural touchstones.
Christine Ross, partner and managing director at Spider Marketing Solutions, has worked with Goode for over two years on strategy, particularly on Barbie, and deems her “one of the good ones.”
“She’s always in control,” Ross says. “She knows her brand [and] she makes everyone feel like it’s a partnership.”
Working with Carat on media buy and strategy, GCI Group for PR, and Trojan One and Spider on creative and promo – not to mention a team of 12 marketers including team leads Riza Javellana, Adriana Gut and Donna Polimac – it’s been busy year.
In February 2011, Goode built on the success of Barbie’s anniversary with the “Everyone needs a Ken” campaign marking Ken’s 50th, which positioned the reunion of Barbie and Ken like a real celebrity couple, and engaged fans through Facebook, Twitter and BarbieandKen.com. The media buy included in-show integration on eTalk, culminating in a six-page fashion spread in Elle Canada and an LG Fashion Week stunt involving live Ken models. The campaign earned 36 million impressions and lifted retail sales by 6%.
Partnerships, customer interactions and word-of-mouth keep the brand relevant, says Goode. “The goal is to develop an immersive experience across all brands.”
The “Hot Wheels Live” campaign, executed earlier in 2011, created that experience by using social media, PR and digital. It involved the brand in grassroots car events, engaging fans on a cross-Canada tour that included pit stops at the Montreal Formula One and the Toronto Honda Indy. A sponsorship of Nascar driver Alex Tagliani, along with digital contests, videos and interviews at Hotwheelslive.ca helped garner 85 million media impressions and brought the brand into the spotlight.
The campaign went beyond toys, Goode says, and engaged adult vehicle-lovers in a way that brought the brand more on-trend – and perfectly fulfilled the internal mandate that Hot Wheels campaigns must offer thrilling vehicle experiences.
“Our whole goal is really to create cultural noise and get people talking,” she says.
Other milestones include ramping up the engagement piece for Fisher-Price, which targets pre-natal and new moms. The challenge was to appeal digitally savvy Gen Y moms who would not be as engaged by traditional TV spots, so the strategy was to build presence on social and digital channels with the goal of expanding the Fisher-Price community through word-of-mouth.
In the spring, the brand formed the Fisher-Price Mom Panel, a group of eight Canadian mommy bloggers who participated in a series of W Network vignettes and continue to blog at FisherPricePlay.ca. In October, the brand sponsored the Blissdom Canada Conference in Toronto, where it put out a call to expand its Mom Panel to 25, up from eight. The announcement garnered so much attention that Fisher-Price trended on Twitter.
Though the blogger tactic is challenging – it can’t be done overnight and it doesn’t translate into sales easily – Goode says it’s one worth pursuing. “It’s like [throwing] a pebble in the pond,” she says. “There’s a ripple effect.”
And with a new global brand platform rolling out in the new year, one that will see the “Play. Laugh. Grow.” tagline change to “Joy of Learning,” Goode says she’s looking forward to invigorating Fisher-Price by building on the partnerships and digital successes of other brands.
“Moms appreciate not being talked to or talked at,” she says. “They like to interact with other moms and get information. Our goal is really to facilitate that conversation.”
When it comes to keeping the conversation going with Barbie, the blond beauty isn’t just basking in her birthday glory. In October, Mattel hosted its first Tweetup in Toronto involving 120 bloggers, to kick off its “I Can Be the Voice” Facebook app at Bethevoice.ca, a forum for female empowerment that encourages moms to explore issues about raising daughters, and daughters to be their own best advocates. Barbie occupies a subdued presence on the “About” page through links to the #BarbieICanBe Twitter feed and Barbie Facebook page – as Mattel didn’t want a strong commercial association with the campaign.
Overall, one of Goode’s goals is to build a digital roadmap for Mattel brands, an initiative she’s working on with Isobar, Carat’s digital arm. Slated for completion in early 2012, the plan will provide a digital framework for Mattel brands that will inform future strategy.
Another new direction is a three-prong retail services strategy for all brands, devised with agency Mosaic, encompassing in-store merchandizing, in-store experiential and a new corporate Facebook page, The Joy of Toys. Play ambassadors hit stores in October, using tablet technology to educate parents and gift-givers, answer questions, drive conversion and introduce them to the Facebook page, which offers locally relevant, timely content.
The idea, says Goode, is that Mattel is interacting with consumers at every step along the path to purchase, providing a deeper in-aisle experience and extending it through social media to sustain the relationship.
“It’s really about closing the loop from the purchase to the experience to the online community and building loyalty … and hoping our advocates will carry our message.”
And of course, the actual act of playing has a role in experience and advocacy, just like it did in the pre-digital community days.

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