Beyond Bratz

The launch of the Bratz line was undoubtedly a major milestone for MGA Entertainment, but there is much more to the company than the pouty fashion dolls, as we found out from Marian Davis.
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Boasting not only Bratz, but also brands including Moxie Girlz, and more recently Lalaloopsy and through Zapf Creation, Baby Born and Baby Annabell, MGA has firmly established itself as a leading force in the girls sector.

Furthermore, marketing manager, Marian Davis’ boasts a strong experience in girls brands, including a stint at Mattel, working on Barbie. However, Davis assures me that, perhaps contrary to public opinion, MGA is not just about girls.

“The MGA Entertainment portfolio also encompasses the Little Tikes brand, which is a market leader in the outdoor toy industry,” Davis explains. “We do however pride ourselves on being the best in the industry at manufacturing girls’ toys, but we will have some big non-girl launches coming soon.”

In fact, the company was founded back in 1979 in what is traditionally a male domain, as a consumer electronics business by CEO Isaac Larian. In 1987, MGA (Micro Games of America) gained entry to the toy market by obtaining exclusive rights to sell a Nintendo handheld LCD game in the US.

This step allowed MGA to begin to create products for other properties, including Hello Kitty and Power Rangers. Following on from this, the company has worked with a number of other licences including Spider-Man: The Movie and Shrek.

Having perfected its work as a licensee, MGA went on to also operate as a successful licensor. Bratz was launched in June 2001 and quickly became a strong seller with girls worldwide.

Davis explains: “The Bratz dolls reinvented the traditional fashion doll category by encouraging diversity and aimed to promote individuality, self expression and girl power.”

The success of Bratz led to MGA signing in excess of 450 licensees, across a wide range of categories including apparel, footwear, accessories and much more.

Alongside licensing the brand to increase its appeal, MGA creates strong marketing campaigns to keep Bratz at the forefront of girls’ minds. Davis gives a clear example: “To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Bratz dolls, ten new limited edition characters were unveiled on October 10th 2010.

“The anniversary was supported by an extensive marketing campaign including TV, national promotions, social media, PR and merchandising displays,” she adds.

In fact, each of the lines is backed by marketing support, including TV advertising, PR support, online, social media and marketing. And as with many companies in the toy space, the company is placing an increasing emphasis on social media.

Davis comments: “MGA will be employing social media more and more across all of its brands by engaging with its customers and fans on a more social level. In fact, the US Bratz Facebook page now has 300,000 fans.

“Also for the 10/10/10 Bratz anniversary celebrations, another social media channel MGA has been engaging with is YouTube, which saw the brand take over the homepage for the day. It has since had 873,758 vide views and 56,570,271 impressions.”

Not content with MGA’s success though, Larian has grown his business further over the last five years. In 2006, Little Tikes became a part of MGA. The company, which was founded in 1970, is a multi-national manufacturer and marketer of children’s products.

A year later, in 2007, Larian became a major shareholder in Zapf Creation, which was founded in 1932 by Max Zapf and is a leading supplier of dolls and accessories.

All of this development happened from the US, until, in 2008, the UK office for MGA Entertainment was set up in Milton Keynes. Today the MGA family incorporates Moxie Girlz, Bratz, Lalaloopsy, Rescue Palz, Baby Born, Baby Annabell, Chou Chou and Little Tikes.

Despite having a strong pedigree of brands in place, the last year has seen a number of challenges, as Davis describes: “It’s been an interesting year for suppliers and customers alike. We are all seeing the same challenges in the cost of making and bringing product to market and this is a constant struggle.”

From a product perspective, though, there has been a number of success stories at MGA over the past year. “Moxie Girlz has developed into a serious player in the fashion doll arena and we have some great new segments for the autumn season,” Davis offers.

Little Tikes has also continued to grow both with its core products like the iconic Cosy Coupe and with new introductions, such as the 3 in 1 Trike and the new wood programme.

Further positives in the doll sector include the new Lalaloopsy line. Davis says: “Lalaloopsy showed that we are at the forefront of cutting edge design. A unique large doll collectable with fantastic fashions has taken the US and UK by storm and we will see this brand develop even further in 2011.”

In a challenging environment, though, there is little time for MGA to sit back and admire its successes to date. Plans are in place to push the brands further forward over the coming 12 months.

“The big news in Bratz,” says Davis. “We are launching three new TV segments for this iconic brand, which will put Bratz back on the map. There are so many fans out there that have been waiting for new developments and we will definitely not disappoint them in 2011. Autumn sees the introduction of new segments, which tested highly among our target consumers, including Bratz On the Mic and Bratz Masquerade.”

New themes and development for Moxie Girlz will continue to target younger girls, while the brand continues to grow in 2011.

Little Tikes also sees more development with new sand and water tables, ride-ons, swing sets and a Cosy Truck, among others.

Davis concludes the plans: “The phenomenal Lalaloopsy brand is causing quite a frenzy globally and we have some fabulous new introductions planned for the second half of the year, including new quirky large doll characters such as Sunny Side Up and Berry Jars N Jam.

“Consumers are willing to hunt down the characters (and pay a lot of money for them), so it is important for our retailers to stock these fun characters. Lalaloopsy also now has a miniature doll called Mini Lalaloopsy.

“By the end of 2011, we will have 26 different large dolls and 64 different mini dolls, as well as play-sets and fashions.”

With lots planned for girls and dolls and even more yet to be unveiled in other sectors, it looks as though MGA is one to watch.

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