INTERVIEW: Foye Pascoe, Hasbro

Its broad portfolio ? with pre-school classics such as Play-Doh and Playskool, through to big names like Nerf and Transformers ? has helped Hasbro to some solid growth in 2012. And there?s more to come with the return of Furby. We speak to Foye Pascoe, Country Manager, UK and Ireland...
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­­How has the UK market performed so far this year for Hasbro? When compared to 2011, what kind of shape are you in, both in the UK and internationally?
I am really proud of where we are year-to-date. Hasbro UK has experienced good growth YTD (source: UK NPD EPOS June 2012 data), due to the strong performance of the Nerf brand, and a number of our key brands including Transformers, Play-Doh, My Little Pony and our big licensed properties within the boy’s category including Marvel’s The Avengers and Star Wars.

Your Q2 results show that you have grown in the pre-school sector too – what can you attribute this to?
The strong performance of Play-Doh (source: NPD June 2012) and Poppin’ Park continues to perform well – driven by the Elefun Busy ball Popper. Plus, the launch of Sesame Street in autumn/winter 2011 has further added to our pre-school performance YTD. Following the box office success of the Amazing Spider-Man, Playskool Heroes have got off to a good start and are one to watch this autumn/winter. Playskool Heroes is an exciting range of pre-school action figure toys. The range includes toys from Marvel, Transformers and Spider-Man licences.

Licensing and entertainment are up 59 per cent – what can you attribute this to?
This is a result of the work we have been doing on the ‘Branded Play Company’ strategy, now making Hasbro the number seven global licensor (source: License Global).

In the UK we have continued to drive our third-party relationships with key manufacturers across brands such as Transformers, MLP and Nerf, as well as our global television programming which has driven year-on-year growth in the quarter. 

What lines have performed particularly well for you so far during 2012?
Our success has come throughout the portfolio and across the range. Our broad portfolio of brands has been instrumental to this success, and that means we have a great foundation heading into the second half of the year.

Can you talk us through your plans for Furby? I understand there are some big TV show tie-ups coming, for example?
We’re very excited to be re-launching Furby for 2012. With this innovative product we’ve designed a magical creature with a mind of its own. You can feed it, speak to it, tickle it or play music to it; all of which will give your Furby its own unique personality. Furby will initially be available in six colours, with a further four launching later in the year. In addition, we have developed a free Furby app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch for even more interactive fun. The app can be used to virtually feed Furby and to translate the Furbish language to English.

Our high cut-through girls’ targeted campaign features heavyweight advertising on primetime TV. We are excited that we will be advertising during ITV’s flagship Saturday night show, The X Factor and The Xtra Factor.

Talking to our target audience online, our 360-degree digital marketing campaign will include a partnership with the popular girl’s fashion website Stardoll, takeovers on social website Bin Weevils, Girls Go Games advertising and YouTube sponsored search.

In addition we have an emotive PR campaign with some fantastic surprises in store.

You have board games due based on social networking games – such as Words with Friends. Why have you decided to go down this route? Do you think these games will translate well to physical product?
As you may know, Hasbro and Zynga announced in February a global partnership for Hasbro to develop a wide range of toy and gaming experiences based on Zynga’s social games and brands.

We are very excited with this partnership and to be bringing physical games into market this A/W. Hasbro’s Zynga games will bring Words With Friends, FarmVille and CityVille to life through face-to-face, hands-on gaming experiences.

For the first time, players will be able to play Zynga games with family and friends both online and face-to-face. Each of Hasbro’s Zynga games includes both a physical and digital game value, making the offering at retail a truly unique one for the gaming aisle.

How much more important is the social networking and app side of the business becoming for toy companies such as yourself, do you think? There’s obviously a desire from consumers for new and innovative ways to play. What are Hasbro’s views on that?
With changing consumers trends, it’s always vital that manufacturers adapt and change. We are always looking for new ways to connect with our consumers, be it through play or their media consumption habits. Some great examples are our new Zynga titles and Hasbro zAPPed games.

Hasbro also has a robust presence across a wide variety of online social media platforms including Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube for many of its popular brands, including Nerf, Hasbro Gaming, Furby, My Little Pony and more.

What else can we expect to see in the remainder of 2012 from you? What will be your big Christmas lines this year?
Watch out for the Nerf N-Strike Elite Hail-Fire launch. Monopoly Millionaire will run a nationwide consumer promotion to win the millionaire lifestyle in October.
Also, in September we will be launching our highly anticipated Tickle Time Elmo.

Transformers are back with Weaponizers – all new Transformers Prime-styled figures from Hasbro Studio’s hit TV series in a larger scale with unique features.
My Little Pony hosts a royal pony wedding in Equestria, with the Pony Princess Wedding Castle Play-set. Finally our two-in-one Kre-o Transformers building sets put kids’ builders to the test with an Optimus Prime vs Megatron construction play-set.

Are there any other trends that you can see emerging?
As consumer behaviour patterns change, especially within the digital world, there will be a greater focus on product innovation, and delivering enriched and immersive brand experiences. Take for example our launch of Furby.

Through a combination of interactive programming and robotic engineering, Hasbro has created a truly innovative toy experience which utilises the current trend of commonplace smartphone and tablet usage, with a toy that really creates its own personality.

What is the mood like at retail currently? Are you still seeing retailers being cautious when it comes to new brands? And do you see this improving as we move into 2013 and beyond?
As always, Hasbro remains focused on delivering immersive brand experiences that consumers can enjoy anytime, anywhere.

Economic conditions will always fluctuate, but we remain fortunate in having an incredible brand portfolio that provides strong value and can be enjoyed by all members of the family.

What are your main aims for the business for the rest of 2012 and moving into 2013?
Our continued focus to rollout our Branded Play blueprint of re-inventing, re-igniting and re-imagining our brands; leading to a deeper connection with our consumers, better trading with our retailers and building on our 2011 accolade of UK Toy Supplier of the Year.

What are your hot tips from your 2013 product line that we should watch out for?
We will continue to innovate within our brands, with new global entertainment in both film and television in 2013, and we will also build on our strong relationships with both core entertainment licensees and licensors.


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