THE BIG INTERVIEW: Wendy Hill, Senior Marketing Manager, Mattel

It saw 14 per cent growth last year, but there?s no resting on its laurels for Fisher-Price, with new marketing communication and positioning helping to boost the brand further.
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“The Fisher-Price brand may have been around for 80 years, but every year is a new one and you still have to keep growing and striving to be the best you possibly can,” Wendy Hill, Mattel’s senior marketing manager for infant and pre-school explains to ToyNews.

2011 was a prime case in point here, with Fisher-Price growing by 14 per cent YOY (source: NPD) and adding more than £8m to the infant and pre-school category.
Not bad for an octogenarian. In terms of product lines, key successes came from Imaginext within Fisher-Price Core (with the Batcave being a highlight), plus new lines for Octonauts and Thomas & Friends and the introduction of Dance Star Mickey, within Fisher-Price Friends.

A major focus though, as Hill explains, has been on building a deeper emotional connection with mums for the brand.

“We started to do a lot of work last year around what the brand means in the current environment and what it means to consumers,” she says.

“Fisher-Price is a fantastic brand and has some fantastic attributes; when we research with mums, they always play back to us loads of great things that people would love to have them say about their brands. Things like longevity and trust are top of mind. So I guess it’s more how we keep a brand which is that old still meaning something to the mums of today.”

After all, it’s not the babies which have changed, continues Hill, it’s the parents – in what they want, how they access things, what they think and how they do things. The key, she says, is to make sure you’re keeping up with them and their expectations.

A new marketing communication has been created, across TV, press, online and social media, all featuring a new tagline of ‘Joy of Learning’.

There will also be a major retail initiative to boost the brand in-store. In terms of TV, it is the first time that Mattel has put its infant range on screen for spring/summer, with the spots taking place in real people’s homes and showing them and their children playing with the toys, something which audiences have responded to well, according to Hill.

Also new is Fisher-Price Favourites which brings together toys that map out key developmental needs; there are ten items in the line, ranging from Newborn up to Little People.

“I think the great thing about the Fisher-Price brand is that it’s broad enough to be able to talk from pre-birth all the way up into pre-school,” Hill continues. “We talk to mums while they’re pregnant and we want to be there to guide them and help them understand what they need; create that emotional connection with them. [The question we ask] is how do we help mums celebrate and enrich early childhood through everything that we do.”

Into Fisher-Price Friends, the team has high hopes for new Disney series Jake and the Never Land Pirates, which launches in the summer, and is also aiming to keep the momentum going for Octonauts. A new Mickey Mouse feature plush is set to arrive and the expansion of Thomas & Friends is also a priority. Indeed, it will be interesting to see how this progresses now that Mattel owns Hit.

“We want the Fisher-Price brand to be in growth,” Hill states when asked about her aims for the year. “From the core brand to everything that we’re doing in our marketing campaigns now, the repositioning and everything going out from a communication point of view, it’s key to know that’s working. I would hope by the end of this year that we’re really seeing the dividends.”

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