Mattel is finally giving girls who covet their brothers’ Hot Wheels a ride to call their own. Making history as the first line of diecast toy vehicles designed specifically for girls, more than 50 Polly Wheels models cruised into US retail at the start of the year. Priced to collect at US$2.99 apiece, each car comes in a different girl-friendly color and sports a removable doll.
Stephanie Cota, VP of girls marketing at Mattel, says the cars were developed to re-establish the micro-scale of the 17-year-old Polly Pocket line, as well as to tap into an underserved interest in vehicle play that was discovered during focus group testing 18 months ago.
When Mattel’s researchers presented clusters of five- to nine-year-old girls with Hot Wheels cars painted pink, ‘they flipped out,’ says Cota. The testing sessions also revealed that while commercial car brands and models weren’t on girls’ radar, they were very interested in the color of the car and the style of the accompanying Polly doll.
‘We immediately saw that vehicles resonate with little girls very differently than they do with boys,’ says Cota. ‘If you give girls a car, they create a little story around it, and the way they collect and display the toys is also different.’
These insights went into producing the Polly Wheels Race to the Mall playset (US$34.99), which is scheduled to hit retail in June. Its play pattern fuses competitive racing with social networking, so girls put Polly and her friend Lila into two cars and then race to the mall. A shopping bag pops into the trunk of the winning car as it crosses the finishing line. The toyco is looking at creating playsets based on a host of other locations with girl appeal for 2008.
Mattel has also stepped up its marketing efforts to get the word out, landing Polly Wheels on the showroom floor at the New York International Auto Show from April 6 to 15. Sticking out amongst the high-octane sheen and chrome at Javits Convention Center, Polly Wheels’ pink-and-purple booth will showcase the tiny cars on wee rotating pads, with a girl-powered Polly racing team on hand to demo the cars and track.
Cota says the goal during the first half of the year is to build on Polly Wheels’ collectibility, which will be a focus for TV spots this fall. And as far as in-store promotions go, Mattel is taking advantage of the toys’ diminutive size by using clip strips, counter displays and sidekicks to merchandise the entire Polly World line. An online hub for girl collectors is also slated to launch by year’s end.