There’s no denying the impact technology has had on the way kids play and consume entertainment. And to keep up with its core customers, Mattel is rebooting, so to speak. The toy giant has hatched a digital strategy that’s aiming to change the way kids and families interact with its brands.
Enter Mattel Digital Network, an initiative the toyco unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas last January. Through the new network, users will be able to customize their online experience, going beyond now-standard personalized avatars and social networking to get more targeted, demo-specific content.
At the helm of MDN is GM and SVP Chuck Scothon, whose first priority is to bring core Mattel brands together with a more seamless interface. ‘We’re looking at our target audiences and figuring out how they’re using the web and how we can change the experience to meet their needs,’ he says. ‘It’s very much about putting users first and letting them navigate and use our brands as they want vs. what we want.’
Within the next few months the homepage at BarbieGirls.com (which currently boasts 18 million registered users), for example, could ask visitors whether they’re a kid, parent or collector and then funnel them through to relevant content. Users will also be able browse by content type – videos, games etc. – or add online friends so they can see what Mattel toys they’re playing with or what they’re excited about. Based on those exchanges, they may also receive Amazon.com-type product recommendations and purchase the goods directly through a new e-commerce network that’s going live in the fall.
Scothon has set a September deadline to finalize MDN’s setup and he and his team are hard at work, conducting various tests on different brand sites to determine what works best for each group of users. For example, the tests used on HotWheels.com and its visitors from multiple demos are different from those being conducted at PollyPocket.com, whose traffic is predominantly girl-driven. He’s also currently talking to major tech companies and MMOG/virtual world developers to get them involved in the design and creation of new apps on MDN.
Moving forward, the MDN team is working closely with the toy group in an ongoing effort to implement digital brand strategies at the development stage. ‘We’ll never be done,’ Scothon says. ‘September is the starting point and as long as we make sure we’re learning from our users, the goal will be that we’ll never finish. We’ll just keep learning and changing.’ ECA