Highlights | Interviews


28 Oct - 2020

This year has been a particularly challenging period for companies that base most of their business on toys, such as Mattel. Thinking about the future, LM interviewed Eleonora Schiavoni, Founder and Managing Director of Victoria Licensing & Marketing, exclusive agent for Mattel Brands in Italy.

How did Mattel manage the first part of this difficult year and how is it preparing for the future?

We are emerging from an undeniably difficult period for the toy industry. In fact in Italy, according to NPD data, during the complete lockdown period, the toy industry suffered a 12% drop in turnover  equal to approximately € 43 million in losses. Luckily, we recently recorded a first significant re-boot, starting as early as June, with a €7.3 million increase in turnover compared to 2019 (+ 12%).

Mattel also confirmed this positive trend for all its toy brands that somehow came  out of the pandemic in a stronger position. In July Barbie was confirmed as the number 1 on the toy market, thanks partly to the excellent performance of Color Reveal, the 4th ranked item on the market. It has also been an excellent time for Fisher-Price, which performed better in July  than other brands in its category. In the overall ranking of the Top10 YTD items, there are three of Mattel’s core products in key toys categories: #4 Barbie Color Reveal , #8 UNO Game Cards and #9 Hot Wheels single vehicles.   

At Team Licensing we are encouraged by this positive trend and we continue to offer these extraordinary brands to the market through innovative and engaging projects. We have an extremely innovative licensing plan for 2021, which is closely aligned with Mattel’s marketing and sales plans in Italy, with the aim of becoming known as a “franchise driven company”.

After a successful 2019 celebrating Barbie’s 60th anniversary, and after months of lockdown, the positive news coming from the toy market as well as Mattel, we feel inspired to expandand develop Consumer Products strategies for all our Core Brands, from Barbie to Hot Wheels and Fisher Price and Games, across all categories such as Softlines, Hardlines, Publishing and Promotions.

What is your focus for 2021?

Victoria Licensing & Marketing has been dealing with the development of Mattel brands in Italy in the Consumer Products area for over 20 years, primarily with Barbie. The Consumer Products strategy has always been linked to the positioning of the brand over time. 2021 we will continue to focus on Barbie’s positioning in fashion and beauty. This strategy has led us to develop successful projects such as the capsule collection Original Marines By Filippo Laterza, or the toiletries and personal care line with  So.di.co in the Beauty segment – a sector that was very successful at spring thanks to a partnership with MAC on the launch of a Barbie-dedicated lipstick.

For 2021, we already have a number of very strong projects to be announced in the first quarter. We will also look forward to promoting two significant Barbie anniversaries with some truly fun promotions: first, it’s the 50th anniversary of BARBIE MALIBU, one of Mattel’s greatest success stories, a toy bestseller, an icon of the ‘70s, beloved by generations of mothers. And, last but not least, next year we will also celebrate Ken’s 60th birthday, a character who, like Barbie, is a fashion and lifestyle inspiration for both adults and kids.

Another important category we are been working on for some time is the development of loyalty and promotional schemes, especially for Barbie and Hot Wheels. We plan to launch the first stage of this latest project as early as next year.

Barbie is now much more than a doll …

The Barbie brand has been developed with great care, covering every relevant category over the years to create a lifestyle brand designed to communicate  the essence of the brand’s DNA to girls, summarized in the mantra “you can be anything “. This makes Consumer Products the perfect tool to complete the brand message by offering products that communicate infinite possibilities and empowerment to girls.

What can you tell us about Hot Wheels …

Hot Wheels is still the gold standard for boys brands, and another icon of the Mattel world The brand has been performing well for the last 50 years in terms of sell-thru and incredible popularity. Its success is related to its “adrenaline” experience, the playability of the vehicles and the breathtaking tracks, but also to the positive values it offers, such as creativity, sportsmanship, determination and passion. The recent campaign created for Hot Wheels Accept the Challenge is aimed   directly at parents and communicates how Hot Wheels products help children to express their maximum potential by stimulating their problem-solving skills.

In addition to fashion promotions, Hot Wheels boasts many other rich and fun proposals. Among its top licensed toys a special mention goes to the newrange of Mondo Motorshigh-performance remote controls cars, always at the center of every four-wheel adventure: colorful, highly detailed and faster than ever before! In addition, we developed Play Mats with ODS toy company, including an original Hot Wheels vehicle, which surpassed all sales forecasts last Christmas and will be getting innovations and enhancements this year.

… And Fisher Price?

Our preschool world is based onanother historic Mattel IP, Fisher Price. We are working to build and consolidate a range of products in the baby gear area that complete ourtoy offer, such as bath toys, ride-ons, car seats and tricycles. There is also good news for Fireman Sam, a popular preschool brand: in addition to an important content launch plan that will see Sam aired on Cartoonito preschool channel until Easter 2021, there will be a new distribution launch of the toy line by Simba Italia scheduled for the end of September.

Can you tell us more about your next plans for the GAMES?

For 2021, we are planning a significant development of licensing projects with Mattel GAMES. The Games segment was the only segment that showed no signs of abating during the pandemic, thanks to online sales which were breaking record sales performances, similar to the Christmas period. Also in this area, the positive results obtained by Mattel are very encouraging. We have already started to put Uno the third best-selling property in the games and card game segment in Italy and the world, in the spotlight, with a “fashion” partnership: a limited collectors edition of UNO designed by Lorenzo Serafini for the fashion brand Philosophy! In 2021 UNO will celebrate a very important event: its 50th anniversary. We are already preparing a variety of collaborations with highly prestigious partners. Games will be the protagonist for a year, with TV support: numerous promotional events  for UNO and SCRABBLE in shopping centers; and in early 2021 Pictionary and Scrabble will become even more “social”, with Facebook, Instagram, as well as a “technological” version of Pictionary, PICTIONARY AIR.

Finally, Barbie has great followship on social networks , beyond toys and licensed products. Can you give us some figures?

The presence of Barbie on social media has become extraordinarily impactful and critical in engaging her audience. Suffice it to say that upon its launch in October 2015, the video “Imagine the possibilities” was the fourth most successfully advertised videos on Youtube reaching over 20 million viewers. The launch of Barbie Fashionista in 2016 and the introduction of three new body silhouettes for the most famous fashion doll in the world (Curvy, Tall and Petite), were supported on social networks through an emotional video and a hashtag created for the occasion (#thedollevolves). The statistics are impressive: the video reached 14.1 million views on YouTube in Europe, while on Facebook it reached 7.1 million views, over 63.000 likes and over 12.000 shares (also in Europe).

Even social profiles on Instagram have dizzying numbers: Barbie has 1.7 million followers, Barbie style has exceeded 2.2 million followers and over 100 collaborations with designers and brands of global renown. Barbie’s Twitter account has over 270.000 followers while her FB page has 14 millions likes. The strength of Barbie’s social channels is decidedly impressive and develops numbers that are comparable only to the most famous fashion bloggers and hottest stylists.

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