February 24, 2013

Mattel invites moms to crash Hot Wheels party

Looking to refresh sales of a big brand, the world's largest toymaker reaches out to moms, who buy the lion's share of toys.

By MATT TOWNSEND/Bloomberg News

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Hot Wheels kicks off its 40th anniversary with an unveiling of a diamond-encrusted car at the New York Toy Fair in a Feb.15, 2008, file photo. Mattel is looking for ways to reinvigorate big brands like Hot Wheels that generates about 15 percent of its total sales.

2008 File Photo/The Associated Press

"If a mom understands how a toy works and what the benefits are, she's going to go for that brand over a brand that isn't doing that," she said.

Lawrence Balter, a child psychologist who writes parenting books, says Mattel might be onto something.

"There's always a little puzzlement on the part of mothers about what their sons find so interesting in some of the toys they choose," he said.

Then again, moms might also think the whole idea is absurd, and that wouldn't be such a bad outcome either, Petersen said.

"If a debate breaks out around the value of this toy, that is really good for Mattel and very good for Hot Wheels," he said.

Besides reaching out to mothers through bloggers and social media, Mattel is planning to dedicate part of the Hot Wheels website to them. Content may include the benefits of vehicles, tips on playing with cars and using them to teach science and math, and a forum for moms of sons. Traditional advertising may eventually include messages to mothers.

The toymaker plans to make shopping for Hot Wheels easier at retailers such as Target Corp. and Walmart Stores Inc., where signs and posters will explain categories within the brand organized by themes such as stunt, showroom, and city. Mattel is also creating a mobile shopping app that can track which Hot Wheel a kid already owns and offer mothers recommendations for new ones.

Petersen says a mom campaign worked last year with a hit Mattel toy called Brawlin' Buddies – a stuffed animal that talks trash when wrestled with. The toy is sold under a license from World Wrestling Entertainment, a brand many moms dislike for its violence. When Mattel started selling Brawlin' Buddies as a way for boys to expend energy rather than taking it out on a younger sibling, moms saw an opportunity, and sales surged.

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