by ANNA KNIGHT, senior vice president of licensing, Global Licensing Group
The true magic that toys and entertainment bring to society is fueling imagination. Kids, in particular, are transported into another world when their favorite character is on TV or are playing dress-up with their cherished doll.
But hardly any kid is satisfied when the movie credits roll, or playtime is over. They want to be Barbie for Halloween, and they want a Hot Wheels backpack at school — they want the magical world of their imagination to continue.
Brand extension and licensing strategies are key to creating a live embodiment of a character, so kids can fully immerse themselves and become fans for life beyond their younger years. Mattel — a world-renowned IP-driven toy company, recognized for its ability to bring beloved characters and stories to life and retain relevancy from generation to generation — is a prominent exhibitor at this year’s Licensing Expo, slated for May 24-26 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
With Licensing Expo around the corner, I spoke with Roz Nowicki, head of global consumer products franchise marketing for Mattel, about the upcoming event, and the company’s plans that attendees can look forward to.
Anna Knight: Could you tell us about your background and how you fit into the world of licensing?
Roz Nowicki: I have spent most of my career in the consumer products and licensing industry. While my career in entertainment — specifically consumer products — was not planned, my passion for this business is profound, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. What I love about working in children’s entertainment is how we can spark kids’ imaginations every single day. And, I have been fortunate in my career to work on franchises that transcend generations, which offers opportunities to connect with both kids, as well as parents and caregivers, who grew up with these iconic brands.
AK: We’re excited to have Mattel exhibit at Licensing Expo again. What drew the company back this year?
RN: Mattel is a longtime exhibitor at Licensing Expo, and we are looking forward to being back and in person this year. We are excited that this year’s Expo highlights Location-Based Entertainment (LBE), a lynchpin of our franchise strategies.
We look forward to meeting our current licensees, potential licensees, and our retail partners in Las Vegas. While we have maintained these relationships and established new ones during the pandemic, it is hard to replicate in-person meetings.
AK: Any recent news you can share?
RN: At the start of 2022, Mattel announced a Barbie partnership with Habitat for Humanity. She starred in her first Super Bowl spot to kick off a year of celebrations commemorating the 60th anniversary of Barbie’s Dreamhouse. Additionally, Mattel Films has 14 films in various stages of production and 20 additional projects in active development. We have officially kicked off production for our Barbie live-action film, with Margot Robbie starring and producing, and Academy Award nominee Greta Gerwig directing from a script she wrote with Noah Baumbach. This summer, we will also be kicking off production for our Masters of the Universe film, starring Kyle Allen and directed by the Nee Brothers.
Anna: How does Mattel continue to innovate?
RN: We are proud of our Mattel Playbook with design-led innovation as a cornerstone. We have recently introduced:
- MEGA Bloks Green Town as the first-ever toy line available at mass retail to be certified CarbonNeutral
- Barbie Loves the Ocean, Fisher-Price’s Rock-a-Stack made from fully recyclable plant-based plastic, and the first fully recyclable UNO deck without cellophane packing materials — all in line with our 2030 goal of achieving 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based materials in its products and packaging
- New Barbie Role Models, including the latest drop with Shonda Rhimes to celebrate International Women’s Month
- Fisher Price’s 4 in 1 Robot — a 2022 TOTY award winner
- Hot Wheels Unleashed Video Game, with a break-through track builder element, which sold 1 million units in 2021
- Mattel was the first toy company to launch an NFT in 2021
- Mattel Adventure Park; opening in early 2023 in Glendale AZ
- Proud to have won back the license for Disney Princess and the Frozen franchise
AK: What are the most significant trends or changes you’ve seen in the business in recent years?
RN: The competition at retail is fiercer than ever as licensed brands compete head-to-head with store brands. This trend makes it critical to offer total solutions to retailers that include exclusive direct offerings; to provide a unique point of difference and competitive margins.
The breadth of the choices in content consumption is overwhelming. Previously, content-driven brands originated from either theatrical releases or television, and now the choices and types of content are endless!
A constantly evolving area is all things digital. From social channels to mobile gaming to NFTs, these offer amazing licensing opportunities and are critical areas to tap into when building successful 360 marketing programs. Most recently, the biggest “buzzword” is the metaverse, and we are only just scratching the surface!
AK: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to the beginning of your career, and what advice would you give newcomers now?
RN: Take risks; just because it hasn’t been done before does not mean it can’t be done. Also, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, so finding a balance of thoughtful risk-taking is critical.
Register here for Licensing Expo to discover the thousands of IPs ready to license from Mattel and more than 200 other brands that span every product category imaginable. Registration is free, so do it today.