Mattel is trying to figure out “why moms don’t know how to play Hot Wheels with their sons,” reports Matt Townsend in Bloomberg Businessweek (2/25/13). It actually doesn’t seem all that mysterious. As Mattel’s Matt Petersen observes, moms didn’t play with Hot Wheels when they were kids. “She doesn’t get why cars, engines, and all the shapes and crashing and smashing are so cool.” As 32-year-old mom Raijean Stroud explains, “I’m a girly girl.” She admits she can’t see how smashing toy cars is as interesting as dressing up Barbie dolls.
For Mattel, it’s a billion dollar question — roughly the dollar amount it generates “from sales of its iconic toy car brands, including its Big Three — Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Tyco R/C products.” The issue is that it’s moms who actually buy the products, and the once-powerful “pester power” of television advertising isn’t as strong as it once was, given the rise of “video-game consoles and tablets.” Sales for Mattel’s car brands have been essentially flat for the past three years, and declined one percent in the fourth quarter of last year.
Mattel is attempting to change this by reaching out to blogger moms and using social media. It is also creating a place on its website offering tips to moms “on how to play with cars and using them to teach math and science, and a forum for moms of sons.” At retail, plans are to explain the cars by organizing them by type. Mattel managed a turnaround for its Brawlin’ Buddies that "talks trash when wrestled with." Moms initially disliked “for its violence,” but were persuaded when it was re-positioned “as a way for boys to expend energy rather than taking it out on a younger sibling.”