As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of baby gear and preschool toys, Fisher-Price believes that traditional branding processes no longer guarantee success. To differentiate its brands in a highly competitive industry, the company maintains a laser-like focus on creativity and innovation -- and its sphere of influence is large. “How children learn and play is at the core of our product development and marketing,” says Lisa Mancuso, senior vice president of marketing at Fisher-Price. "We understand that big ideas can come from anywhere and anyone -- from the tiniest tots to the most experienced experts." Mancuso, who is scheduled to speak at the ANA Creativity Conference, December 5 in New York City, explains how Fisher-Price creates a culture of creativity, who it looks to for insights, the importance of risk-taking, and more.
Q. You have said that "harmonizing a visual identity" is key to marketing success at Fisher-Price. Please explain what you mean by that.
A. It is important to us that our products and marketing efforts are uniquely Fisher-Price, both inside and out. A little over a year ago we embarked on our first brand refresh in 10 years by launching our "Joy of Learning" campaign. Our fresh tag and positioning, the updated contemporary design of our packaging, the new look and feel of our advertising, and our enhanced global digital footprint have and will continue to strengthen our brand. We now have a consistent look, message, and feel at every touchpoint.
Q. How do you foster creativity at Fisher-Price? Do you have a process in place for generating big ideas?
A. Our process is centered on insights, which we gather from mom, dad, baby, and society. Some of our greatest innovations have spawned from ideas generated in our Play Lab, our child research center. The center has served as an incubator for creativity and big ideas for 50-plus years, and it has seen more than 200,000 children and 60,000 toys come through its doors. Other ideas have come via other research pathways, such as parent focus groups and in-home ethnographies. A recent product example is our Servin’ Surprises Kitchen & Table, which was born out of an in-home observation. It revealed that when children share in kitchen play, it is the serving, not the cooking, that is their favorite role.
Q. Who does Fisher-Price collaborate with for creative inspiration?
A. We collaborate cross-category, cross-brand, cross-company, and with real parents for inspiration. Our collaboration with our various partners, including consumers, boils down to one thing -- the Joy of Learning, which celebrates the discoveries of early childhood and the link between play and learning. Inside Fisher-Price, it is integral to our process that designers, marketers, audio engineers, packaging experts, and product safety specialists all work together to bring the best, most insightful, safest, and most developmentally stimulating products to our end users -- parents and children.
We have enlisted outside creative partners to help us reflect our Joy of Learning insights in refreshed advertising and marketing efforts. For example, famed director Bob Giraldi has updated our ad spots to resonate with parents by using real families to show the authentic moments of bonding between parent and child as they learn through play. We’ve also worked to simplify and contemporize our packaging, which consumers are starting to see on shelf now. A full rollout will occur in 2013.
In addition to our formal research with parents, our digital ecosystem has evolved to help us connect directly with even more parents. Through listening and involving moms and dads both online and in person, we have found that they feel more connected to our products and our brand.
Q. Do you believe that taking bold risks is the secret to more creative, effective marketing? Please share an example of a risk that paid dividends for you.
A. Taking risks that are outside of your comfort zone is what keeps any brand moving. Last year we were the No. 1 infant and preschool brand, with sales in 150 countries. We performed as Mattel’s largest brand. Yet we decided to revamp and rebrand to better engage a new generation of parents. We rebranded Fisher-Price -- introducing a new tag line, the Joy of Learning, and a revamped marketing and advertising campaign. That was a bold risk, but one that we see already is paying off.
Q. Are you using data to develop creative marketing solutions that better engage your customers?
A. Listening to parents is the way we do business. We are guided by key consumer insights, gathered in global qualitative and quantitative studies, which help us learn how better to engage and connect with mom and dad. The dialogue that we’ve started helps us better understand parents’ real needs, particularly in today’s digital world. We can engage directly with moms and dads in ways that fit their new digital lifestyles. Thanks to our increased digital footprint via our brand refresh, parents are helping us and we are helping them!