Non-lin­ear In­no­va­tion at Has­bro

Rotman Management Magazine - - NEWS -

In the mid-1990s, toy gi­ant saw it­self as a prod­uct com­pany, with of­fer­ings con­sist­ing mainly of toys (G.I. Joe, Trans­form­ers, My Lit­tle Pony) and board games (Life, Mo­nop­oly, Candy Land). Has­bro com­peted in an in­dus­try broadly re­ferred to as ‘fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment’—toys and games de­scribed by mar­keters as ap­peal­ing to ‘kids from two to 92’. Un­til the 1990s, peo­ple typ­i­cally pur­chased its prod­ucts in a re­tail store.

To­day, Has­bro is a self-styled ‘branded-play com­pany’. Its re­la­tion­ships with cus­tomers may or may not be­gin with a phys­i­cal prod­uct on a shelf. Cus­tomers get to know and use its core brands across mul­ti­ple plat­forms: on­line games, fan sites, movies and TV shows, dig­i­tal gam­ing sys­tems, and comic books and mag­a­zines pro­duced through part­ner­ships with and oth­ers.

The goal is to cre­ate many op­por­tu­ni­ties for on­go­ing ex­po­sure to and ex­pe­ri­ence of the var­i­ous Has­bro brands. For ex­am­ple, the com­pany has par­layed its pop­u­lar Trans­form­ers line into a wide ar­ray of me­dia, prod­ucts and ex­pe­ri­ences.

Hav­ing stud­ied this com­pany for years, I have been struck by the fact that th­ese changes were not sud­den, but were the re­sult of con­tin­u­ing at­ten­tion, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and learn­ing—some of it ambiguous or in­con­clu­sive— that spanned most of two decades. For Has­bro, ‘in­vent­ing the fu­ture’ has been more of a steady process than a cat­a­clysmic event.

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