Moms teach kids val­ues

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By WANG ZHUOQIONG wangzhuqiong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Be­ing a mom means you be­come a good lis­tener and gain in­sights into what kids like and don’t. Those traits could be a big help if you also hap­pen to be work­ing in a re­lated field, as Hai­ley Wu Sul­li­van, se­nior di­rec­tor and head of mar­ket­ing for Mat­tel Asia-Pa­cific, would tes­tify.

She is a mother of a five-yearold boy. Rais­ing her son has taught her how to bet­ter lis­ten to Chi­nese cus­tomers of one of the world’s big­gest toy pro­duc­ers.

“Be­ing a mom makes me a good mar­keter. Be­ing a mom helps me un­der­stand all the choices and all the stresses we go through. I can now also bet­ter re­late to moms. When you see your kid open­ing up a toy box, and he/she goes ‘Whoa mama!’ — that’s the best mo­ment,” said Sul­li­van in an ad­dress to a gath­er­ing of in­vited chil­dren and par­ents at the Great Wall in north­ern Bei­jing re­cently.

The Yale grad­u­ate leads all brand mar­ket­ing strate­gies and ac­tiv­i­ties for Mat­tel’s en­tire port­fo­lio of more than 40 brands in 14 mar­kets in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, where China is the key seg­ment.

Against the stun­ning back­ground of the Great Wall, Bri­tish iconic toy train char­ac­ters Thomas & Friends make an im­pres­sion at the event. But what stands out is the first Chi­nese “friend” of the Thomas — Yong­bao. Sul­li­van takes pride in in­tro­duc­ing the char­ac­ter as a re­sult of fre­quent com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Chi­nese moms.

She said in ad­di­tion to reg­u­lar re­search, Mat­tel has been talk­ing to moms in China through Ten­cent’s WeChat, the most widely used in­stant mes­sag­ing app in the coun­try.

“We have a pub­lic ac­count, and we are mar­ket­ing these events. That is the most di­rect way that we are talk­ing to moms, and she is giv­ing feed­back to the en­tire mom com­mu­nity, so she is am­pli­fy­ing the mes­sage for us,” said Sul­li­van, who spent a few years at McKin­sey & Co prior to join­ing Mat­tel.

In China, young moth­ers have a lot of choices for their kids, in terms of dif­fer­ent brands of toys and play­things, she said.

“When we look at our brands, the first ques­tion we want to ask is — does every brand have a dis­tinct pur­pose? Does it also de­liver on play and learn­ing de­vel­op­ment? A big change that we adapted to is how dig­i­tal moms are be­com­ing,” said Sul­li­van.

Much of Mat­tel’s busi­ness these days is based on in­sights gained from on­line in­ter­ac­tions with moms. Mat­tel’s con­tent is now avail­able on dif­fer­ent plat­forms. Tips, videos and part­ner­ships with dig­i­tal la­bels such as JD.com abound, said Sul­li­van.

Ev­i­dently, she has drawn heav­ily from her pre­vi­ous work ex­pe­ri­ence. Prior to join­ing Mat­tel’s APAC Lead­er­ship Team, Hai­ley led mar­ket­ing for the Fisher-Price Baby port­fo­lio in the United States and suc­cess­fully turned around the busi­ness in two years.

Un­der her di­rec­tion and lead­er­ship, Fisher-Price launched a break­through dig­i­tal mom cam­paign that lever­aged con­sumer in­sights and cap­tured new dig­i­tal shop­ping trends.

“The US is a very dif­fer­ent mar­ket, but the fun­da­men­tal les­son re­mains the same and can be ap­plied in any other mar­ket — and that is, learn from con­sumers,” she said.

US con­sumers are very sim­i­lar to their coun­ter­parts else­where in terms of how much they shop and re­search on­line, said Sul­li­van. “So what we did is to change the com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy to more dig­i­tal – we didn’t have so many dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions back then. And the sec­ond thing was to part­ner with strate­gic e-com­merce part­ners in the US.”

China has been one of the fastest-grow­ing mar­kets glob­ally for Mat­tel. “This con­tin­u­ously en­cour­ages us, and that’s also why we keep in­vest­ing in China and mak­ing brands more rel­e­vant to Chi­nese moms,” said Sul­li­van.

The com­pany has a 2 per­cent mar­ket share in China, ac­cord­ing Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional data. Tra­di­tional Chi­nese toys and games gen­er­ated 64.2 bil­lion yuan ($9.6 bil­lion) in sales last year.

The fierce com­pe­ti­tion in the toy mar­ket in China is a chal­lenge for for­eign play­ers such as Mat­tel. “How do we stand out? To stand out, our brand has to be rel­e­vant.”

Mat­tel be­came rel­e­vant by ex­ploit­ing an in­sight gath­ered from on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Chi­nese moms. The lat­ter want to know how to teach their chil­dren so­cial val­ues.

“Thomas & Friends teaches team­work, friend­ship, hon­esty — all these are great things, and we want to make sure these come through,” she said, adding it is the most beloved toy in China among 2- to 4-year-olds.

Be­ing a mom makes me a good mar­keter ... ” Hai­ley WU Sul­li­van, se­nior di­rec­tor and head of mar­ket­ing for Mat­tel Asia-Pa­cific

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