Hasbro is on a mission this BLE to prove it’s more than just a one-trick My Little Pony.
The toy company is best known for the whimsical pre-school series, Transformers and gaming royalty Monopoly, and is in the midst of acquiring eOne. But beyond that, Claire Gilchrist is delving into Hasbro’s catalogue of lesser-known brands – properties that you may not even know are owned by Hasbro.
“Our agenda this year is to show the incredibly expansive portfolio of brands that Hasbro has. Our core franchises are well known and licensed, but we have a vault of 1,500 brands with incredible potential.
“Power Rangers, of course, was a big purchase for us and this year we have lots lined up – we’re making a real statement. But then we have Micro Machines, there’s Pound Puppies, Stretch Armstrong, all these classic brands that have enormous reach and recognition.
And that’s not to mention Hasbro’s “cool-geek” brands, like Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons, and Magic the Gathering, fantasy role-playing games adored by millions worldwide, and which have shaken any residual stigma. As Claire puts it: “being a geek or a nerd with a passion is cool”.
“These are almost our hidden gems, and I only say that because they’re unlike many of our core franchises. Both of these brands have hugely engaged and emotionally attached audiences, and there are swathes of millennials who are coming to them or are lifelong fans."
But it’s not just consumer product. Experiences is the latest way to win over crowds and do something truly unique with a brand – the perfect way, then, to celebrate an 85th birthday…
“Monopoly celebrates its 85th anniversary next year, and we’ve almost too much exciting stuff going on to get into it all, but a stand out for me is the opening of the Monopoly Mansion in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a five-star hotel opening in Q1 next year and is going to be something special.
“Location-based experiences are going to be absolutely central to our brands and the way we engage with consumers. There are a million ways to bring our properties to consumer products, and we want to prove that’s the case with experiences too. This is how people want to engage with their favourite brands – it’s a less traditional approach and there is a unique story behind these experiences. They’re one-offs. That’s what people love.”
In just a few days, Hasbro’s partner Kingsman will open a stand-alone Nerf experience, taking the brand beyond blasters and the toy aisle. Claire says it’s this approach to broadening the way all Hasbro’s properties can be enjoyed that will draw new global brands from its vault.
“My Little Pony and Transformers were our ‘big two’ for a long time, and they’re still at the core of Hasbro. But even with these properties we’ve delved into what fans really love about them. You see that in our treatment of MLP. Adult fans gravitate towards the retro appeal, which comes through in the style guide, but we also have millions of new fans who want fresh takes. It’s a brand with real elasticity and a testament to its appeal.
“And with Transformers, last year’s Bumblebee movie hit its goal of reimagining what Transformers could be on the big screen.”
The film was a box office and critical success – outpacing the expectations of many industry commentators. More measured, darker and a less bombastic approach to fast cars and robot battling action seemed to be aiming its sights on older, longtime fans. But Claire says it “resonated with and catered to a younger audience”.
All this, Claire says, boils down to a vision for Hasbro that the team have been working on for some time: a move from traditional toy company to a more nebulous ‘play and entertainment’ company.
“The potential that the pending eOne acquisition brings to that goal is tremendous, and is a testament to our conviction to grow our vision.” she says. “Just walk around the stand and see what we have on show. I’m confident you’ll agree.”