Children who play with Hot Wheels and Barbie today—two iconic Mattel brands—were born in the iPad and Instagram-era. They’re a different kind of consumer, and one Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis aims to win over.
“A lot of people call them Generation Glass,” Georgiadis said on stage at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. “This is definitely a generation that has grown up expecting the world to be immersive, adaptable, and increasing customized. And they want to be in charge.”
However, simply throwing tech into toys isn’t the answer, said Georgiadis, who left Google to become CEO of Mattel in February.
“We have to figure out a way to integrate the two,” said Georgiadis, referring to the tech found in devices and toys. “Generation Alpha has very different expectations for the entire world. Everything that’s going to happen in their lives needs to be visual, on demand, adaptive, in demand, and we have to find a way to embed that into our toy experiences.”
As Georgiadis puts it: “We don’t want to get distracted by shiny objects.”
“There are a lot of toys that have been released that have tried to stimulate engagement with kids, but they’re actually fundamentally not that fun,” said Georgiadis. “And kids don’t want to eat spinach. If you don’t integrate the technology in a way that’s actually fun, the kids don’t stay with the play pattern.”
One example, is Code-a-pillar, a Fisher-Price toy that brings basic coding skills to kids as young as three and four years old.
Georgiadis has her work cut out for her. She has spent her first six months as CEO at Mattel grappling with the immediate problem of slipping sales as well as trying inject innovation into its products and operations that will boost the toy maker’s long-term outlook.
Over the past three years, Mattel has seen sales fall from $6.5 billion to $5.5 billion, gross margins tumble from 53.6% to 46.8%, while net income dropped from $904 million to $318 million.
Despite those challenges, Georgiadis is optimistic about what Mattel is trying to achieve and how it’s helping children to develop.
Storytelling—specifically developing toys like Barbie that allow children to invent and create their own play—as well as promoting inclusiveness are a important components of the toy maker’s mission.
“It is our job to ensure everyone feels included and empowered,” said Georgiadis. “We are living in a world that is increasingly diverse and part of helping kids develop, and be those successful leaders of tomorrow is helping them learn how to embrace multiculturalism and diversity.”
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