ANALYSIS: Why Hasbro puts media at core of branding - Toymaker Hasbro has put its media strategy centre stage in its marketing. Paul Whitfield looks at how it hopes to fuse brand power

Hasbro, the world’s largest toy company, became the latest to turn the traditional marketing flow of product first, creative second and media later, inside out, when it awarded its pounds 46m UK planning and buying account to BMP OMD last week.

Hasbro, the world’s largest toy company, became the latest to turn

the traditional marketing flow of product first, creative second and

media later, inside out, when it awarded its pounds 46m UK planning and

buying account to BMP OMD last week.



The appointment serves two purposes for the toy giant.



First, it consolidates the planning and buying of Hasbro’s media,

previously handled by Griffin Bacal, Carat and a number of independents,

making implementation of a co-ordinated company-wide strategy

easier.



Second, and more importantly, it pushes the media function upstream in

the marketing strategy, offering BMP OMD the chance to take command of

Hasbro’s marketing effort so it can use the company’s brands in support

of each other.



Brand refocus



Hasbro’s desire to make more effective use of its media is born of

significant change at the US giant, which has seen it move away from its

traditional product focus to reinvent itself as a family entertainment

company.



The company’s toy brands include Action Man, Monopoly, Cluedo, Furbys,

computer game character Pokemon, Mr Potato Head and PlaysKool.



’This refocus brought us to a position where we needed a more

sophisticated media strategy,’ says Mark Trinder, Hasbro UK marketing

communications director.



’We are acquiring or developing the capability to offer a broader range

of entertainment. It is taking us to new audiences and forcing us to

look at the way that we will communicate with them.’



Hasbro is currently investigating opportunities to link new board-game

products with television game shows and to take its established board

games onto television. It has also committed itself to the interactive

home shopping service, Open, as the official games supplier.



Hasbro has been guilty in the past of an over-reliance on TV

advertising.



Disparate TV executions for the company’s ’hero brands’ and board games

have failed to take advantage of the potential to use the brands for

mutual promotion.



’The value in our products, as with many companies, is the intellectual

copyright,’ says Tinder. ’The challenge is to draw out this value and

use it to market the company across a broader range of product

extensions. To do this, we need an integrated and pro-active media,

promotional and public relations strategy.’



It is in this environment that the media strategists are making their

way up the marketing services roster to become clients’ strategic

partners.



’What Hasbro has done is to put media at the centre of its

communications process,’ says Mark Palmer, head of communications

strategy at BMP OMD.



’It is looking at communication in terms of objectives and then building

brand properties and personalities and linking its communication across

the products, instead of looking on them as individual unconnected

products.’



Recognition that their marketing spend can be made to work harder

through a co-ordinated media strategy has led rival Lego, Levi’s, Anchor

Dairy, as well as Procter & Gamble and Unilever to investigate more

imaginative use of media.



Will Collins, communication strategy director at New PHD, which operates

media strategist Msc as a joint venture with Partners BDDH, believes

that the growth of the media strategists has been born of necessity.



’Marketing has become more difficult with the increase in media

channels,’ says Collins. ’As a message is forced to spread it has to

become more co-ordinated. Companies are finding that they need someone

to guide them in the choice of media before they start thinking about

what they should be saying. So media strategy is becoming central and is

moving ahead of the creative strategy in the marketing flow.’



While BMP OMD’s appointment by Hasbro has pushed the debate further, it

is wrong to paint the company as a pioneer.



A year ago, Lego appointed strategic planning agency Motive to see

through its push into media brand extensions, including software, TV,

movies, books and magazines.



Disney parallels



Disney also is a past master and Hasbro’s aspirations closely mirror the

formula of the entertainment giant.



’Disney is the best at it,’ says Palmer. ’Take the promotion of Mulan

(the recent feature length film). To promote its opening, Disney

re-released The Jungle Book so it could run a Mulan trailer. It tied the

products in with McDonald’s and stocked the store fronts with toys.’



It is this sort of cross pollination that Hasbro hopes BMP OMD will be

able to deliver over the coming year.



The extent to which Hasbro allows BMP OMD to operate at what has until

now been a senior management level remains to be seen, but Trinder seems

to be willing to give the agency every opportunity.



’Individual brands and their development will still drive the

communications brief,’ he says. ’However, we are looking for effective

innovation and we expect that media will create these opportunities,

down to developing new brands and products.’



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