Hasbro Needs Well-Executed Consumer PR to Avoid Another Seasonal Slump

The toy business has been a real roller coaster in the past few years, especially for large manufacturers such as Hasbro. With the shuttering of major retailers such as Toys R Us and the falling off of mall shopping across the country, brands have been forced to find other ways to merchandise and move their products. One of those ways is brand-connected consumer PR.

There’s no doubt that connecting a toy to something that already occupies a kid’s imagination is a great way to churn up interest and make more sales. Toy companies have been doing exactly that forever. But, in this age of consumer-first marketing, where nearly all shoppers are looking for specific brands and specific toys, rather than just browsing catalogs or store shelves, brands need to give consumers something familiar to search for.

In that regard, Hasbro may have hit the jackpot. Two massively successful Disney-owned film franchises, Star Wars and Frozen, are about to be back in theaters, and Hasbro has the inside track on marketing and selling movie-branded toys. Their goal now is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

When Frozen first hit theaters a few years ago, demand for movie-related toys exploded, and Hasbro was not prepared. This led to a lot of angry kids, frustrated parents, and missed opportunities for Hasbro. Now, though, if they can establish a communication connection with their target market on social media and the web, as well as using traditional earned and paid media channels, Hasbro has the opportunity to control expectations and better meet demand.

Star Wars might be trickier. The last few movies turned out to be hugely controversial, and toy sales, while brisk, were not what they had been in the past. Much of that, too, has a lot to do with both a crowded marketplace and consumer PR on social media.

Because the movies and their new characters haven’t really caught on as well as previous Star Wars stories and casts, it’s tough for Hasbro to know which toys to market. This confusion can be seen on toy aisle shelves in big box stores across the country, as classic Star Wars characters, such as Luke and Han, are mixed in with newer characters, such as Rey and Poe.

It’s a tough conundrum to face. There’s a movie coming out that used to be an easy win for toy seller. However, the lack of enthusiasm for the film, combined with overall slumping toy sales in recent years, have created a serious challenge for Hasbro.

The company must connect with consumers, get them interested in their marquee toy lines and do it in a way that also encourages consumers to explore other brands and products Hasbro has to offer. This calls for a longer-term PR campaign, something that engages an ongoing conversation and deeper interest than a single movie or two, even films with characters as big as Elsa and Kylo Ren.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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