I'm not going to say I think you've been living under a rock if you haven't heard, but this is a controversy that kind of blew up on Twitter the other day… the headlines from various media outlets said things like “Mattel's Mom Issue: They Don't Really Get Hot Wheels” or “Mattel Thinks Moms Need Help Playing with Hot Wheels” or my personal favorite, “Are Moms to Blame for Mattel's Stagnant Hot Wheels Sales?” Because I was totally thinking that moms don't already get blamed for enough crap.
I randomly came across the original article on Business Week, and sent out this Tweet:
I sent it out and went about my day… a few hours later, I got a standard copy & paste reply from @Mattel, saying “We know many moms love Hot Wheels; we're sorry this caused offense. Our goal is to help parents & kids connect thru play.” I again responded, saying that I wasn't offended, just frustrated. Lots of us don't struggle to play with our boys! They then reached out and asked me to email, so we could continue the conversation further.
A couple of days later, I got an email inviting me to have a phone conversation about all of this. We set up a time and I wondered what I was going to say, speaking directly to this behemoth of a toy company. It wasn't until I re-read the article in preparation that I realized that my phone call, the emails I'd been receiving, were from Matt Petersen, the VP of Marketing quoted in the various articles. Oh my!
I talked to a couple of my mom's groups and some friends about what I would say, about thoughts I could take back to Matt to give him more than just my POV. I'll tell you right now: I did not go into this phone call intending for it to be a hard-hitting interview with the toy empire villain. I went into it wanting to have a conversation with him. I was not, admittedly, offended by the original piece. Companies with good intentions screw up all. the. time. The press chooses inflammatory words on purpose (Yay! More hits!) and frankly, I think people are often just looking to be offended. I read the article, rolled my eyes, sent a Tweet and moved on. This article sat with people in different ways, which I totally understand, but for ME, it was mostly just annoyance at another big, clueless company.
So Matt called, and we chatted for almost an hour. We talked about lots of things; I shared some things that I think Mattel could be doing better with Hot Wheels, talked about our personal experiences with the cars, I made some suggestions about talking to moms, and he told me about some things they're planning, changes they want to make, some of their motivation for the event that started all this… we talked about lots of stuff. Matt's a nice guy. He's got a couple of kids, isn't going to get fired, and really does want to figure out a way to talk to moms.
So let me start there: Hot Wheels wants to talk to moms, they just don't know how.
Matt first got the idea of a “talk to moms who struggle with playing with their boys” at a birthday party; he noticed that moms at the party had kind of split off into 2 groups, separating into boy and girl moms. Listening to their conversations, how each mom talked about her child was very different based on gender. The moms expressed confusion at their boys' craziness… “Why does he think it's hilarious to run into the wall over and over?” while the moms just talked about with their daughters… much less confusion on their parts. So the intention was pure, it's just the execution where it fell apart.
They should get credit for acknowledging that moms have some serious purchasing power. We're the ones buying the classmate's birthday gift, filling the Easter baskets and Christmas stockings, and probably shopping for potty training rewards. They're trying, this time they just failed. How often do we tell ourselves and our kids, if the first thing doesn't work, try something else! It just sucks for Mattel that this got picked up and spread so fast.
Want to hear something crazy about that NYC event? It was in the middle of that big storm in January. There were 3 moms there. THREE. There were supposed to be 10 or 12, but the weather kept them away, but we're talking about fewer moms than I invite over for a playdate on the regular.
Instead of attacking Mattel and Hot Wheels on social media, how about we tell them the best way to reach us? I told Matt about my less-than-exciting interaction with the brand at Blogher 11 in San Diego (basically handed a Hot Wheels out of a cardboard box and then ignored) and we talked about some ways that they could improve their presence *if* they decide to go again this year… they're trying, you guys. Just not always succeeding.
Seriously. The organizers of the NYC event did not sit down together and think, “Ooh! The mommies like crafts! Let's have them make crafty fun projects! Ooh! Scrapbooking! Yay! They'll squee over that for sure! Let's have the mommies scrapbook and then we'll teach them how to play with cars! Do you think they'll understand how the wheels work?”
Please leave comments that tell Mattel how they could better talk to YOU. They're interested in conversations with moms. Please don't wish ill on Matt or his job. He's going to read this post and the comments. If you posted or tweeted, he probably read that too. Let's take this opportunity to IMPROVE the situation instead of complaining and not doing anything to make it better.
Hot Wheels is listening! What do you want to say?
I have not received any compensation for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own. I am writing this post because I do believe that Mattel wants to do better by moms, and I would love to do what I can to help them accomplish that. I did ask Matt if he could hook me up with a hard-to-find die cast Rip Clutchgoneski car for Max, but I don't even know if that's going to happen, so unless that happens, this is a 100% non-compensated post. 🙂