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Interview with Brian Goldner, President and CEO of Hasbro, Inc.
By Sean Traynor, Assistant Editor


Brian Goldner
CEO of Hasbro!
Hasbro Inc. is the world’s second-largest toy maker that designs, manufactures and markets games and toys under brands including Playskool, Tonka, Milton Bradley (Scrabble, Candyland), Parker Brothers (Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit), Tiger, Dungeons and Dragons (trading cards) and Wizards of the Coast (Magic: The Gathering trading cards).  They have taken their main brands and tailored them to their changing customers by moving into video games, motion pictures, TV shows and more.  At over $4 billion in revenue, Hasbro has transformed itself from just a toy and game company to a leader in family entertainment.
 
Brian Goldner, President and CEO of Hasbro, has led the company into this family entertainment leader since his appointment in May, 2008.  His entrepreneurial spirit and creative and strong leadership have kept Hasbro reaching for the stars.  Mr. Goldner is a graduate of Dartmouth College and joined Hasbro in 2000.  He has served as President of the U.S. Toy Segment before being named Chief Operating Officer in 2006. We offer you to take a look into the great task Mr. Goldner has before him in our special, exclusive interview, below!


AK: What do you believe has been the greatest change in the toy industry in the last 10 years?
BG: I can best speak from a Hasbro perspective, and we are very fortunate to have what I believe to be the best portfolio of brands in children’s and family entertainment. In recent years, Hasbro has embarked upon an active strategy of providing our consumers with immersive brand experiences in a variety of forms and formats. Today, people can enjoy our brands any time and any where they want, through great toys, games, video games, movies, television programming and online entertainment.


AK: What are the steps (from idea to final marketing) of bringing a new item to market? How do you know if a product will be a success?
BG: Bringing what is ultimately a successful product to market involves a team effort from a wide range of disciplines both inside and outside the Company. We rely heavily on consumer insights, as it is critically important that we always move in lock step with what our target audiences around the world is looking for from a product and entertainment standpoint. It is difficult to outline all the steps in bringing something new to market, since different forms of entertainment have different requirements, but one of the things that is always a priority is providing great value to the consumer. We define value as the ability to deliver fun and rewarding experiences that people will enjoy time and again, at a reasonable price.


AK: You led the company’s expansion into the television, movie and electronic gaming markets. Why did you go outside making and designing toys and games?
BG: People love our brands, and I knew that, if we could create truly immersive brand experiences, they would want to enjoy these iconic brands on a variety of entertainment platforms. This strategy has been successfully borne out, and we will continue to leverage our unmatched portfolio of brands well beyond traditional toys and games. Of course, not every brand is going to be made into a movie or television show. I believe that we are very skilled at assessing the potential entertainment value of all of our brands and creating the best forms of entertainment based on the unique characteristics of each individual brand.


AK: You have reinvented your main brands to become fresh again. How do you foster this creativity in your employees? What traits and skills do you look for in new employees?
BG: Great ideas drive our business, and creativity and innovation are highly valued throughout the organization, and in all facets of our operations. Several years ago, we instituted the Inny (short for Innovation) Awards, which is now an annual, global event where we bring together most of our employees from around the world on one day. The Inny Awards recognize the incredible creativity that I see every day at Hasbro, and equally important, it effectively demonstrates the importance that we place on innovation in every facet of our business.


AK: For 2009 Hasbro had the top paid application for the iPhone - Monopoly. Scrabble is #9 and you have 6 more in the top 100 application. Describe the impact that the iPhone and other interactive media has made on your company.
BG: The relatively new technologies and platforms available to consumers today allow us to better leverage our strategy of giving people around the world the opportunity to enjoy our brands any time, any where. Hasbro’s unique point of difference is our brand portfolio – many of the brands that are popular today were brands that I enjoyed 35, 40 years ago when I was a child. MONOPOLY, G.I. JOE, MR. POTATO HEAD, OPERATION, BATTLESHIP, PLAY-DOH…I could go on and on! Today, we have the ability to provide fans of these classics with a much wider range of offerings.


AK: As family play time has changed over the years, how has Hasbro adapted to this change?
BG: It’s a great question, and we have certainly adapted in a variety of ways, from the products we make, to how we market them. However, families still crave togetherness, and our brands have proved to be great facilitators in this regard. As an example, we have an initiative called Family Game Night, which encourages families to dedicate one night per week for playing a game together. This program has proved to be very successful, and we will continue to strive to create immersive brand experiences that fulfill a brand and product’s promise, no matter what the platform.


AK: Many of our readers are what you call TWEENS. How do you figure out what this age group wants?
BG: Once again, we rely heavily on consumer insights. We pay careful attention to the trends for all demographics, and certainly we have a strong expertise in successfully reaching the tween market.


AK: Some of your future plans are to make Monopoly, Battleship and Candyland into movies. Are there any new toy lines or board games that you would like to share with us?
BG: Well, as Hasbro’s CEO, there are many, many great new toys and games that we just launched at Toy Fairs around the world. I’ll call out a couple that I personally just love. I enjoy playing SCRABBLE, and our new SCRABBLE FLASH CUBES innovation is fantastic. SCRABBLE FLASH CUBES is an innovative new way to play SCRABBLE without a game board as players slide, move and shuffle electronic cubed letter tiles in a race to create new words in 60 seconds. The five SCRABBLE FLASH CUBES letter tiles contain ‘Smart Tile Technology’ which recognizes formed words when the tiles are placed side by side, and keeps score of correctly spelled words. Very, very cool. We have a lot of exciting NERF news to unveil later this year, when we Clear the Way for the newest N-STRIKE blaster coming on 9.9.10! Just wait until you see what we feel is the most impressive and exciting NERF N-STRIKE blaster yet. Stay tuned!


AK: How would you complete this statement? "The toy of the future will..."
BG: The toy of the future will ... involve a Hasbro brand that has been re-imagined, re-invented and re-ignited to new heights!


AK: Mr. Goldner, you have been very successful at a young age. What advice would you give kids that want to go into toy design, construction or marketing?
BG: I can tell you that Hasbro is a dynamic company focused on recruiting very innovative, highly creative people who can successfully multi-task in a very fast-paced environment. It’s a great business and I would certainly encourage young people to find their primary interests and strengths and explore the opportunities presented by companies like Hasbro.


AK: When you were a kid, what was your favorite game or toy? Why?
BG: So many of my best memories as a child involved playing with Hasbro toys and games. I absolutely loved the G.I. JOE Gemini Space Capsule. It was during the time when the U.S. space program was sending astronauts to the moon, and G.I. JOE really gave kids like me the opportunity to feel like we were part of the adventure and excitement that NASA was involved in back then. Of course, I still love G.I. JOE!


AK: In what way has a mentor helped you succeed in business?
BG: To be truthful, I have learned from so many people over the years, and in business, part of providing leadership is embracing the fact that we must always learn and grow, and you need a wide-range of people and functions to help you get better at what you do, regardless of position or title. I am a firm believer, as an example, that creativity can come from anywhere in the organization, and we truly value innovation in all facets of our business.





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