Why Hasbro Skips What’s ‘Cool’ in Social Media

It’s hard out there for a brand. From executing agile real-time marketing, to experimenting with reaching consumers at the right place at the right time across multiple social platforms, there’s no shortage of expectations on companies in the digital and social spaces.

Take a tip from Hasbro: brands need to learn how to be better consumers. Just ask, Victor Lee, vp of digital at the toy juggernaut. “There are agencies getting smart, agencies creating stuff and telling us to pay them more, then you have clients trying to get smarter and sell more stuff,” he said at recent ANA “real-time marketing” event. “You have this existential mind-fuck going on, and no one knows what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s up, what’s down.”

Digiday caught up with Lee to talk about what he sees as the challenges going into 2014. Some excerpts:

What are the biggest digital and social challenges for Hasbro?
There are so many different channels that our brands are on, it’s difficult to find the right one that is most effective. Our brands like Transformers, Nerf, My Little Pony, Monopoly, Play-Doh, Littlest Pet Shop and others are so rich with content and stories that at times we have to pull back on some channels rather than finding more.

Does real-time marketing live up to all of the hype?
The theory of real-time is right and fine. But the practice and hope of it isn’t. Everyone talks about a “control center,” an area that monitors and drives decisions. That is necessary to do. But to what extent does it become too much planning? At Hasbro, we’ve built a very lean team with thorough knowledge of the message and with approval rights for everything we do. There are fences we don’t cross and escalation ladders in case anything happens. It’s never decided on the notion of “because I think it’s cool.” PR, legal, digital and brand all have a seat.

What is something brands need to stop doing in 2014?
A lot of brands get caught up in the cool and at times lose focus on the why. If a brand has good value, a great message and reason for being to the consumer, then any activation is only an amplification of what the brand has worked hard to build. Social allows consumers to help deliver a message that already exists. Expect some negativity; no one is perfect, nor should they be. Embrace it. Learn from it. But don’t run from it or over-think it. Be real.

Do you think brands need to learn how to be better clients?
Actually, I think brands need to learn how to be better consumers. Some brands fall in love with themselves too much. Then they lose sight to what is happening outside of their four walls.

What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to working well with agency partners?
Assuming they know it all and looking for the magic key from them. Agency partners are only as good as the information we give them. We give them 50 percent of the information we should expect 50 percent of the accuracy. Some brands hold information and data too close to the vest, and then they blame the agency for not understanding the brand. The agency won’t push back because the unwritten rules tell them not to, so they take the fall. That’s not how it should work.

Image via Flickr