Hasbro Inc. which owns some of the most iconic brands across games, toys, films and entertainment has now signed up with Black White Orange as their licensing agents for running their business in India.
BWO will focus on expanding Hasbro’s brands across apparels, accessories, back-to-school, promotional licensing, sporting goods and publishing categories. While the festive season is just round the corner, it makes complete sense to for the agency to plan a major push for the brands though the festive season.
Medianews4u caught up with Claire Gilchrist, Vice President, Hasbro Brand Consumer Products – Asia Pacific to understand their India entry strategies, partnership with BWO and a lot more.
Why did Hasbro take this long to enter the Indian market? I mean, you have brands like Tranformers and Little Pony and they’ve been around and in form of movies. But why did the licensing take so much time?
As you know, we’ve actually been in India for more than 30 years through the distributed model. About two years ago, our board of directors have absolutely seen the importance of India as a market for huge growth and opportunity. So in April 2017, we started to take our auto engaged business direct from our relationship we had with fun school, they are still a partner but we have now gone direct. We’ve built our own office here, we’ve populated the office. In the last two years, the business has grown about eight fold. We thought the timing was perfect to now build on the toy and game success and extend it to all those other categories of business that are key to consumer products also promotions and also location based entertain. So why did it take so long? I think just really because we’ve only just in the last few years started to directly manage the business.
Which are the brands that Hasbro will be launching in India with as well? What are your expectations from the India operations?
We’re launching across a number of our franchise brands, Transformers, My Little Pony Nerf, our Monopoly and our games portfolio really important core brands were focusing on for Hasbro’s brands, obviously, as you know we are we look after a lot of partner brands for other companies. We will also from a consumer product perspective be leaning into those brands. However, we also have a vault of about 1500 brands of many other ones that will be leaning into as well, that we feel might have relevance in the marketplace here such as Tonka, Pound Puppies will be looking at Micro Machines, lots of other brands we can look at as well.
Next year, we are theatrically releasing GI Joe in October of 2020.We will be coming out with an amazing movie next year. So that will be an important theatrical release will also be supporting.
I would say that our expectation is to quadruple the business in the next three years.
How did this partnership with Black White Orange come about?
When I was deciding about how should we open India from a consumer products perspective, I believe that the best approach was to partner with an agent who has demonstrable success, has incredible knowledge about India lives, breathes, is Indian understands the consumer, and has deep rich retail and licensee partnerships and experience.
I spent about a year talking to quite a lot of different agents in determining who did I feel was the right cultural fit to Hasbro who we felt we’d work really well together, but also had proven success in the marketplace.
We had a shortlist of about four agents, but very quickly, for me, it became very apparent that BWO were the right partners for us, we had a really strong cultural connection. We just liked each other. But also they’ve got an amazing portfolio of success with big multinational brands. And the final thing that really impressed me about BWO was they’ve got such great creative credentials, incredibly innovative, really unique and highly relevant creative executions of product, and very successfully presented to the market. So we couldn’t be more delighted about the partnership and really announcing our partnership with BWO and look forward to a really long term partnership together.
What is the basis of the partnership?
We’ve signed a legal contract together that says BWO will represent Hasbro consumer products in the Indian marketplace. Initial period of the contract is for threeyears, but you know, hopefully, it’ll be a much longer partnership than that.
What is your understanding of the Indian market and the Indian consumer?
So everything we do must always start with the consumer. A deep understanding of who that consumer is, across the vast geography of India, the vastly complex route to market between modern day trade and traditional trade, but also understanding this emerging middle class of consumers but also the consumer who’s not yet an emerging middle class consumer. What products can we create, at the most value price points, and which brands, and which categories are most relevant to them? In partnership with BWO, we’ve been mapping the market and looking at which demographic we’re going to focus on initially kids, and which categories at what price points we should be launching consumer products with.
We’re really focused on what are the right with the consumer, and how do we get them with the right value proposition. We’re doing that very much in partnership with BWO because they have the experience on the ground. The other thing, of course, too, is we have a very successful toy and game business. We’ve done lots of research we’ve done we do an awful lot of analytics around what’s selling and why and to whom so all of that is informing how we plan our launch.
How is the licensing environment in India versus the environment abroad?
I am in charge of Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East Africa. Our markets will have challenges, and they will have the opportunity. But I sort of look at our markets in three different markets, emerging markets, and developing markets and matured markets. My view would be that emerging markets have the most opportunity for truly exponential growth.But it comes with a level of complexity, in that a lot of the consumers don’t know our brands that well, we’re introducing them. A lot of the consumers don’t have that much disposable income to spend. So how do we really make sure we’ve got the right price value proposition? How do we effectively get to the consumer in what is a very complicated route to market? So I would say without question, the most exciting markets are these emerging and developing markets. You’ve got to be really clear about the partnerships you have are fundamental to your success. If you don’t have the right partners, or the right agent representing you, you can fall over quite quickly.
What are the learnings you get from an international brand that probably tried to enter India and was not able to make it big, not from your space, particularly, but could be anybody say for example, a Dunkin Donuts?That’s a consumer brand that did not work in India for many reasons, but what sort of learnings do you derive from those brands that actually could not make an impact in the Indian market?
You get the most learning from actually why people don’t work up. So I would say we always look at sort of three things.
One is somewhere; they didn’t connect to who the consumer is and what their needs and aspirations are. I think it fundamentally starts with the consumer and understanding who they are, what they want, and what they don’t want. Whatever we can learn about what went wrong from a consumer perspective, that’s a big one for me.
Number two is the competitive set is also incredibly important to understand. And, for example, Dunkin Donuts, or any other food brand that tried to enter the market, have they really effectively and accurately assessed the competition, where the blue ocean is for them, in what is a very competitive world. It might even be just the taste of the brand.
Starbucks is always a really interesting example in China and as you know, Chinese people did not drink coffee, they drank tea. And yet, Starbucks spent a lot of money and time to understand the consumer and what they liked such as the taste. Look how successful are they now, people start their day with a Starbucks coffee in China.
Understand the consumer look at your competitive set, and where you’re going to sit within it. Thirdly, for me is how they designed the product and price the product and was that right for the market?I think those are the critical things that allow you to succeed or fail in an international market.
I think it’s always upto these three things when you are in a public company, because you have to be successful as quickly as possible. These big brands should have the patience to invest, learn, test, scale, learn some more, etc just having enough patience to build a sustainable proposition is very important.
What about your distribution plans?
With BWO’s support we want to get into modern trade in a sustainable profitable way but also look at how in the non-traditional channels should we be and with what value proposition. I would say quickly we’d launch to ECOM through modern trade, to establish key consumer products, categories, and then start to look to where we can scale beyond that.
What are your marketing plans with respect to each and every different brand of Hasbro in India? How are you using content marketing specifically for your products?
You ask great questions. Let me just start with the second question about content which is absolutely foundational to everything we do. At Hasbro, we truly believe that storytelling is the basis of the longevity of our brands, and how you really bring the emotional connection to consumers. We bring content to India in multiple different forms, digital content, social media content, TV content, publishing content, and obviously theatrical content so 24 hours a day, seven days a week there is content available to consumers in India to build those connections.
Our Indian team is accountable for the marketing of our brands across India, the positioning of Transformers, My Little Pony, and Nerf etc. Talking to consumers across India all of the time, about our products the brands as a lifestyle brand and a sports brand. My Little Pony is a brand that is truly about friendship and kindness, Transformers is about more than meets the eye. These are messages that through product trade, retail marketing are constantly in the India marketplace, really importantly.
The third bucket is all of the great marketing that will happen through our licensees who will be maybe doing TVCs, will be on social media. Key opinion leaders will create brand scalable flagship stores online with our toy and game partners, all the key platforms that you can mobilize to ignite and create demand and awareness. We have tremendous marketing muscles at Hasbro. So licensees, our agent and our own our own organization will really fuel that marketing together.
Anything else that you would want to share with our readers, just generally?
We are Hasbro and India is a strategic and an important market for growth for Hasbro. You can see from the recent investment in our twin game organization and now in consumer products. It is a key market for growth.
Secondly, we could not be more thrilled about partnership with BWO as they are such an amazing agent doing incredible things already. I’m very much looking forward to building that partnership.
And thirdly, I would say you know we have a phenomenal portfolio of brands that allow us to really appeal to the Indian consumer delight families and kids multi generationally with a really great 30 plus year heritage of brands as well as introducing new brands and reintroducing brands like GI Joe So, lots more to come from Hasbro in India.