FEATURE5 May 2021

Making a play: How Mattel understands children

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Understanding the emotional impact of child’s play, and what issues such as sustainability mean to kids, are high on the insight agenda for Mattel’s Michael Swaisland. By Katie McQuater

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Video calls must be de rigueur for Michael Swaisland. Based in Germany, as head of insights for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at toy company Mattel, his role covers a huge, diverse geographic area.

When we meet virtually, the set-up has become the norm across the board. While video has simplified cross-border communication, however, understanding multiple markets, where tastes, cultures and languages vary, is still a complex job – and, for Swaisland, it’s increasingly about “listening, rather than asking”, particularly this year.

The EMEA insights function at Mattel is split across two tiers – in-country local market experts, and a regional layer focused on core pillars, including consumer, shopper, media insights and advanced analytics.

“From an insights function perspective, because we work across the region and locally, our focus is on how to get the best impact in-market for the countries, but also feeding back to global to say what they need to do differently for our region, ” says Swaisland. “Because ...