Showing posts with label Mattel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mattel. Show all posts

Friday, September 7

Targeting Toys: Mattel Recall

Last November, Mattel, Inc. received some praise in its handling of a recall of Polly Pocket Assortments. This year, as Mattel has endured a third major toy recall in a single month and we’re starting to wonder if frequency might erode its “Premier Brand Toys” positioning statement.

"It will have an impact. People will be looking at it, it will be in the back of their minds," Andy Brisebois, president of the Children's Safety Association of Canada, told CanWest News Service. "lt's a natural reaction and I wouldn't blame anybody to be very, very leery."

Really? So what is happening at Mattel? How are they handling it and is the media covering the story responsibly?

Having low expectations despite last year’s findings, we visited the Mattel Web site to see for ourselves. We were not disappointed. Mattel seems to be doing its best to test and retest toys made in China and most recalls have been made as the result of voluntarily retesting toys (as far back as 2003) under its new guidelines. The testing includes a 3-stage safety check:

• Mattel is testing all paint on all toys. No exceptions.
• Mattel has significantly increased testing and unannounced inspections at every stage of production.
• Mattel is testing every production run of finished toys to ensure compliance before they reach consumers.

"In August we promised that we'd continue to focus on ensuring the safety and quality of our toys through extensive testing of finished products, thorough investigation of our vendors and the implementation of a strengthened three-point check system,” said Robert A. Eckert, chairman and chief executive officer of Mattel. “As a result of our ongoing investigation we discovered additional affected products. Consequently, several subcontractors are no longer manufacturing Mattel toys. We apologize again to everyone affected and promise that we will continue to focus on ensuring the safety and quality of our toys."

Eckert also elected to publicly address Mattel customers via video, much like JetBlue’s David Neeleman addressed everyone last February. There are considerable differences between the videos, which is why we expect Eckert will have a longer shelf life than his digital media predecessor.

Why? Mattel confined the video to Mattel rather than launching it to a larger YouTube audience. While Eckert’s presentation is a bit stiff, his message is accurate, concise, and to the point. The message is that he and Mattel are sorry, concerned, and committed to safety.

During the video, he avoids over apologizing, reenacting problems in vivid detail, or infusing emotionally charged language like ”appalled” as Glenn Renwick, CEO of Progressive, did in his company’s crisis communication statement.

As Mattel has done in the past, it also places its recall prompt on the front page of its Web site. In the recall section, it makes it as easy as possible to identify the affected toys and how to obtain prepaid mailing labels for the return of those items. In some cases, Mattel identifies the single part of any play set affected (as illustrated in the picture above; only the cat’s brown paint contained lead) and they are offering replacement product vouchers.

Although some members of the media claim that recalls might dampen holiday shopping as 80 percent of all toys in the United States are manufactured in China, we're not so sure. The holidays are still months away and many stories smack of sensationalism. In fact, if Mattel continues to take the lead in setting safety standards, and other toy manufacturers follow suit, it doesn't seem likely that there will be fear-infused holidays ahead.

In sum, it seems to us that Mattel is once again effectively handling the hurdles of crisis communication. And while we cannot give them as much kudos as last year (only because of the sheer volume of toys recalled), we’re still impressed. I cannot say the same about some other players. In descending order…

We are less than impressed with any media outlet that asked parents leading questions like “So, how do you feel about toys that could harm your kids?” (Kudos to those who published the recall contact information.)

We’re concerned that some child safety advocates and consumer affairs spokespeople are making emotionally-charged statements like “This is America and it should never happen here!”

We raise our eyebrows at any competing toy makers too eager to talk about how this will give their toys a leg up this season.

And last, but not least, we’re disappointed that China’s ambassador to Canada resorted to the blame game: “it’s unfair to blame Chinese companies alone for the recall” and called for more international cooperation between producers in China and importers in other parts of the world to catch potential health hazards.

Huh? Maybe toys are not alone in needing a recall.


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