Mattel crowdsources innovation to feed new product engine

Geoffrey Precourt

California garages served as launch pads for entrepreneurs long before Amazon, Apple, Google and Hewlett-Packard lent an aura of magic to the homegrown lore.

"We started in a garage workshop here in southern California back in 1945," Olga Patel, Mattel's senior manager/open innovation, told the 2014 Future of Consumer Intelligence (FOCI) conference – an event convened by the Institute for International Research in Los Angeles. "Over the years, we grew to be the largest toy company in the world."

Today, Mattel employs 25,000 staff across the globe and generates over $7 billion in revenue a year. Its toys are available in more than 150 countries, and these markets are collectively served by 11 factories. Some 8,000 product lines are offered up to consumers per year, and 80% of the firm's inventory is rotated annually to keep fresh items in front of shoppers.