LOS ANGELES: Mattel, the world's biggest toy company, has derived significant benefits from using internal and external crowdsourcing to assist in developing new products.

Olga Patel, Mattel's senior manager/open innovation, discussed this topic at the 2014 Future of Consumer Intelligence (FOCI) conference – an event convened by the Institute for International Research.

Given that the owner of brands like Barbie and Matchbox rotates 80% of its portfolio every year to ensure fresh items are placed in front of consumers, the demand for ideas and designs is continuous.

As with any organisation, Mattel has limited R&D funding at its disposal via which to achieve such daunting innovation goals.

"So, we decided, 'Why not use the rest of the world to help us with our ideas?'" said Patel. (For more, including details of Mattel's crowdsourcing framework, read Warc's exclusive report: Mattel crowdsources innovation to feed new product engine.)

"By being very creative over the past number of years, however, we have come up with different ways to tap into the outside knowledgebase using developments in technology to help us to survive in this marketplace."

One of its assets in this area is the Mattel Innovation Exchange (MIX), an in-house service connecting the firm's 25,000 members of staff across the globe to work together to solve challenges.

Among Mattel's additional crowdsourcing resources is a community of brand enthusiasts, thanks to a partnership with Communispace.

"We have a community of moms whom we go to and we ask questions. And sometimes we ask them to provide ideas," said Patel.

The Mattel Connect platform has also built a more formalised way for toy inventors to make proposals, a model that has the further benefit of simplifying issues like vetting intellectual property and royalty distribution.

Mattel, of course, has a natural advantage in this regard, as it plays in a category where many consumers and product experts are interested in putting forward their suggestions.

"We're a toy company and, I guarantee you, almost everyone has an idea for a toy," said Patel.

Data sourced from Warc