If you are the visionary leader of an old, established company with beloved brands, one of the major challenges you may face is innovating and growing to keep pace with customers’ changing expectations due to digital technology. It’s a delicate balancing act.
On the one hand, to stay relevant and realize untapped opportunities, it’s essential to lead your organization in constantly reimagining even your most beloved brands. On the other hand, it’s also essential to preserve the magic that has made your brands so special. To do otherwise puts your organization at risk of being disrupted by more agile competitors or alienating loyal customers.
The good news is that it is possible for you to navigate this high-stakes journey.
Take, for instance, the story of Mattel. According to an article in the Oct. 3rd issue of Fortune, the company is still among the top 3 toymakers.
However, despite a series of incremental innovations in decades-old brands such as Barbie and Hot Wheels, revenues have been declining and stock prices have been sliding.
Conventional wisdom in such a large, established company might have been to hire a CEO that would sell off some of the old brands and focus on increasing efficiencies to boost profitability and the stock price.
Instead, Mattel’s Board decided on a contrarian strategy. By embracing opportunities offered by the digital age while they were still at the head of the pack, they could break the status quo and potentially get the jump on disruptive competition.
Enter CEO Margo Georgiadis in February 2017. As a top senior sales exec at Google, she certainly had the technical background necessary to reimagine new possibilities. However, the challenge was only partially about incorporating new technology into old brands.
So far, the key to success for Georgiadis has been adapting her leadership style from what worked in the Google culture to what would work in Mattel’s culture.
For example, at a weekly management meeting, she physically disassembled the beloved Barbie Dreamhouse right down to the components. This enabled the team to concretely discover for themselves all the opportunities they had been missing. It also sparked their commitment to use technology and collaborate in new ways to stay responsive to customers’ changing needs.
Clearly, Mattel will have many twists and turns along their continuing journey of transformation and growth. However, Margo Georgiadis’s success in leading the first stage of this new strategy has the potential to do more than keep them at the head of the pack.
The good news is that they might even become disruptors themselves.