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Robert Goodwin: Accelerating Social Impact at Mattel

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The case

Who – the protagonist

Robert Goodwin, Executive Director of the Mattel Children Foundation and Director of Corporate Affairs and Philanthropy for Mattel.

mattel

What?

A giant American multinational toy manufacturing company, Mattel boast powerhouse brands such as Fisher-Price and Hot Wheels as part of their stable.

The company’s charitable arm, the Mattel Children Foundation, participates in grant-making activities that support local charities and non-profit partners.

One of the Foundation’s initiatives included the running of the Speedometry programme, a free-to-use STEM curriculum for elementary-aged students involving the use of Hot Wheels toys.

Why?

Goodwin’s goal was to find ways of incorporating social impact into the overall business strategy of Mattel to increase both the financial and social value of the toy giant.

Goodwin felt the Speedometry project could increase education outcomes – in Maths and Science, where US students were doing no better than average compared to their peers in other countries – for children and create a long-term benefit of how the Hot Wheels brand was viewed by parents and teachers.

When?

Goodwin joined Mattel in early 2014 and one of his first acts in the role was to discuss the impact of Speedology – the pilot project that led to the birth of Speedometry.

By early 2016, Speedometry had distributed 23,000 free Hot Wheels kits with 40,000 teachers demanding more.

Where?

In conjunction with the University of Southern California’s (USC) Rossier School of Education, Mattel released Speedometry to 1,800 fourth graders in 59 classrooms in Los Angeles County, with results stating that 93% of students showed an increased interest in science and 79% in maths.

The curriculum has now been adopted in a number of states, from California to Texas. Goodwin hopes for Speedometry to reach 10% of the 99,000 elementary schools in the US by 2020.

Key quote

“If support for the initiative doesn’t come from the top down, it usually doesn’t happen. Getting the projects in front of the right people is a difficult task, given our culture.” – Robert Goodwin.

What next?

Goodwin has a number of dilemmas.

With the retail value of the kit priced at $125 and only two people on his team, how could Goodwin and his colleagues produce the Hot Wheels kits quick enough, and how do they cover costs with so little monetary support?
 
Should Goodwin and Hot Wheels pursue plans for a kindergarten curriculum and expand into China, Mattel’s fastest growing market? Both adventures presented many challenges.

Finally, and most importantly, could Goodwin convince top executives that it was possible and profitable to purse social impact endeavours such as Speedometry?

 
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Robert Goodwin: Accelerating Social Impact at Mattel
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The author

author

Marianne Szymanski and Megan Strawther

Marianne and Megan discuss the appeal of Mattel as a subject.

A surprise in store

mattelMarianne said: “Mattel is a prominent company in the toy industry with a great entrepreneurial story. We wanted a case study from a strong industry leader that college students could relate to (everyone remembers their Hot Wheels!). The fact that a new hire, Robert Goodwin, brought a new method of bridging brand recognition, toy sales, and social impact to the toy industry was an inviting twist for the first case study I had the chance to write.”

Megan added: “As a student in the USC Marshal School of Business’ Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship programme, I was particularly excited to write a case that explored how a large for-profit company sought to create long-term impact – not just through its Corporate Social Responsibility division or Foundation donations, but through its actual products. Companies with brand loyalty and massive distribution networks can really serve as agents of change, and Robert found ways to leverage those core competencies for good.”

Who you know

Marianne commented: “I have been in the toy industry for 25 years and my contacts at Mattel introduced me to Robert Goodwin. Soon after I met Robert and learned more about the work he was doing, I realised this could be a really beneficial case study for my business school students.”

Megan continued: “It’s not always easy to get in touch with entrepreneurs and executives we write these cases about, so it was advantageous having such easy and direct access to Robert.”

Fully transparent

Marianne said: “I think participating in this case study and sharing Robert’s experience of integrating impact into the core business model gives Mattel a push above other toy companies, and causes those companies to follow Mattel’s lead. By discussing these practices and their vision within the case, it can help create a broader degree of social impact in the industry as a whole.”

Megan explained: “It’s great that Mattel were willing to openly discuss the challenges they faced along the way. I was most impressed because it demonstrated the company’s commitment to teaching the next generation of entrepreneurs and managers how to build effective and impactful organisations.”

Looking to the future

Megan added: “I believe many companies want to have a long-term impact on the people that use their products. I think the major concern is, if a company focuses too much on having a measurable impact, they might compromise resources that could be dedicated to marketing, and making that final sale. But I think it’s encouraging that major companies are at least considering an integrated philanthropic approach.”

Social impact

Marianne concluded: “From a manufacturing discussion to a public relations conversation, the aspect of social impact and a charitable angle in regard to a popular brand creates an interesting discussion.”

About the authors

Marianne Szymanski is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at USC Marshall School of Business.
e szymansm@marshall.usc.edu
tw @toytips

Megan Strawther is a student on USC Marshall School of Business’ Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship programme.
megan.a.strawther@gmail.com
tw @megstraw

 

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