Premiere toy maker Mattel—makers of Hot Wheels, Barney, Fisher-Price and, of course, Barbie—has been beloved by children around the world for generations. Yet despite the company’s brand reputation, Mattel executives felt that its strategy was not global enough; its roots as a quintessential American icon were holding it back. So several years ago, then CEO, Bob Eckert, set out to globalize Mattel beyond its existing foreign brand and subsidiary concepts to become a truly global company.

Thunderbird approach

Working closely with Eckert and Mattel’s senior management team, Thunderbird built a highly customized global strategy and leadership program lasting 4.5 days, including up to 45 executives twice annually. Designed around Thunderbird’s unique “deep client engagement” philosophy, the program:

  • Involved Eckert and most of the senior management team, who attend the first 3.5 days to guide, observe and take part in the learning alongside Mattel executives.
  • Was driven by the unique needs of Mattel and included sending key Thunderbird faculty to Mattel twice a year to unearth current challenges and industry changes – then evolving the program to fit those changes.
  • Focused on Mattel-specific business issues, which translated into immediate value for the participants and the larger organization.
  • Connected classroom learning to daily business reality for Mattel, resulting in improved implementation of new strategic ideas.

MATTEL result

In addition to serving as the catalyst for continuous improvement of Mattel’s global business strategy, Thunderbird leveraged a deep understanding of the needs of its organization to enhance program design and content, and facilitate development of innovative solutions. The program proved so successful that Eckert not only attended every single Mattel program at Thunderbird, but also said he learned something new and valuable about Mattel’s global strategy every single time.