Mattel is at it again.
The Microsoft of the toy industry, who hasn't had an original idea in 40 years, continues the only way they know how to compete, the lawsuit.
After getting their toy tails kicked for the last four years, they decided that the only way to beat the Bratz folks was to sue them out of existence. Of course they say it's all about copyright and such, it had nothing to do with the fact that this tiny little company had taken a huge chunk out of their market share.
That same market they built 50 years ago and have basically rested on their laurels since.
I don't care about the Bratz* line I don't even have girls, both my children are boys, but I have seen firsthand the inner workings of the Mattel machine.
About fifteen years ago when I was actively dabbling in the toy industry I sent a nice proposal to the folks at Mattel suggesting how they could bring back their long dormant Sizzlers toy line. I expected nothing, but I did get a fairly generic "not interested" letter.
I would have forgotten that and moved on except for one thing. A small company named Playing Mantis entered the market. Playing Mantis made it's name grabbing abandoned trademarks and reviving them. Their first success was re-releasing the old Topper Johnny Lightning die-cast cars. After that they were ripe for other ventures, and Sizzlers became one of them.
They started with a basic race set and a few cars, and though it was fun, it was flawed. I wrote them a nice letter telling them where they could improve and surprisingly got a response. Not only did they like my comments, they asked for more. Over the next few weeks we communicated quite a bit, and then one afternoon I got a call.
You see in our conversations I had mentioned my brief contact with Mattel, and it just so happened Mattel had dropped a nice evil lawsuit on them. Playing Mantis wanted to know if I could talk to their legal team and supply any info I had on my contact with Mattel. Of course what I had wasn't much, but it was something and the lawyers were very interested.
To make a long story** short, Playing Mantis won the lawsuit and the right to producer Sizzlers. Of course the lawsuit did take it's toll and before long the little company that could was no more, but at least they stood up to the big toy biz meanie.
Now it appears Mattel is doing a similar thing with Bratz Maker MGA. I'm all for competition, but suing someone out of existence it's just a lousy thing to do. If you want to succeed, innovate, and stop stealing from everyone else.
Remember a couple of decades ago when Hasbro gave Mattel a serious challenge for a few years with Jem? How did Mattel respond? By flooding the market with clone dolls until the stores were so full of music related dolls, the market collapsed. Mattel didn't care, they just discounted and sold off the overstocked Barbies, but it drove Hasbro out of the fashion doll business. Lesson learned here is, don't ever try to compete with Barbie.
I guess no one told that to the folks at MGA. The difference of course is Mattel also tried to copy Bratz and their version was a complete bomb. Hence the lawsuit. Can't compete, cheat.
Frankly I hope MGA wins the appeal and drives Mattel into the ground, someone needs to do it.
'til This country's economy is built on competition, not lawsuits and bailouts.
Keep the Adventure Alive,
* Please don't write me and tell me Bratz are nothing more than little plastic tramps corrupting our kids, that's not what this post is about. Anyway, I think there are a lot of worse things out there then big-eyed fashion dolls. Britney anyone?
** Yes, I need to finish my Sizzlers writeup. I think I'm inspired now.