What makes for a great company?
Is it annual revenue? Market share? Or how fun their products are?
What if I told you there’s a company that meets all of those criteria – and even better, it’s a toy company.
Not just any toy company though – the Mattel Toy Company. The same company that made the iconic toys of your youth (and maybe the ones you’re still playing with).
Want to know more about how Mattel came to be an icon of the toy industry?
Keep reading for a brief history of Mattel came to be.
Mattel began as Mattel Creations in 1945. It was founded by Harold “Matt” Matson, and the husband and wife duo Ruth and Elliot Handler. The name Mattel was a portmanteau of Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler’s names.
The company originally sold picture frames, then branched out into dollhouse furniture.
Not long after its founding, Matson sold his share to the Handlers and exited the company.
The Birth of The Mattel Toy Company
It didn’t take long for Mattel to fully embrace the toy market. Their first hit was a ukulele marketed towards kids, called the Uke-A-Doodle.
In 1950, the Magic 8 Ball would be released. The oversized eight-ball object told a user’s fortune. Ask it a yes or no question, shake it, and check the fortune revealed to you by a die floating inside the 8-Ball.
The 8-Ball could give a range of responses, such as “It is certain,” “Yes definitely,” “Ask again later,” “My sources say no,” and “Very doubtful.”
The concept and design of the Magic 8-Ball are simple but brilliant – which is why it has changed very little since its inception. It’s still a popular toy for all ages, but something even bigger was on the horizon.
The Debut Of an Icon
A direct creation by Ruth Handler, Barbie made her world debut in 1959 at the American International Toy Fair. Immediately, the fashion doll was a hit.
Barbie wasn’t without her detractors. Over the years many people have criticized her appearance for promoting an unrealistic body image.
Despite ongoing concerns over the design of the doll, Barbie has continued to be popular since her inception. For the past two years, the Barbie brand has been the top global toy property, helping Mattel become one of the top global properties worldwide. No doubt this is due to Mattel successfully introducing new Barbie dolls over the years, including dolls with more diverse races, sizes, and careers.
The success of Barbie allows Mattel to go public in 1960. By 1963 they are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1968 they introduced a line of toy model cars, called “Hot Wheels.” Much like Barbie was a direct creation of Ruth Handler, Hot Wheels were a direct creation of Elliot Handler.
And just like Barbie, they were an immediate success – and are still popular toys to this day. More than kid’s toys, Hot Wheels are sought after by collectors. The original “Sweet 16” lineup is the most sought after, due to them being the first Hot Wheels set. Unlike other collecting hobbies, collecting Hot Wheels is easy and affordable.
A Post-Handler Mattel
Mattel’s success continued into the 1970s, but the company was not without its problems. An investigation found Mattel guilty of falsifying financial reports, which lead to the Handlers exiting the company they had founded. Mattel was now without its founders.
Mattel Toys Are Always Trending Toys
Despite the controversial ending to the Handler’s run, the company rebounded. The Mattel toy company continued to grow, focusing on its core brands, as well as expanding to include properties like He-Man and Uno. Today, Mattel toys are some of the most popular children’s toys around the world.
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