Mattel’s website conquers the task by creating a slowly spinning version of one of its many popular brands, View-Master. On the homepage, the images are lined up along the virtual View-Master’s rounded edge and entice visitors to enter different worlds, depending on the toy that is chosen.
Click on the Uno cards and experience tutorials on every version of Uno available. Click on the Hot Wheels car and enter a world of collector chat rooms and special deals on particular replicas for club members only. Click on another icon and get a Fisher-Price parenting guide that takes visitors from pregnancy to grandparenting. Click on…well, you get the picture. Mattel, it seems, can deal with any child’s needs.
Next to the spinning View-Master wheel on the homepage, the images of several ecstatic children bob up and down in the picture frame as if they are bouncing on an unseen trampoline. The pattern is rhythmic and playful and reinforces the concept that Mattel knows how to make children happy and vibrant.
Mattel’s iconic red color permeates the site via shirts worn by the homepage’s incessantly bouncing children, in the framing devices for different sections and simply as the background color to links on other pages. Red is everywhere, working itself into the subconscious of both parents and children.
Founded in 1945, today Mattel brings in close to US$ 6 billion in revenue annually. Look in any kid’s toy box and you’ll see how these guys come up with all that cash: They own Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, Barbie and American Girl dolls, Scrabble and Pictionary, and so on. The website’s spinning wheel has three links that go to Barbie-related content: one for the regular Barbie, one for Barbie Girls (a Second Life for Barbieheads) and one for the Barbie collector, natch. Barbie is the only brand that has several tabs on the digital View-Master wheel. And why not? That brand supposedly brings in about 80 percent of the company’s cash.
The Barbie Girls link transports visitors to an online world where they can create their own avatar and home and chat with other avatars. The Barbie collectors area makes it easy to join the Barbie Fan Club and purchase items such as mod Barbies, Marilyn Monroe Barbies and a Barbie dressed up like a pirate. Arrrgh. By clicking on the icon for the traditional Barbie, visitors can access a world of overwhelming Barbieness. With three animated and multiracial Barbies acting as hostesses, visitors can find their way to Barbie games, videos, contests, store locators, you name it.
However, when you’re a massive toy company, it’s not all fun and games. Mattel has dealt with plenty of lawsuits and toy recalls in its history. This is likely part of the reason that the company finds the room on its overcrowded homepage to note that ethisphere.com named it one of the world’s most ethical companies and Fortune put it on its list of the best companies to work for in 2009.