From faster decision-making to beefed-up tech, here are the ways Mattel is changing.

By Michal Lev-Ram
September 22, 2017

Margo Georgiadis, the newish CEO of Mattel, is an unlikely leader for the 72-year-old toy manufacturer: The exec, profiled in the latest issue of Fortune and No. 49 on Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women list, doesn’t come from a consumer products industry, but rather from Google. Georgiadis spent nearly a decade at the search giant, including six years as the head of the Silicon Valley company’s sales and operations in the Americas.

Now, at Mattel’s helm, she is tasked with bringing the maker of Barbie and Hot Wheels into the digital age. Not surprisingly, some of her first moves as CEO are undeniably “Googly”—not only pushing a tech-centric approach but also instituting a faster and less hierarchical culture. Here are five ways Georgiadis is Googlifying Mattel:

Beefing up tech chops

Earlier this summer, Georgiadis brought in a new chief technology officer: Sven Gerjets, the former CIO of Time Warner Cable. All of Mattel’s existing technology resources have now been consolidated under Gerjets, who is now vetting all the various tech-focused initiatives at the company. Another big task for Gerjets? Hiring more software developers and other tech talent.

To learn more about how technology is shaking up big toymakers, read “Can a Tech Makeover Save the Toy Industry?”

Meeting customers where they are

From marketing to consumers to distribution, most elements of doing business have been moving online for quite some time. But it took a Google exec to force Mattel to part ways with the past. Before Georgiadis took over, most of the toy company’s advertising spend was going to traditional television ads. The new CEO has now instituted a rule that says there needs to be a 50/50 split between TV and digital dollars. “We can still have television,” Georgiadis tells Fortune. “But we’ve got to optimize it, to at least get reach. And we’ve got to give a significant portion to digital.”

Building ‘platforms,’ not one-off products

Mattel had successfully experimented with developing tech-centric toys in the past. But the company hadn’t taken a “platform” approach to the task. A platform, in non-jargony words, is a set of software tools that lets you iterate on the same technology–say, a smart computer system that can follow commands from a child’s voice–without having to reinvent the wheel every time you develop a new product. Georgiadis is changing that. “It’s no different than in tech, right?” she says. “In tech you create the foundation, even sometimes if it doesn’t work, you take that same developmental idea and you use it to apply to a different area.” Spoken like a true Googler.

A new ‘Rule of Two’

To speed up decision-making, Georgiadis has implemented her “Rule of Two.” This states that decisions can be made with just two senior people in a room, rather than four or five–as would have been the case at the old Mattel. “There was just a lot of friction lost in the complexity of the structure, and reasons for things not to get done–not because anyone did not have good intentions, but there wasn’t a referee,” says Georgiadis. The goal? To get Mattel thinking, and more importantly acting, faster than ever.

Simplifying supply chains

Here, Georgiadis is borrowing not just from her experience at Google but also from her insights from fast food chain McDonald’s, where she has been a director since 2015. “People think it’s so easy to make hamburgers,” she says. “That consistent quality in so many restaurants, in that many parts of the world, is not an easy thing to do.” Georgiadis has tasked her head of supply chain, Peter Gibbons, to automate more of Mattel’s processes, from logistics to procurement. The good news? Gibbons comes from another supply chain master: Starbucks.


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