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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Olian, Mattel CEO talk business in a Barbie world

Haley Ruccio

To kick off Bobcat Weekend on Oct. 6, masses of students flooded the Center for Communications and Computing and Engineering auditorium to welcome Ynon Kreiz, Mattel’s CEO, to the Mount Carmel campus. Hundreds of eager eyes and ears focused in, ready to take a journey into Barbieland.

Created by Quinnipiac President Judy Olian, the presidential speaker series is a way to connect Quinnipiac with professionals and leaders from across the country. 

To begin, Kreiz told his own story, describing how his academic journey led him to become such a successful individual. He didn’t do it alone, however. Partnerships with colleagues throughout his career contributed to him reaching his goals.

“I thought, ‘I’ll find my own path, and I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it had to be special,’” Kreiz said.

Prior to moving from Israel to the U.S., Kreiz received a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Management from Tel Aviv University in 1991. In 1993, he earned his master’s from University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management.

Kreiz was once in the same shoes as many college students, not knowing exactly what they want to do.

Attendees came into the conversation expecting it to be solely based on the film “Barbie.” This wasn’t the case, however. Kreiz and Olian discussed topics like business and marketing tactics, which intrigued students and faculty across all departments.

The conversation was so relevant that some professors made attendance count for extra credit, according to various students. 

“It’s always great to be able to bring in someone new to campus to help our students learn more and what they can do to be successful,” John Morgan, Quinnipiac’s associate vice president for public relations, said.

When Kreiz became chairman of the board of directors and CEO in 2018, he had one mission: to transform the company.

“The real approach was to think of people who buy our products, not just as consumers, but as fans,” Kreiz said. “When you have a lot of fans, it’s an audience. And when you have an audience, it changes the conversation of what it is that you’re trying to achieve.”

The concept Kreiz presented to Mattel was to create innovative products and experiences that “inspire the challenging spirit in every child.”

As one of the strongest entertainment businesses, it’s not always smooth sailing; sometimes companies encounter bumpy roads. For example, Kreiz disclosed that brands, such as those Mattel owns, can be suddenly impacted by geopolitics and businesses shutting down — typical issues in today’s economy.

“Your role as a leader is really to create a flexible and dynamic organization that can respond and turn these situations into an advantage,” Kreiz said.

Mattel’s brands like Hot Wheels and Barbie go deeper than just making money — they have certain missions. Barbie explores limitless potential, while Hot Wheels inspires challenging spirit in consumers. According to Kreiz, the company has been working to create more inclusive products relevant to society, like Barbies that replicate celebrities and represent other identities and disabilities.

“I think this is a great idea. It grows my respect for Mattel as a company,” Sabrina Wojdyla, a junior law student in the 3+3 program, said.

As one of the world’s most timeless toys, the Barbie doll has impacted most children in one way or another. When the idea for the movie was introduced, Mattel and Kreiz knew it shouldn’t be a way to sell more toys. The idea was to have the audience resonate with social issues presented in the film through one of the most iconic women in history: Barbie.

“It was not about creating a movie; it was about creating a cultural event,” Kreiz said.

As Kreiz described, it’s not enough to make products to sell. Conventional or not, creating an emotional connection with consumers is how companies thrive. Breaking tradition and presenting the unconventional was all Mattel had in mind during the development process of the film “Barbie.”

By taking something timeless and developing it into something timely, Warner Bros. and Mattel created the highest-grossing worldwide film of the year, according to Box Office Mojo.

Two coffee mugs, two individuals and one poignant conversation left those who attended with a surplus of motivation. Kreiz made clear that success doesn’t happen overnight; it takes dedication and strategy.

“Kreiz showed me that innovative ideas are risky, but are worth it in the end. This discussion gave me the mentality of if he can do it, so can I,” Mia Sansone, a first-year public relations major, said.

Making this discussion personal, especially from someone so experienced, played a crucial role in keeping the audience engaged. Kreiz leaves QU with straightforward but valuable lessons, preaching the idea of remaining authentic for the benefit of future success.

“Be yourself, don’t be anyone who isn’t you, and work hard,” Kreiz said.

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    HudaOct 11, 2023 at 10:04 pm

    Good advice. I’m over 60 but I loved the Barbie satirical movie and watched it twice.