Digital Transformation or Extinction: Q&A with Hasbro’s Victor Lee

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In his opening keynote at ClickZ Live Chicago this November, Victor Lee will be discussing digital transformation and how to make critical decisions and not become extinct in the era of so many new platforms and new trends.

ClickZ (CZ): In your upcoming keynote session at ClickZ Live Chicago you will be speaking about three T’s – talent, trends and transformation. Tell us why they are important to every business’s strategy.

Victor Lee (VL): In the NBA, the game changed when the shot clock and the three point line were added. Teams now had to have different talent on the floor to compete. When the web started broadcasting the news, TV and print had to change their talent and equipment to adhere to the consumer trends or they wouldn’t grow. In today’s age, trends can make or break a brand or company. The key is knowing what is real and what is just a fad that will go away. It’s not about who is first to adapt but who adopts the best.

CZ: What are the main qualities that you’re looking for when hiring new talent?

VL: In digital it’s hard to judge talent based on their experience given how new digital is and how often it changes. Every manager should focus on whether or not the candidate is willing to and be passionate about learning, growing and discovering with the industry. We look for candidates that treat this industry as a hobby. Ones that have the natural curiosity. Not the inventors or the tinkerers, but the ones that wonder why the same banner ads keep showing up on their Facebook feed, the ones that go onto websites to see if they’ve been retargeted, the ones that reverse engineer the process just for the kicks of it.

CZ: Can you predict a buzzword or a platform that is new and splashy now that you think will become a digital marketing mainstay?

VL: I don’t believe anyone in this industry can adequately predict anything, year of mobile, more video, more data…there will be more of everything, but that’s the nature of the business. We all want more, one more minute of sleep, one more slice of pizza, one more. There is no end to the web, it’s endless and boundless. Instead of predictions, we focus on quick adoption and adaptation. I also don’t believe in buzzwords, I think they are used to sell books and cover up the unpredictable. We’ve always measured our performance, we did it for years in everything we do, but now we call it Big Data. It’s basic business principle to spend less than you make, so we call it ROI. There was a time when Digital Marketing was the nice-to-have segment of a business, now it’s becoming the tip of the sword for brands.

Some people have asked me in the past what my mobile marketing strategy was or my social strategy. We don’t have one, I answered. But we do have a marketing strategy. By creating more segments and bifurcation, we create more confusion. So instead we focus on the goal, use insights to drive strategy and develop the best stories and programs we can. Ironically, some believe that digital as a stand-alone will win. That’s not the case. Most of our programs wouldn’t have been so successful without a full marketing plan that includes television, programming, PR or retail. To us, it’s how they all tell a common story.

CZ: What were the main struggles of Hasbro’s transformation into the digital world, and how was the company able to overcome them?

VL: I wouldn’t call it a struggle. We have a great library of brands with great stories to tell. All we needed to do was tell the story in an engaging way. When you have brands that parents grew up with like Transformers, My Little Pony, Monopoly and Play Doh, it’s all about making sure that history isn’t forgotten but telling the story to a new generation.

Earlier this year we partnered with Buzzfeed to co-create with their audience and our fans the newest Monopoly Here & Now game by using their famous quiz engine to determine all the properties on the board.

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The program put Lima, Peru into the coveted Boardwalk spot on the board. That program was based on understanding that consumers today want to be involved, they want to have a voice, they don’t want to be told what a brand is but want to tell everyone what the brand is, so we let them. Additionally, that program utilized Buzzfeed, but a main part of the success was our publicity efforts, that’s the key, digital transformation isn’t about abandonment of others, it’s knowing how digital fits with everything else.

Our digital efforts couldn’t get the mayor of Pierre, South Dakota to rally her city to become the most popular U.S. City voted onto the U.S. Edition of the board. Yes, Pierre, South Dakota.

In July, we announced a partnership with Machinima to develop a web based video series for Transformers focusing on a specific area of the lore called The Combiner Wars. This will tell a new story that fans have asked for and wanted for years and will reach our fan and adult audience with one of the most popular web-based video networks in the world.

CZ: What’s the top takeaway from your presentation at ClickZ Live Chicago going to be?

VL: The main takeaways will be:

  • What companies are doing today and how they are thinking about tomorrow?
  • Are they taking the risks?
  • What type of stories are they telling and how are they telling them?

Victor Lee will be speaking at ClickZ Live Chicago on Tuesday, November 17 in an opening keynote session entitled “Digital Transformation or Extinction”.

To catch Victor Lee at ClickZ Live Chicago, get your ticket by registering here – Super Saver rates expire this Friday!

Interview conducted by Tetyana Miroshnichenko.

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