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The next Marketer to Watch is Shelby Kraushaar, who is recognized for her outstanding work and innovative marketing for Mattel. She has been in marketing for over thirteen years, with a background in fashion and banking, but has dedicated most of her time to making Mattel the recognizable brand it is today. As the VP of Global Marketing of Portfolio Dolls, she has the pleasure of managing an exciting mix of licensed brands like Disney Princess and Trolls and Mattel-owned brands like Polly Pocket and Monster High. Prior to this role, she spent 11 years marketing Barbie in a variety of roles with a consistent focus on communicating brand messaging through product, partnerships, digital narratives, events, and retail experiences. Keep reading to see how Shelby excels by speaking to the niche and creating the content and product consumers crave to see. Here is her story.

What gives me joy outside of work

My children!

A book every marketer should read

I really love Business Wars. There is a season on Mattel vs. Hasbro, and I think it serves as an inspiration to think about the industry we are in that is predicated on big swings, outside-the-box thinking, and being open to learning from failures.” 

Future of Marketing

Q: What is one thing coming down the pike for marketing you are most excited about?

I am very energized by consumers interested in viewing and engaging with short-form video content coming from brands. Marketing should feel entertaining and less disruptive. Look at the Barbie or Monster High Tik Tok channels for example. They showcase amazing video content that tells a narrative, crafts a brand’s POV and showcases products. Having consumers actively want to engage with brand content is such an exciting place for marketers to be.

Q: What’s your prediction or something you see evolving in Brand Marketing over the next few years? 

I think the importance of brand authenticity, while already important, will become even more of a necessity. Marketers must anticipate disruptions from the growth of AI. Brands engrained as trusted sources of truth with deep connections to consumers will be more successful at withstanding disruptions in trust as GenAI will create misinformation as it spreads on social platforms or recall disruptions as organic search is impacted, for example. 

Q: What widely accepted “marketing truth” or concept do you wish the industry would do away with or evolve? 

Let’s do away with the rule of one: engage one audience, deliver one message, and craft one call to action. The Barbie brand is proof that talking to one audience is limiting. Mattel has been talking to society, caregivers, gifters and kids for many years, and I think that was on display very well this summer with the movie. You can still be consistent in narrative while having nuance in audiences, messaging, and calls to action for how to engage with a brand. 

Marketing at Mattel

Q: What’s something exciting you’re currently working on?  

2023 was the global re-launch of Monster High, an amazing fashion doll brand centered on the highly important message of inclusivity. Monster High perfectly illuminates Mattel’s marketing playbook and in turn, was the top growth Dolls property of the year.   

The playbook consists of:   

Brand Purpose: Monster High is committed to fostering a more accepting world where everyone is proud to be their authentic self. The brand lives that ethos through GLAAD-nominated and Emmy Award-winning content and inclusive product that resonates.   

Consumer-centric Innovation: We introduced a new take on reveal dolls, a key play pattern in the marketplace, with the insight of turning an aspirational idea of school lockers into a compelling play pattern.   

Cultural Relevance: The brand has carved out a distinctive voice with what is known as the “kidult” audience—a hugely important and growing segment in toy brands where adults buy and collect toys for themselves. In the case of Monster High, we are partnering with pop culture horror classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Chucky, and Annabelle, releasing stunning mashup dolls that achieved practically instant sellouts. Our fan base could not be more engaged—their votes won us a People’s Choice Award at the Toy of the Year Awards, our industry’s top honor.   

Franchise Mindset: The brand has its own eco-system of product, content, publishing, gaming, music and is the most engaged doll brand on Instagram. Being part of the Monster High franchise’s continued growth is beyond exciting.   

Q: What’s the most pressing business challenge you’ve faced within the last year, and how have you tried to solve it?  

Our challenge is to keep engaging consumers as they return from post-pandemic to their busy lives, and we do that through meaningful narratives with consumers. The pull of nostalgia on millennial moms for Polly Pocket or the world-building of Disney Princess for girls, for example. We are working on consistent narratives through fragmented channels to keep the consumer engaged. 

Career and Leadership Advice

Q: What leadership muscle is most important for marketers to exercise?

Flexibility. It’s important to have flexibility in assessing what consumers need to see from brands, how to reach consumers, what consumer groups you are talking to, and how to motivate and communicate with your workforce to keep everyone engaged and invested.

Q: What’s the most game-changing career advice youve received?

A career is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, the most beneficial decisions you can make are deferring short-term rewards or doing something that sounds immediately exciting and, instead,  strengthening the foundation of your experience to navigate rewarding assignments and career growth that exceed short-term ambitions in the long run. 

Marketers to Watch is a recognition series to spotlight highly innovative and forward-thinking marketing leaders in the community. If you have someone you’d like to nominate for the series, apply here.