• Transform magazine
  • June 27, 2017

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A playful brand experience

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Toy manufacturing companies are enviably well-placed to create stories and immersive adventures around their brands and products, and have the opportunity to engage with people at the very outset of their life’s journey.

Providing children and their families with physical manifestations of the imaginary worlds inhabited by their characters and toys is the perfect way to give mini-advocates a rewarding experience, while reinforcing the brand and its persona. 

American toy company, Mattel, has just launched a family attraction in Liverpool, England. The immersive world, Mattel Play! Liverpool, is an opportunity for children and their families to interact with the brand’s best-known characters in a real-life environment. The attraction is operated by attractions company, Heritage Great Britain.   

Mattel’s portfolio of brands includes Barbie, Hot Wheels, Monster High and American Girl, and is the parent brand of Fisher-Price. Its immersive world includes three zones themed around three of its most popular characters: Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam. In order to launch Mattel Play! Mattel partnered with Heritage Great Britain, headquartered on the Albert Dock in Liverpool, the site of the new attraction. At 13,000 square feet, Mattel Play! is the first family attraction from Mattel.

Mattel is not the first toy brand to create a physical world around its brand, the Lego Group’s global chain of Lego-themed theme parks has attracted families for generations. The first LEGOLAND opened in Billund, Denmark, near the original Lego factory in 1968, and is the largest tourist attraction in Denmark outside of Copenhagen. The chain is owned and operated by British theme park company Merlin Entertainments.

Mattel Play! is closely intertwined with the wider Mattel brand, whose proposition is, ‘Creating the Future of Play’. The word ‘play’ is of particular importance to Mattel, whose code of conduct is supported by the statement, ‘Play to grow. Play together. Play with passion. Play fair.’ As a large corporation that acts as an umbrella company to a number of sub-brands, Mattel unites all of its brands under one mission: to make a meaningful difference to the lives of children around the world through play. Mattel Play! Is just one way that Mattel delivers upon this message, it allows children to play in a safe and uninhibited environment.

Graham Dentith, general manager at Mattel Play! Liverpool, says, “We’re so pleased and excited to be finally opening our doors to families. I hope everyone will get as much fun and enjoyment from visiting Mattel Play! Liverpool as we had creating it.”

In and of themselves, Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and Thomas & Friends are both well-loved characters and heritage brands that have become an important part of childhood for people spanning multiple generations. The interactive adventure play allows children to step into their favourite character’s worlds, so that it’s a much more engaging experience than watching them on television. In addition, an awareness of the link between these sub-brands and the wider Mattel brand is likely strengthened by the Mattel Play! experience.

Ashley Young, marketing manager at Heritage Great Britain, says, “We were looking to develop more indoor attractions, and Mattel were looking for an operating partner for the Mattel Play! concept, so it fitted really well.”

Allan Leech, CEO of Heritage Great Britain, says, “Everyone’s pulled together to make this happen and we’re grateful to all our city partners, local contractors and suppliers, and to Lappset Creative who built the attraction. Thanks also to our partners Mattel who’ve been incredibly supportive throughout.”