Toy Stories Chapter 12: Hot Wheels Europe

by Paul Fish | 07 Jun 2021

Industry Commentary

It is sometimes hard to imagine that successful brand in the US can be virtually unknown in other markets. Such was the case of Hot Wheels ca 2000. Thanks some creative out-of-the-box thinking and actions by folks like Oyvind IhleSarita Bhargava & Jose Domingo Verdera Server, and many others, Hot Wheels soon became the number one vehicle brand in Europe! Toy Stories Chapter 12: Hot Wheels Europe!


Introducing Hot Wheels cars and track play Europe was fraught with peril. We faced resistance from retailers AND our own local offices. “Kids in Europe don’t play that way!” Well, focus groups and quantifiable viability testing said differently, so we needed a strategy. The US-based brand team had a marketing plan, but it was for an established brand. They said advertising just cars wouldn’t work, but Spain did it anyway, and it worked. They said we needed to create retail real estate on the pegboard, but retailers told us that it cost too much to restock, so Northern Europe created an easy-to-replenish birdfeeder display as an alterative to in-aisle, and that worked! In fact, that display alone was responsible for an increase of 10m basic cars/year!


Through best-practice-sharing, we soon developed a plan that worked for all markets:

  1. Launch advertising basic cars in the Fall and execute the “birdfeeder display” at retail
  2. Follow-up with simple track sets in the Spring.
  3. Follow the "Lag Strategy": Select and market sets one-year after they are launched in the US, and only pick the winners.
  4. In the Fall, advertise the Shark Park set. It was a sure fire winner, and we could assure retailers that we’d advertise again in the Spring to clear up excess inventory. In every market, the Shark Park sold though in the Fall.
  5. Advertise the Shark Park again in the Spring
  6. Now the retailers were confident, and that’s when we were able to launch the big-ticket sets like the Fireball and T-Wrecks.

This plan literally worked every time we executed. We proved once and for all that kids did indeed want to play with cars on track, and were willing to pay more than €40 to do it. And the brand is still the number one vehicle brand in Europe to this day. Great product is great everywhere.

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