After spending more than two decades in the children’s entertainment industry, Kenny Davis was named GoldieBlox CMO in August of this year. He was brought on as part of a new executive team focused on growing the brand through character-based entertainment.
“Our aspirational character, Goldie, and her friends are the new face of the Maker Generation, creating a 21st century brand of fun that is available to all,” says Davis.
As CMO, Davis aims to focus the brand on its character-driven intellectual property by reflecting “Goldie’s Maker way of life” across the company’s traditional narrative, digital presence and physical products, while also expanding the brand’s media presence and product line.
Davis says GoldieBlox is a mission-driven company centered around CEO Debbie Sterling’s belief that girls have been missing out on all the fun engineering – and “making stuff do stuff” – can be.
“We work to inspire a generation of female engineers and Makers and to show girls that they can do anything,” says Davis.
Before joining GoldieBlox, Davis led a portfolio of brands for Hasbro, and helped launch the Skylanders video game for Activision and Spin Master’s popular Bakugan toy brand. Today, he gives us a glimpse behind the scenes as the marketing lead for the GoldieBlox brand.
What mobile device can you not live without?
Which apps do you use most often for work?
Audible – I “read” a business book and Harvard Business Review every month.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
The weather – love my morning walk and need to know what to wear.
Take me through your typical workday.
5:00 a.m. – wake up.
5:30 a.m. – walk.
6:00-ish – coffee where I plan out my day and wrestle with the big strategic questions that require uninterrupted thinking.
8:00 a.m. – drop off the kids at school.
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – back-to-back meetings. Most are planned, the others, often the best, are the chance hallways meetings. Everything in Entertainment is a collaboration.
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. – my time for work: emails, etc.
6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. – the part we call Life: family, exercise, dinner… and, yes, sometimes more emails.
Of course, this is a “normal” day when I don’t travel, but rarely a week goes by without some travel.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
Joining the company four months ago! (After admiring their growth for years and being friends with the CEO.)
What does your office look like — any sentimental objects you can share?
The two things I like most about my desk are:
- That it is empty…I’d like to think it is a metaphor for open-mindedness or something like that, but I’ve been told I’m just OCD
- That it is in the bullpen with the rest of my team…we talk more often and move faster because we sit together.
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
I travel a lot. I couldn’t count the miles but I have gold or platinum status on three different airlines. Changing jobs has not changed the travel.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
GoldieBlox exploded on the scene with stories and construction toys for girls, showing the industry that girls want to be “More than just a princess.”
From the beginning, fans made it clear that the message resonated. It shook the toy industry – including getting my attention when I was at a competitor.
Since that time, the success has spurred competition. Our goal is to remain the voice of this movement. We don’t have the biggest budget so we have to do it by being more authentic, more fun, and a lot bolder. Authentic and fun we have nailed. Bolder is where I lose sleep.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
I haven’t been at GoldieBlox long enough to have a do-over wish. However, the most important lesson I’ve learned in years of launching entertainment is that only thing that matters is the hits. And because of that, if something isn’t worth doing, it isn’t worth doing quickly. Take the time to do it right.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
The friends and mentors who have helped me most are those who understood that job descriptions aren’t going to match anyone’s passions exactly. You have to become an expert in something if you want the chance to do it for a living.
Back in the early 2000’s when I was interested in digital entertainment but every dot-com was imploding, a friend pointed out that the only way to learn is to get in there. He said simply, “Do more of what you want to do more of…even if you get laid off for doing it.”
I joined three different start-up companies that failed. I didn’t live large, but I never missed a meal. In the end it taught me skills that made me marketable when the economy recovered.
For years after that I had fun exploring the cutting edge of digital play with new brand launches like Skylanders and Furby – and some less successful – where we tried things that had never been done before and figured out the future.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
Curiosity, empathy, and being great with numbers. The next big thing in entertainment is almost always unlike the last big thing. To figure out what’s next, you have to read the tea leaves.
The numbers tell you what is happening today, empathy tells you what is missing, and curiosity helps you find the solution.
It is also critical to know how to get great ideas out of everyone you work with. Everyone has some form of genius. The teams that win are the ones with the most people contributing.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
I play guitar for my kids every night. We like singing the blues.
Why did you go into marketing?
Kids need great stories and toys that expand their minds in order to figure out life. There are creative geniuses making those stories and play things – but they don’t always have the skills to sell them. The market is there.
The great creatives just need an advocate. I believed from an early age I had the skills to make that connection.
What other career would you like to try, and why?
Solar energy. I’m not sure what role I would play, which is why I stick with toys, animation and video games. But I believe there will be a global renaissance when energy is substantially cheaper, low pollution, home grown, and the end user can generate it. I imagine it will be pretty lucrative for the company who is in the right place at the right time – whenever that will be.
What’s the last business book you read, and what did you think of it?
“Multipliers” by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown. I re-read it because I was starting a new job.
The premise of the book is that some bosses get a multiple of the productivity out of their workforce versus what other bosses do. The difference comes from knowing how to hold to high standards, evoke passion, build alignment, inspire confidence, etc.
It may sound touchy-feely, but it is tactical and pragmatic.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign caught your eye recently?
The Microsoft Peace campaign worked on me. They took a bold stand showing what peace looks like. It bypassed my brain and warmed my heart.
After seeing it, I feel good double clicking the Microsoft buttons on my desktop. I am sure that good feeling will translate into sales.