Lily Crawford ’06 is a smart and sophisticated woman. What else would you expect from a Classics major whose studies included things like translating the Old Testament from Greek? She also holds an MBA from Vanderbilt.
As the director of global brand marketing at Mattel in Los Angeles, Crawford oversees the introduction of new doll brands, and it’s kind of humorous to hear this intellectual talk about one of her favorite product launches in recent memory, Pooparoos Surpriseroos – toys that poop, basically.
“They’re little squishy animals that just took off and did very well for us,” she says, sitting in a small café near the toy giant’s El Segundo headquarters.
Truth be told, creating and marketing a successful new toy line involves a complex alchemy of engineering, marketing savvy and intuition. Pooparoos, for instance, combine the popularity of YouTube “unboxing” videos of surprise toys with the cuteness of the poop emoji and the trend of gross-out toys – but one that appeals to girls.
“It’s a super dynamic job in a super competitive industry,” says Crawford, whose team works closely with the toy and packaging designers to architect the product line. “You can do all the analysis in the world, and it can’t necessarily predict the next big thing because there’s such an emotional component to play.”
To remind her of her love of Mattel toys, Crawford has posted on her office wall an “about Lily” clipping she did in preschool that notes her favorite thing to do is “play Barbies.” As the second of four children who moved four times before middle school due to her dad’s work as a neuroradiologist, she had her sights set on becoming an attorney like her mom when she arrived at CofC, where the campus felt like a fairy tale. Her roommates thought she was a bit crazy, though, when she told them she was majoring in the Classics.
“I didn’t want to be one of hundreds of communication majors,” she explains. “Luckily, I had parents who were a little impractical and said, ‘You’re at school to learn how to learn.’ Plus, I thought it would be a really solid basis for figuring out law.”
After graduating, she moved to Washington, D.C., with some of her classmates, and it was her unique major that helped her land a job as a paralegal in the D.C. office of one of the Southeast’s biggest law firms, Nelson Mullins. By the time she was 25, she pivoted into the role of office manager, overseeing legal secretaries twice her age and throwing the firm’s big inauguration party for Barack Obama.
Seeing how lonely and boring a lawyer’s job could be soured Crawford on the profession, so she enrolled in the MBA program at Vanderbilt to shore up her business skills. During the summer between the two-year program, she interned with Mattel, which offered her a position as an associate global brand manager after she graduated in 2011. She quickly rose through the ranks to her current position at the 12.5-acre campus just south of Los Angeles, where employees take Hot Wheels and Barbie shuttles between buildings. Her most recent project was the news-making launch this past fall of Creatable World, Mattel’s first gender-neutral doll series, which she calls “one step in the journey to make the world a more inclusive and welcoming place for us all.”
She couldn’t be prouder to be part of such a forward-thinking company.
“I thought I’d be here for a year, but I absolutely loved it,” she says. “It was so creative, busy and a whirlwind. Mattel also does a great job of putting women in true leadership roles. The culture really allows women to be both moms and successful business people.”
Women like Crawford.
Featured image of Lily Crawford by Austin Nelson