New Research on the Region

  • November 2020
  • Case

HP Instant Ink: (Self) Disrupting the Consumer Printing Market

By: Elie Ofek, Marco Bertini, Oded Koenigsberg and George Gonzalez

Seeking to disrupt the consumer printing market (before being disrupted by others), and in response to customer pain points, in 2013 HP Inc. launched an ink replenishment service called Instant Ink, where customers pay a monthly subscription fee based on the number of pages printed. Replenishment cartridges are automatically sent to the customer prior to running out of ink. The service had reached 7.5 million subscribers by mid 2020 and senior management now expected to scale it substantially. Several growth opportunities were being considered, these included: targeting customers with printers enabled to be part of the service but who declined to join in the past; making instant ink the default option when buying a new printer; adjustments to the pricing tiers and other plan components; more extensive marketing efforts to generate awareness; geographical exansion; broadening the service to laser toners; attacking the remote work space; and thinking about ways to bundle additional elements, such as paper and hardware (printers, computers, etc.). A concrete growth plan to make Instant Ink a multi-billion dollar business was needed before the annual Wall Street analyst conference to be held in the fall of 2020.

  • November 2020
  • Case

Guild Education: Unlocking Opportunity for America's Workforce

By: William A. Sahlman, Michael D. Smith, Nicole Tempest Keller and Alpana Thapar

Founded in 2015, Guild Education is an education marketplace that connects employers and universities to provide employees with ‘education as a benefit.’ The Denver-based company is transforming traditional tuition assistance programs by facilitating direct payment by the employer to the academic institution and by supporting students with coaching and advising. By October 2020, Guild had gained market traction and demonstrated impressive results. Rachel Carlson, CEO and cofounder of Guild, must decide how to manage the company’s future growth. She believes there is great potential within its core education marketplace to expand the network of academic institutions and portfolio of company partners. Carlson also envisions extending the business model and entering the career placement market. To successfully do that, she needs to find the same incentive alignment in these new businesses as in Guild’s core education platform. Would it be possible to find a solution that would result in a win-win outcome for all?

  • September 2020 (Revised November 2020)
  • Case

Culture Transformation at Microsoft: From ‘Know it All’ to ‘Learn it All’

By: Francesca Gino, Allison Ciechanover and Jeff Huizinga

  • September 2020
  • Case

Hot Wheels: Launching The Mixed Play Experience

By: Elie Ofek, Andres Terech and Nicole Tempest Keller

Chris Down, Global Brand General Manager for Hot Wheels, and his team from the Advanced Play Group within Mattel, Inc., had developed an entirely new “mixed play” product experience that blended familiar Hot Wheels play in the physical world with breakthrough play in the digital world. The technology underlying the product was an NFC chip embedded in the physical Hot Wheels die-cast car that could be scanned to add a digital version of the car into a virtual domain, where users could see their stats and play video games with the car. The goal for the new mixed play experience was to extend the age of the Hot Wheels customer, as children were observed to be moving on from physical toys to digital play at a younger and younger age. The mixed play concept had received unprecedented investment and support, since it represented a whole new approach to play that could set the stage for the future of Hot Wheels and other Mattel brands. In early 2019, the product development phase was nearly complete and plans were being set for the launch. Key decisions needed to be made around positioning, naming, pricing, channel, promotion, and launch timing. Given the high expectations for the innovative mixed play platform, it was critical to get these go-to-market decisions right.

  • September 2020 (Revised October 2020)
  • Case

Hot Wheels at Mattel: Reinventing the Wheel

By: Elie Ofek, Andres Terech and Nicole Tempest Keller

In 2017, Chris Down, Global Brand General Manager for Hot Wheels, and his team from the Advanced Play Group within Mattel, Inc., were considering which innovation path to pursue in order to "future proof" the Hot Wheels franchise going forward. Hot Wheels was the number one selling toy in the world (by unit volume), however, play patterns among children were rapidly changing and children were moving on from physical toys to digital play at a younger and younger age. Hot Wheels needed to determine how to respond. One option considered was the development of a new “mixed-play” product that blended physical and digital play. While the mixed play idea was still at an early conceptual stage, it would likely involve embedding a chip into the Hot Wheels die-cast car, turning it into a “smart car” with its own unique identification. Users could play with the smart car in the physical world and on an app, thus offering an opportunity to also appeal to Hot Wheels consumers who were intrigued by digital play. Hot Wheels had made a number of forays into the digital space over the years, through licensing the brand to app and game developers and developing toys with some digital elements. The licensing strategy was low risk, low reward, and Mattel’s own digital development had produced varied results, creating a culture hesitant to take big risks in the digital space. Down knew that a mixed play innovation would require a significant investment in time and resources. However, Hot Wheels parent company, Mattel Inc. had seen revenues and operating income drop for the past three years. It was unclear if Mattel’s new CEO, Margo Georgiadis, would be supportive of the mixed play direction as the cornerstone of Hot Wheels’ growth plan. With Hot Wheels’ 50th anniversary coming up in 2018, Down had to decide whether his team should push for an out-of-the-norm investment in this new mixed play idea or should Hot Wheels focus its time and resources on physical toys, developing a special collection of die-cast cars for the 50th anniversary? Alternatively, should Hot Wheels meet the age compression challenge head on by considerably expanding its pure digital initiatives?

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California Research Center Team

Allison Ciechanover
Executive Director
George Gonzalez
Senior Researcher
Jeffrey Huizinga
Senior Researcher
Nicole Keller
Senior Researcher