Making it Funomenal: A Q&A with Robert Pasin of Radio Flyer | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

Making it Funomenal: A Q&A with Robert Pasin of Radio Flyer

July 7, 2021

By Mike Kaufman


Robert Pasin, chief wagon officer at Radio Flyer and grandson of the company’s founder, is no stranger to innovation. Throughout the years, he’s helped the iconic 104-year-old brand establish itself as a leader in imagination and play and continues to position the brand for future success by carefully leveraging key consumer insights. At the 2021 ANA Brand Activation & Creativity Conference, presented by TikTok, Pasin discussed the importance of establishing a brand identity and leveraging its purpose within your overall brand strategy. In advance of his presentation, the ANA spoke with Pasin about how the brand is driving innovation in sustainability and technology and leveraging its expertise to explore new product categories.


Q. How do you foster a company culture that is creative and innovative, while at the same time embracing your heritage?

The workplace culture we foster at Radio Flyer is conducive to fresh creativity and innovation. I’m enthusiastic about creating a workplace that recognizes the strengths of each individual. Showing gratitude for our Flyers, their ideas and differences, and celebrating little victories is important to me and imperative for our success. I’m committed to organizational transparency as well. I often share stories of my own failures with my team and intentionally reiterate the importance of ‘planting lots of seeds’ to see what grows. The environment we’ve created at Radio Flyer is something I’m very proud of and something that continues to win us awards each year.

Beyond this, Radio Flyer continues to be fueled by our brand mission: to create smiles and warm memories that last a lifetime. When I first joined the company, uncovering the brand’s purpose — the reason we exist, not simply what we make — was fundamental in defining our path forward. I truly believe that profits follow purpose, so creating an inspired company culture and brand that’s founded in our purpose was crucial.


Q. Being that the Radio Flyer brand has been around for over 100 years, how do you keep your creativity fresh?

When I first became Chief Wagon Officer (CEO) in 1997, I was focused on continuing my grandfather’s legacy and creating a company that could withstand any hardship — including the tumultuous toy industry. At the time, the company was outdated and blinded by the success of its previous 60 years, with no direction or path forward. My mission to transform the business started from the inside out. I began asking questions, addressing the disconnected company culture and zeroing in on the company’s purpose. Remaining committed to these two elements — our workplace culture and brand purpose — have been transformational for the company and continues to be how we inspire imagination, innovation and creativity while staying true to our heritage.


Q. In your session at the Brand Activation & Creativity conference, you plan to discuss the importance of establishing a brand identity and leveraging its purpose within your overall brand strategy. Can you tell us a little bit about how you've done that?

Radio Flyer was founded by my grandfather more than 100 years ago, so its success has always been my mission. When I first became Chief Wagon Officer, Radio Flyer was a declining company. Our original steel and wooden wagons were threatened by competitors’ plastic wagons, and we were struggling to stay relevant. I became laser-focused on redefining the brand and building a company that could withstand any hardship. This path forward began by asking one simple question: “Why do we exist?” The answer for us was simple. Our purpose is to create smiles and warm memories that last a lifetime. Understanding our purpose, rather than what we made for people, was a pivotal moment in our reinvention. Today, we continue to be a mission-based company; Everything we do and create is driven by our purpose. Even as we continue to innovate — developing new product lines like our FLYER line of electric bikes and scooters — the brand’s purpose is foundational in propelling us forward while staying true to our roots.


Q. Children have such short attention spans and they’re only getting shorter, so messaging needs to be quick and effective. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to target this audience, but facing challenges?

My advice to others looking to target this audience and stay relevant within the industry is to stay true to your brand’s purpose. Everything you do and create should come back to the reason you exist for consumers — not what you make for them. Guided by our purpose (creating smiles and lifelong warm memories), Radio Flyer is focused on developing products not only for kids but for families. Our products are designed with quality in mind and created with the intention of standing the test of time — for generations to enjoy. This is how we bring value to consumers and is how we stand out in a marketplace filled with ‘short attention spans.’


Q. How do you continue to stay fresh and relevant in a world with digital toys, instant gratification and a product line that is nostalgic?

For better or worse, the toy industry is incredibly fad driven. This tends to discourage quality and durability, as toys are often thrown away as families look to clean house to make room for the next round of birthday gifts or Christmas presents. Radio Flyer has found success being one of the few products in the toy realm that is often passed down from generation to generation. While we’ve expanded our product line to include everything from tricycles to bounce houses, we want you to keep that little red wagon for as long as possible, and we have the warranty and replacement policy to prove it.

Additionally, I believe that no matter how high-tech our kids’ toys get, there will always going to be a demand for products that facilitate outdoor play. Especially during the pandemic, we saw families use our products as a reprieve from the indoors. When the remote work and virtual school days came to a close, people made evening walks their new ritual as they sought an escape from their homes.


Q. How do you best communicate your products and the idea of play to both the parent and the child, while still being authentic to both?

At the end of the day, while our products are enjoyed by the entire family, but we’re marketing to the adults in that equation. The key to staying authentic to our fans is watching them and learning from their real behaviors. We are constantly asking ourselves, “How can our customers show us the way?” We study their behavior to discover problems we can solve, then plant a lot of seeds, without betting the farm on any single one of them.

Products like the Ultimate Family Wagon were born from this concept. After watching our customers finagling umbrellas and rigging makeshift canopies on their wagons for shade, we introduced an integrated canopy. Similarly, when scooters hit the scene, we watched how small children struggled to ride them and changed the design of the wheels to make them easier to maneuver.

By solving problems for our customers, we’re staying authentic to their needs, and maintaining our mission, which is to help families create warm memories that last a lifetime.


Q. What do you think will be Radio Flyers’ biggest opportunities and challenges during the next 100 years?

Over our nearly 105-year history we’ve seen the highest of highs and some really low lows. We’ve navigated through those lows by cultivating a strong culture and creating a “best place to work,” which I firmly believe encourages stronger productivity, collaboration, innovation and creativity. Despite our success, we know that we can never stop innovating. Just recently we launched our first ever line for adult riders — FLYER — which features electric bikes and scooters. It’s this kind of envelope pushing that will present more opportunity for us, and also help push us through the inevitable challenges that come with growing a century-old brand.

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