‘Nostalgia is the enemy of progress,’ says Hasbro’s Lee


┬áby Mike O’Brien

During his opening keynote at ClickZ Live Chicago, Hasbro’s Victor Lee discussed the fearlessness it takes to get ahead in digital marketing – an industry too new and ever-changing to have been mastered yet.

The first thing Victor Lee, the senior vice president of global digital marketing at Hasbro wants you to know about digital marketing is that you’re not an expert in it.

How could you be? The Internet as we know it is only 20 years old, too young to visit the beer brands’ websites that live on itself. It’s too recent for anyone to have truly mastered it and besides, all the marketing terms have been around forever – just not in their current buzzwordy state.


“Cavemen worked together. Did they call it integration? They counted how many animals they killed and ate. Did they call it big data? It’s always been around,” said Lee.

During his keynote speech opening ClickZ Live Chicago yesterday, Lee discussed the idea that if you accept the fact that you don’t know anything, you’re more likely to try something new.

“Nostalgia is the enemy of progress”, he commented. With that approach in mind, you might be more likely to fail but you’re also more likely to break through the status quo and achieve something great.

You’ve heard the regretful tales before. Blockbuster passed on Netflix. One of the original Apple founders sold his stake because it was too risky.

“Change is hard. We love to accept average,” said Lee. “We do it because it’s safe. It’s safe because someone told us and wrote it down and put it in a slide and put it in a case study because this is what the majority of the world is doing.

“We know the outcome so we’re hiding our fear of failure. I tell my team, ‘Don’t be afraid to fail; be afraid to win,'” he continued.

Illustrating his point, Lee pointed out that the average click-through rate on a banner ad is 0.1 or 0.2 percent, roughly the same odds of surviving a plane crash. Yet, everyone buys them anyway.

To keep Hasbro ahead, Lee tries to keep those principles alive in his hiring. He angers his HR department by refusing to look at resumes, and instead focuses on confidence, will, eagerness to try new things, and willingness to not only fail, but admit failure.

Rather than ask candidates where they see themselves in five years, Lee likes to ask about the most embarrassing song on their playlist, just to see what they say.

“One girl said, ‘I just love Kris Kross’ Jump’ and I was like, ‘You can have my office and my parking space,'” Lee said. “Those are the people who don’t care and will stand up in the room and say, ‘I think we should go to the moon.’ I like Kris Kross and I’m proud of that. If I stood up and said Bon Jovi, Elton John, or Billy Joel, I know everyone else in the room will get up and say, ‘Me, too.'”

The person confident and bold enough to admit that Kris Kross makes them “jump jump” is also the person who’s confident and bold enough to try to be a trailblazer. That person won’t be content to just do things as they’ve always been done, just because.

Two years ago, Hasbro decided to do something new and replace the least popular Monopoly game token with a new one, per public vote.

Some brand higher-ups were initially skeptical of the idea, given what an icon the game is. But they went along with it and the campaign generated a lot of buzz, with brands like Zappos and Tropicana going on social media to rally their support for the shoe and the wheelbarrow (since that’s what you carry oranges in), respectively.

Monopoly has been around forever, but by adopting the “nostalgia is the enemy of progress” mentality Lee likes so much, the game was somewhat refreshed. And really, who liked the iron anyway?

“When I get off the stage in a couple of minutes, [the Internet] has already changed,” concluded Lee. “The only thing I can do is try to understand what’s going on in the world and try not to get washed over by data and marketing words and pontification, but never, ever go back and say, “But that’s how we’ve always done it.'”