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The Friday Five: Arlene Biran


Arlene Biran is an executive at children’s entertainment company, Spin Master. As its iconic toy Etch A Sketch celebrates 60 years of encouraging analog play, Biran discloses why Spin Master acquired the brand and what consumers can look forward to seeing (and buying!) in honour of the milestone anniversary.

Etch A Sketch was originally produced by Ohio Art Company. What prompted Spin Master to acquire the toy? 

Spin Master has built a reputation for acquiring legacy brands and infusing innovation. Etch A Sketch is one of only a handful of breakthrough toys that’s popularity spans generations and keeps on growing. It’s a timeless toy that encourages creativity. As we plan our 60th-year celebrations of the classic red-frame toy, we are reminded of the strong brand identity that is the reason we acquired this iconic brand. It truly is the original magic screen!

The Friday Five

What makes classic toys like Etch A Sketch attractive to Spin Master?

As a company, we strive to create evergreen brands, so acquiring a brand like Etch A Sketch is appealing for both marketing and design groups to work on. It’s truly amazing to work on a brand that has over 90% brand awareness and has permeated pop culture. Although Spin Master has infused its own innovation into Etch A Sketch, we also remain focused on maintaining the brand’s nostalgia. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to maintain the heritage while also ensuring it remains relevant within today’s culture.

The Friday Five

What about Etch A Sketch gives it a multi-generational appeal?

The classic red-framed screen has been spotted in film and TV shows such as Toy Story, Elf, and Stranger Things and is one of our most-requested items for material releases in TV commercials and set dressings. It has also secured a spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame and in the Smithsonian.

Etch A Sketch promotes creativity and imagination and is centred around a universal play pattern that kids of all generations recognize: drawing. Since we acquired the brand, Spin Master has set a Guinness Book of World Records title for “Most People Drawing on an Etch A Sketch Globally at the Same Time”, while also infusing innovation into the toy with new variations and product launches. In August 2020, we are excited to release the Etch A Sketch Revolution, the first-ever Etch A Sketch that lets you draw perfect circles every time.

The Friday Five

How has people’s use of Etch A Sketch changed over the years?

I think at its core, the brand has not evolved much over the years, however, the way it is referenced in pop culture and the licensing in and out opportunities have elevated the brand to ensure relevance. Spin Master’s own innovation has also influenced use, such as the Etch A Sketch Freestyle, which made it easier for kids to engage at a younger age.

The Friday Five

How is Spin Master recognizing the toy’s 60th anniversary this year?

Etch A Sketch teamed up with other iconic brands to unveil a series of limited-edition launches that were made available throughout the anniversary year. We joined forces with the classic board game Monopoly, space exploration leader NASA, heritage toy Rubik’s, and comic book marvel Stan Lee.

Each limited-edition Etch A Sketch merged two iconic worlds into one magical, shake-to-erase collector’s item. At Toy Fair New York in February, Spin Master also unveiled a limited Diamond Edition Etch A Sketch, featuring a sleek black frame and custom crystal knobs. All these special editions are available on etchasketch.com and will release more widely on Etch A Sketch Day (July 12th). On the official anniversary (July 12th), the classic version will also be offered at 60% off in honour of the 60-year milestone.

The Friday Five

Visit etchasketch.com to shop classic and limited editions of the iconic toy.

Five questions, one fascinating person (or team!) – look into the minds of movers and shakers in the nostalgia, game, play, or toy industry.