Who is responsible for the Product Quality? The designer, the manufacturer or the brand?

I can tell that in Mattel they have been discussing intensely this question during the last three months. So far, the problems they have faced with the Product Quality has forced them to retire 21 million toys and, what is worst, it has definitively hurt its Brand Image.


I guess you know the story but I will summarize it. Some months ago, Mattel announced it will be retiring millions of toys in Europe + USA for they might contain a potentially hurtful paint. Later on, they had to retire more products that contained a magnet that could be swallowed by children. When doing the announcement, they filtered that the reason for poor quality was improper manufacturing done by Chinese suppliers. However last week, one Senior Executive from Mattel met with the chief of China´s watchdog quality, and publicly explained that the problem was not the manufacturing but the design. It is still not clear whether the latter is true or not, but the remark was done under Chinese pressure.

So, coming back to my initial question: Who is responsible in this case for the Product Quality? The company that designed the toys, the Chinese manufacturers or Mattel? To me it is pretty clear: The Brand, Mattel, is to take full responsibility. It is so because:

1.They are one commercializing the products.
2. Therefore, they are the ones having their brand reputation at stake.
3. They are the ones subcontracting both the design and manufacturing.

Sure that in this case the power of the Chinese suppliers is huge (China is currently producing more than two thirds of Mattel´s production), that you do not have a real option due to its low production costs, and that supervision is still really hard in this country. But, unless you can guarantee that the production is complying with your quality requisites, you are taking a huge risk and are subject to situations like this.

mattel cars.jpg

On the other hand, you have China reputation as a manufacturer, which has taken the worst part. The “Made in China” has definitively suffered and many consumers might decide not to purchase toys (and other items) manufactured there (I will take this point in another blog). Local authorities must do something in this respect on top of forcing a well-known Brand to take the responsibility.

Remember: The consumers do not care about the designers or manufacturers you have used. They trust you as a Brand and give all the responsibility to you.

Thoughts, comments and remarks are welcome.

Think Different!!!

Ignacio Gafo


Sergio Fogel (Virtual Numbers Expert) October 3, 2007 - 3:06 am

Last month I was in a meeting with people from Mellanox, a recently IPO’d firm. I was very impressed with their philosophy, which I summarize in three points:

You are responsible for everything bad that happens. If your supplier missed the date, then it was your fault that you did not realize it in time, or your fault when choosing the supplier, or that you did not negotiate the right contract.

As a manager, you must always hire people smarter than you.

The people doing the real work are at the bottom of the pyramid. Management has to serve them, and not the other way round.

Virgil Vogel December 9, 2008 - 3:54 pm

Ultimately, when you put your brand onto a product, you are responsible for its content, regardless of any outsourcing of the manufacturing.


Laura March 30, 2009 - 2:10 pm

I agree with Ignacio.
The brand is the one that employs, therefore Mattel is the one to blame. Someone in the company should had supervised that paint and designs were ok. Don’t the toys need to go through some kind of ‘health an safety’ check before going to the market?
Didn’t they test the designs before launching them?


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