Recipient, Inventor Advocacy, 2012
In the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and part of the 1980’s, Mel Taft and the Milton Bradley Company were synonymous. For inventors, the door to licensing product at the world’s largest game company was opened by Mel Taft. During many of those years, Mel was Sr.VP of Marketing and R&D, and company sales grew from $5 million to $500 million in sales.
In 1949, the question was how would a newly minted Harvard MBA fit into the world of games? The answer lay with the fact that Mel had numerous personal qualities that attracted inventors to MB. He was enthusiastic, inquisitive, energetic, supportive and above all, playful. His physical qualities were always easy to spot in the industry. Not many toy people reached his 6′ 5″ stature, wore a signature “crew cut” when coiffed styles were well passed the collar, and had a preference to camel hair jackets and suede bucks over shiny pin-stripped suits. Many inventors received his loving back slaps and heard his friendly high decibel belly laugh that resonated in meetings. Mel was always ready to roll up his sleeves and play a new game.
Under his direction, MB games featured early TV characters like Hopalong Cassidy and Howdy Doody followed by many cartoon based games. Seeing that TV game shows appealed to the older crowd, Mel pushed for home versions, including Concentration, Jeopardy, and the Price is Right. Concentration was the first MB million seller. Mel Taft helped put the word “mass” in “mass market games”.
Mel lined up celebrity spokes persons including Art Linkletter, Lucy Ball, and the Odd Couple. Acting on advice that electronics were coming big time, Mel licensed many enhanced products like Simon, StarBird, and preschool Alphie Robot.
Mel Taft treated inventors as kingmakers. Those inventor-marketer relationships common in Mel’s days need to be sustained today to continue the infusion of creativity and innovation into the current industry. The world of play owes Mel Taft a big ”thank you”.