Hasbro Eases Up on Easy-Bake Oven

Toymaker to Launch Product in More Gender-Neutral Colors After Social-Media Pressure

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Score one for the kids. Hasbro said yesterday that it will have black-and-silver Easy-Bake Ovens on the shelves by next fall, following an online petition by a New Jersey teenager who wanted an oven in a gender-neutral version for her 4-year-old brother.

Thirteen-year-old McKenna Pope and her family visited Hasbro headquarters Monday, invited by the toymaker to meet with the Easy Bake team. Hasbro then showed her a preview of the oven, which it said "has been in development over the past 18 months," and promised her it will be on shelves before the next holiday season. In a statement Hasbro said, "We value input from our consumers and given the widespread interest in McKenna Pope's story, we extended an invitation to McKenna and her family," adding that the new design will be unveiled at Toy Fair in February. The current pink-and-purple versions of Easy-Bake Ovens will also still be available.

"That's very cool. It shows that they're listening," said Marc Rosenberg, CEO of SkyBluePink Concepts and a longtime toy marketer, formerly with Tiger Electronics and Hasbro. "But if they had it in development, why didn't they just say that to start with? They could have stopped all of it a few weeks ago."

The controversy began when McKenna created a change.org petition asking Hasbro to offer the oven toy in a version other than pink or purple because her little brother wanted one. She wrote that the gender-specific colors and the lack of boys in Easy Bake's marketing "sends a clear message: women cook, men work." Her petition garnered more than 44,000 signatures in just a few weeks, inspired a YouTube video created by well-known male chefs voicing their support and picked up major media coverage, including the Los Angeles Times, Ms. Magazine, CNN and "Good Morning America."

McKenna told the Associated Press she was "amazed" at how closely Hasbro's plan mirrored her request, and that little brother Gavyn Boscio declared the new oven "awesome."

"Social media empowers consumers in a way never available," Mr. Rosenberg said. "Consumers, even young ones, are very savvy and know how to get attention. And by the way, the smart companies are the ones who are not only listening, but using it as a positive."

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