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Hall of Fame Profile: Pamela Velarde

Pamela Velarde is a longtime believer that change is the only constant. It’s a guiding mantra for her in many ways.

Pamela Velarde

TITLE: Vice President of Omnichannel Retail Marketing


Team Members: Alicia Crespin, Director, Omnichannel Retail Marketing, Walmart; Liz Buffum, Director, Omnichannel Retail Marketing, Amazon; Lisa Ou, Director, Omnichannel Retail Marketing, Target; Carrie McKenzie, Senior Manager, Space Insights; Nicole Sneider, Senior Manager, Omnichannel Retail Marketing Growth Channels; Laura Campos, Manager, Omnichannel Retail Marketing Licensed Entertainment.

Career Path: 

  • Mattel, Vice President, Omnichannel Retail Marketing (2021-present); Senior Director, Omnichannel Retail Marketing (2020-2021); Senior Director, Customer Marketing: Emerging Channels, Walmart and Target (2018-2020); Director, Customer Marketing, Emerging Channels (2016-2018); Senior Manager, Customer Marketing, Toys ‘R’ Us (2015-2016); Senior Manager, Barbie Global Marketing - Barbie (2014-2015); Manager, Barbie Global Marketing - Barbie (2012-2014); Manager, International Strategic Planning (2011-2012); Senior Associate, International Strategic Planning (2010-2011)
  • The Boston Consulting Group, Consultant 
  • Skyworks Solutions Inc., Senior Product Engineer (2004-2006); Product Engineer (1999-2004)

Industry Activities: 

  • Executive Sponsor, Unidos (Mattel Hispanic ERG) 
  • Leader, Executive Women Lean In at Mattel 
  • Member, Chief 
  • Mentor, Wharton Venture Lab Mentoring Initiative 
  • Mentor, Women in Toys 
  • Creator and Co-Lead, Multicultural Night at Jefferson Elementary School

Education: UC Irvine, Bachelor’s, Computer Engineering; Master’s, Electrical Engineering; The Wharton School, Master’s of Business Administration, Strategy and Marketing.

Pamela Velarde is a longtime believer that change is the only constant. It’s a guiding mantra for her in many ways. 

A classically trained engineer, she found success in her early career working as a product engineer. But she lacked a true passion for her work. She knew her strengths in numbers and analytics, and used business school as her first step in a new direction.

Today, as vice president of omnichannel retail marketing at Mattel, Velarde leads the team that is responsible for retail strategy and promotional strategy/execution across all retailers in both stores and dot-com (commerce through Mattel’s websites), e-commerce and retail media, as well as in-store space analysis and optimization — work that she says is changing every day.

The Early Years

A native of Cusco, Peru, Velarde was raised by a civil engineer father and an educator mother who opened her own school, combining her love of teaching and her entrepreneurial nature. The oldest of three children, Velarde was the first to move away from her hometown, initially to the capital city of Lima, but then to the U.S. amidst terrorism occurring in Lima at the time. 

Extended family took her to California, where she earned her computer engineering degree from UC Irvine and held internships that included programming Johnson & Johnson sterilization machines and writing code to solve the Y2K problem for an auto loan provider. After graduating, she began a seven-year tenure at Skyworks Solutions as a product engineer and earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering, also from UC Irvine.

With business school in her sights, Velarde secured a full fellowship to The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned an MBA in strategy and marketing and then worked as a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group in New York, where she honed strategic skills while working in many different industries. 

But a part of her always wanted to get back to Los Angeles, in part because her parents and brother had also moved from Peru to Orange County by that time, in search of a better life for her disabled brother. 

Career Development

Looking back, Velarde says she’s always been intrigued by big brands. Barbie dolls were a favorite childhood toy, and she’d always seen toy giant Mattel as a dream job. When a position opened in international strategy, she jumped in with both feet and moved across the country once again.

Velarde’s first work at Mattel was a broad international strategy assignment that took her to China to visit homes and conduct interviews, and it resulted in partnering with the Mattel Barbie marketing team to launch the first Chinese localized Barbie line. “We worked to understand shoppers and consumers, what they wanted, and found that we needed to be tailoring the brand’s product and messaging to the shopper,” she says. “Many times, you don’t see strategy’s results right away, but that really cemented my love for the brand, shopper and product.”

From there, Velarde moved onto the product and marketing team as a manager for Barbie global marketing. After a few years, she transitioned to omnichannel retail marketing in the U.S., starting with growth channels and eventually taking responsibility to lead all channels. In her nearly 14-year tenure, Velarde has held nine positions of increasing responsibility within the company, the last five in customer/retail marketing. 

For Velarde, change — as well as the biggest business challenges of late — are two factors that motivate her daily. As the retail, media and channel landscapes change, so does the shopper, as evidenced by adult collectors driving growth in the toy business last year. “Even what we think about the traditional shopper is changing,” she notes. “We continue to refine our strategy year after year, and although that can be a challenge, it is also what keeps me interested in the role because that’s the kind of thing I love to do.”

Making Her Mark at Mattel

Velarde says her “mix of strategy, analytics and product expertise” has been a key component in her success. Priorities today center around making sure that whatever product the company is creating will work at retail. “We are very prescriptive on what we need from both a product and marketing perspective to be able to succeed at retail,” she says, adding that she was instrumental in partnering with Mattel’s global team to change everything it does from a product development perspective. 

“We’re undergoing significant changes this year to make sure that our global teams are developing product that makes sense for all channels,” she says. “It sounds simple but it really isn’t.” Data and analytics are the cornerstone in place to help them do just that. “We’re developing products for the channels as compared to developing product and then trying to pitch or sell up to the channels.” 

Equally important in her daily work has been the growth of dot-com, which now represents a sizable portion of the company’s business. Along with educating the company on how dot-com works, driving processes and support for it, Velarde is in the process of creating a Center of Excellence. 

“We’re refining strategy, establishing processes and the goal is to share these processes globally to grow in dot-com because we come from a brick-and-mortar world,” she says. “People often think things in brick and mortar translate exactly into dot-com and they couldn’t be more different, starting with how the shopper shops,” she says, noting that Mattel has made great strides in its leadership in dot-com within the toy business since these efforts started last year. 

Velarde points to mentors Howard Smith, a former shopper marketing executive and her first boss on the commercial side at Mattel; Jason Horowitz, senior vice president and global head of marketing and media, also a former boss; and current boss, Mark McColgan, senior vice president and general manager, USA Commercial, as all having played instrumental roles throughout her career’s progression. She also credits Management Leadership for Tomorrow with helping her navigate graduate school and her early career.

Her data-driven engineering roots have translated well into the marketing space. “Every decision we make from a marketing perspective now can be data-driven,” Velarde says. “I work with fun brands, but to me the most fun part is that there is a wealth of data that we can base our decisions on rather than trying to guess or get creative in any given situation.” 

The 2023 “Barbie” movie saw massive success not only in theaters, but also at retail. Velarde says the big win in stores and online came in the form of tailored programs for different retailers. In what she refers to as a “cultural phenomenon,” the retail marketing team worked in close collaboration with its retail partners to think bigger than a theatrical release. “What made it successful is that we played to the strengths of every retailer to really tailor programs for each account,” she says. “We collaborated with retailers for more than two years on programs that really drove ship and POS for us, not just what looked pretty at retail.” 

Into the Future

Mattel’s top positioning as a toy company in the U.S. is something Velarde is proud to be a part of, and her mission is to be the No. 1 toy partner at every retailer. But not just in terms of sales: “Through insights and collaboration, we want to make sure they see Mattel as their premier partner,” she says. “That requires an understanding of who they are, providing value beyond what they know right now, and partnering very closely with them.”

Continuing to increase Mattel’s position in dot-com through her work in building the Center of Excellence as well as optimizing the online space every day, investing in retail media and other levers to create the best mix for the shopper, and finally, continuing to create the best team possible, are key growth areas for Velarde. “It’s not just about doing marketing in-store anymore,” she says. “My team is driving strategy at retail in partnership with the sales team, and I want to continue to do that as I manage this team.” 

p2pi mattel barbie
From left: Christine Yoo, Ben Ferrage, Renea Berryhill, Lauren Triplett, Pamela Velarde, Katelyn Martin, Jeanette Dalgado, Alyssa Brizuela, Jack Ritterbush, Elizabeth Buffum and Lisa Ou.
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