In a controversial tie-in only a fellow Marketer could appreciate, seems Mattel’s Barbie has ruffled a few feathers yet again by being featured on a faux cover wrapping a mere 1,000 issues of the iconic Sports Illustrated ‘s 50th Anniversary ‘Swimsuit Issue,‘ declaring her “The Doll That Started It All.”
Feminist opponents feel this is bad (and, of course, that Barbie in general engenders self esteem issues in little girls. Never mind their distaste for the SI Swimsuit Issue in general.) Proponents laud that Barbie is taking her place among fashion icons like Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, Kathy Ireland, and Christie Brinkley (though I’m not so sure about Brinkley), who have seen their brains and business savvy carry them far beyond Super Modeldom and turn them into wildly successful business moguls. Then add a limited edition doll “available only at Target” and you’ve got one heck of a marketing party!
Body issues seriously aside (since there is no way opponents will ever accept Barbie in any way — even after her more than 100 career choices over the years, including doctor, vet, spaceship commander, and yoga instructor!), the Marketing Team at Mattel’s job is “that she remain top of mind” and culturally relevant. So they have created campaigns to sell her “Malibu Dreamhouse” with the help of Josh Altman, cast member of “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles,” and Trulia, one to partner with Royal Caribbean Cruises, and a You Tube web series of her life with beau Ken, after a long separation, among others! And now, after 50 years, she graces the cover of SI with an #Unapologetic campaign! Now that’s a busy woman!
I am as strong an opponent of the unhealthy image of women portrayed in advertising/the media as one could be. I am vocal about using more “Real Sized” models in TV and advertising (WHY are they called “Plus Size” I ask?), I applaud and purchase brands that respect “reality” and fight against “sizism” (one of the last still-acceptable forms of discrimination) and don’t buy those whose principals I disagree with. But I believe that it is not until the fashion houses and the runways, the print ads and the TV shows, ALL turn a page in depicting what is portrayed as beautiful for years and years.. and years consistently, that girls’ /women’s body issues will shift. I seriously do not think, after 50+ years, that Barbie is the culprit.
I think Mattel has a Brand to evolve and is doing so pretty well. And come on, are G.I. Joe’s shoulders and muscles really that big?