Marketing Lesson from Barbie… Again?

Barbie Fashionista LineOnce again, American Fashion Icon, Barbie, spotlights some of the marketing challenges faced by a mature brand trying to maintain relevance in a rapidly changing world.

From the first African American “Barbie” in the late 60’s (who wasn’t named Barbie at all, but “Christie“), through her more than 150 careers, Barbie has worked hard to maintain contemporary relevance and be a good role model for her little fans. But the launch of the latest line of “Fashionistas®” has broken new ground. The question for me — Is this a diversity/we-are-all-beautiful play, or an honest to goodness, we-believe-it-is-going-to-sell-and-make-us-money new product launch? Why do I ask?…

OK, we all know that there are tall, “petite,” and “curvy” beautiful women in this world. But will a little girl want those… or just the adults who buy them for them? Yes, there is a small collection of outfits for each new “Fashionista” body type. But will Mattel actually continue to produce a fashion collection (Barbie’s hallmark!) for 4 different doll sizes? Will little girls really want an “alternative” doll?

As a die-hard Barbie fan all throughout my childhood, I lived in her world of fashion fantasy and loved every minute. I never thought twice that I was “plus sized” and she was not.  Are little girls today more self aware? Maybe. But seems that unless the dolls are sold in a “Let’s Appreciate Everyone” set of 4, it will simply be a popular vote as to how many tall, “petite,” and “curvy” Moms buy these dolls for their daughters.

I would like to believe that someday, body dimensions won’t dictate the standard of beauty. But, if I even believe it’s possible, I simply don’t believe that it can start with Barbie. I applaud Mattel for this effort. But I DO wonder if it is a PR play vs a real, viable, new product launch.

Hey, Mattel– if you are out there and read this, I would love to have a conversation with you to talk more about your hopes and plans. I am very intrigued and will watch this initiative closely…. Marketing strategy at its finest!


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