We’ve all either grown up playing with barbies or seen others play with them. Boys, let’s be honest even you might have played with one if not owned one. But what do we know about Barbie, the most adored diva? Well I guess not much apart from the fact that she’s fabulous and we can’t get enough of her!
The start of an icon: Barbie
Co-founder of Mattel, Ruth Handler saw her daughter, Barbara and her friends playing with paper dolls of grown up women, and imagining the grown up themselves. That’s when she thought why not make a teenage doll that girls could play with? After the idea stroke, she began with her research. She found that there were lot of three dimensional baby and toddler dolls but no teenage dolls. Though her husband and Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler was sceptical Ruth pursued her dream and three years later in the year 1959 she unveiled Barbie in a historic debut at the New York Toy Fair. No one had ever seen something like a Barbie, and hadn’t even realised that the world was just waiting for an icon like her!
Ruth Handler said, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”
Barbie: The growth and the decline
Barbie was a fresh and new approach for young girls and their mothers. Barbie came with a range of different careers and outfits. Barbie’s positioning as an icon made every little girl believe, she could grow up to be anything. The 1st commercial of Barbie showcased fancy clothing collection targeting its TGA: Young Ladies.
As the years progressed, Barbie grew and become the star product of Mattel Inc. Over the years Mattel started focusing on the product line of Barbie. They took up the product development strategy and created Barbie’s family and friends, thus explaining the value of family and friends to young girls. That’s how Barbie was joined by – Ken, Midge, Skipper, Baby sister Kelly and many others. Though Barbie was a huge sensation, she has faced a lot of criticism from feminists for the unrealistic beauty standards she was setting for young girls. Despite all of this, Barbie has been found to enhance the self-image of girls.
Like every other successful company, Barbie too had to face a few hurdles. In 2009, Barbie faced major loss.
Image: Barbie’s shrinking market share as compared to other Mattel products.
Even though Barbie tried to keep up with the changing trends of the society by changing of her hairstyle, the way she dressed, the introduction of new products and a new line of Barbies somewhere along the same line Barbie forgot to evolve according to the society’s changing view about woman and feminism.
After the 2009 loss, Mattel came up with varied body shapes, skin tones and hair types of barbie. This addressed the issue of “unrealistic beauty standards”. Addressing this problem had done no good to barbie’s “Material girl” image.
This is when the repositioning decision was made. Iacobucci said that, “Every marketing decision should be based on facts. Marketing research is about gathering those facts.” The results of the research showed that the Generation-X parents (Born: 1960s-1970s) saw barbie for girls just as a means of entertainment but Millennials (Born: 1980s-2000s) however want to give toys to kids that have meaning and purpose.
Seeing this Barbie came up with a campaign called “You can be anything”. The campaign aims at making young girls realise that they can be anything they put their heart and soul into. Barbie arranged for hidden cameras while girls played with Barbie to figure out what they wanted to be and gave a day in that profession.
They also arranged for a kiosk in shopping centres and let girls chose from a wide range of occupations and find surprises in the boxes.
Barbie in January 2016 rolled out new Barbies with different heights, sizes and hair to celebrate girls.
In the spirit of the presidential elections in US, Barbie has come out with special Barbies which has Barbie running for president along with a female president.
The loss of barbie’s purpose was inferred by the brand. That’s how the brand found itself repositioning Barbie as a role model young girls could look up to.
After this revamp by Barbie, the sales for Barbie went up by 23% in Q2. Experts have been saying that the change in the image of Barbie has allowed the sales for Mattel to increase and for Mattel to reach the position.
Yes. Our Barbie has gone through a lot of ups and downs, just like us. Yet, she stands strong and is loved by all. She is yet a role model to all the young girls. Don’t forget, YOU CAN BE ANYTHING!
Iacobucci, D. (n.d.). MM4. Mason, Ohio : South-Western: Cengage Learning, p.199.
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