How Barbie Embraced the Power of Positive Change…


Who doesn’t know who Barbie is? Not many thats for sure. She is one of the most iconic toys around, and is firmly in the ‘top ten selling toys’ of all time. However, when sales of the perfect blonde doll took a nose dive in recent years, after five decades of having a ‘one size fits all’ product that sold one Barbie doll every 3 seconds worldwide, Mattel knew something really had to change.

Controversy around how perfect Barbie looked had plagued the doll for some time. One of the most common criticisms of Barbie was that she promoted an unrealistic idea of body image for young women. A standard Barbie doll is 11.5 inches tall, a replica height of 5 feet 9 inches, and according to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, she would be significantly underweight for an average female.

When sales of more quirky dolls like ‘Bratz’ increased and threatened sales of Barbie, the message was clear, change was needed.

Mattel started by literally ‘breaking the mould’ and widening the standard waist of Barbie to be more like an average female. They then introduced three new body types and seven new skin tones to reflect that “real” girls come in all shapes and sizes. Finally, big changes to their marketing campaign – a campaign focussed on making girls believe they can be anything they want to be – You Can Be Anything campaign – and a clear target of parents instead of children; in particular – Dads. A first for Barbie, they started to encourage men to play with dolls but, more importantly, spend quality time with their children.

The latest dad-focused creative also includes multiple 30-second cut-downs, along with the tagline, “Time Spent in Her Imaginary World Is an Investment in Her Real World,” which Mattel said, “[highlights] that a dad’s involvement in his daughter’s imaginary play contributes to her social, intellectual and emotional development in real life.”

This non-traditional messaging and big changes have paid off for the brand. Their ad has been viewed 25 million times on Youtube alone and in October 2016, Mattel said revenue for the Q3 2016 was up overall by 16%- following the release of the new body types and ad campaign reinvention.

Change can be scary when it comes to your business but the message is loud and clear from Mattel, “Change is GOOD”

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