Mattel Diversifies: 33 New Versions of Barbie

If you can’t win with a single version of a product, diversifying may be the answer. Last month, Mattel unveiled a new line of Barbies. No longer will children have to look at the dolls and wonder why they don’t look like anyone they know.

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The dolls try to be representative of our diverse population. They took about two years to produce from start to finish, and come in a variety of hair styles and skin tones.

Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, once said, “my whole philosophy behind Barbie was that, through the doll, the little girl could be anything that she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” Now, children have choices! They may now see in the Barbie brand a symbol of their mothers, sisters, aunts, teachers or cousins.

Expanding the Barbie look may be a sociocultural response coupled with ongoing efforts that Mattel has made to restore sales. And perhaps, it’s worked. The company reported an increase in net sales of 7% in the last quarter of 2015.

However, Mattel wasn’t the first to the table with a more realistic doll. An artist and researcher, Nikolay Lamm produced doll with more realistic measurements in 2014.  See some school- aged children respond to the realistic doll in the video below:

Whether it’s Lammily or Barbie, having non-digital toys that may mirror the role models children have in everyday life may help them to feel more comfortable in their world.

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Reimagining Barbie: Mattel asks your little girl, “What do you want to be?”

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Barbie goes back to its roots for a new marketing push this holiday season. Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, explained, “my whole philosophy behind Barbie was that, through the doll, the little girl could be anything that she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

What are do you do when your sales are dropping and your competitors’ products are more high-tech? 1.) Repurpose the reason for your product and 2.) Come up with some really impactful lifestyle marketing to show how your product can empower little girls. Perhaps inspired by campaigns like the Always #likeagirl, Mattel and Barbie join the conversation about girl empowerment.

Take a look at the ad that caught the attention of many (it was noted on the Adweek leaderboard for being one of the most watched ads in October of 2015) .

As a toy maker, you have a duel purpose in your marketing efforts, to interest children and win the wallets of their parents. Toy marketers often default to the nagging abilities of children, but this tactic has been exhausted on Barbie — a 56-year-old product. Instead, it seems the new marketing efforts hope to win the hearts of their parents so that they push Doctor Barbie or Professor Barbie to their children.

The jury is out on whether or not this campaign will cause an uptick in Barbie sales this season, but its timely release right before the holiday shopping season is no doubt geared toward getting Barbie in the hands of millions of dreaming little girls.