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Day 153: A New Look for the New world : Barbie's new ad campaign

Barbie dolls. The slim, fashionable, pretty, and 'sexy' dolls have been there for a long time (from 1959 onwards). Dolls and toys are probably and usually a child's true companion. Barbie is no different. For these past 56 years, Barbie has been always associated with cute little girls. How do little kids get to play with these? Well, many reasons. It could be because their parents played with it and hence, want their kids to enjoy and experience the same (mostly that kind of intergenerational effect is for LEGO). It could also be because, the advertisers tell the world, the new moms, new aunts, dads, and everyone else, including children that dolls are meant for only girls. It could also be because, kids see this attractively packaged and dressed either on the shelf or at their friend's place. As you know, my interest is varied and toys and games happen to be one of them. So, I have been following these different types of products that target children and Barbie's progress over years have evolved and are slightly closer to today's world.


Image Courtesy: Google Images 


As a child, I remember wanting to own a Barbie (for sure) but I don't remember if I did actually own one. I only remember other dolls (the ones that are 'actually dolls' ;)), soft toys, cars, trains and what not. Barbie, however, is always associated with rich kids. Slightly priced higher than other dolls, Barbie probably is a child's first introduction to a world of fashion and beauty. If we get in to the world of a young child we know one thing that will be present- imagination.  Most of the 2 to 6-year-old children have a brilliant imagination and their minds can take them to places we cannot fathom. Yes, seven years are not any less. But the imagination of these kids let them create their own imaginary friends, associate new names for their own family members, treat their teddy bears and dolls as real characters and people, feed them, share stories, food, toys, books, and even put them to sleep. Well, kids had the knack to travel with their thoughts to any place they want.

Anyhow, marketers used these to successfully create different products (or package them differently) based on what 'they thought' is right for the consumer. These stereotypes are not just shaped by marketers but by the society itself. The dogmatic views focused not just adult women consumers but also children. These views reflected in how the girls were portrayed with their toys vs. boys. For instance, if you look at the packaging for certain toys/games that are perceived to be for boys, you will find that there will be only images of boys playing with it. Even if there is a girl child present it will be subtly placed or in submissive roles. These days with more people voicing out and standing up to break these glass ceilings, marketers have taken a U-turn. They employ what is called 'Empowerment marketing'. This is one of the biggest shift in marketing. Do you remember the Dove beauty product ads and Pantene ads (I am not sorry ad campaign)? Well, these are examples for empowerment marketing.

Video source: YouTube (Barbie)

Children's toys are also making use of this and Mattel (the parent company) has finally decided to give a new focus to their star brand Barbie. With falling sales and raising voices,  Mattel has to give some refocus to its marketing plans. Even though this is a marketing tactic and all they care about is their bottom line, this is surely a welcome change. The ad uses the role of imagination in a child's play time and puts that in the context of 'strong' and 'independent' girls.

Created by BBDO San Francisco and produced by Slim Pictures Inc., this ad is a great persuasive message that changes the outlook towards girls and their dolls. It is like a repositioning statement for Barbie where they are looking at the old 'fashion' doll with today's 'be whatever you want' doll. They want to change the perception that someone playing with Barbie doll is not just a mushy cute girl but someone who can imagine endless possibilities.

This is a great ad, but I'm still thinking about how the accessories (which is a big part of their sales) and the existing style of the dolls can impact the message of this ad. In fact, Mattel has been using this empowerment marketing for their other product line- American Girl too. Probably that is for another blog post!

It might not be a drastic change, but every step counts. Do let me know your comments and your take on this. 
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