Barbie has a long and storied history. Despite breakthroughs, stumbles and relentless controversy along the way, she has evolved to be the No. 1 girls’ brand in the world. Sixty million Barbies are sold every year. She has rewarded parent Mattel with six consecutive quarters of growth. In 2018, Mattel saw the best sales results in five years. The doll even beats out the indomitable “Star Wars” franchise as the No. 2 toy property in the world.
She clearly has overcome the bitter battle over her curvy curves and bust line and has embarked on the“most purposeful chapter yet” of her 60 years. A project called ‘Close the Dream Gap,’ taps Barbie to help give girls the resources and support they need to continue to believe that they can be anything they want to be.
“Now that the brand has forward momentum we’re focused on closing the dream gap,” says Lisa McKnight, SVP, Barbie & Global Head of Dolls at Mattel. “We’re taking action in multiple phases and the first thing we’re doing is articulating the issue and bringing it to life and giving it awareness.”
This video on YouTube kicked off the message and has drawn 185,000 views.
A community of likeminded influencers, like the Global Girls Alliance, helps educate and drive conversations among key audiences to build awareness, credibility and encourage participation in closing the dream gap. Mattel has also tapped a variety of researchers to better understand how young girls respond to social conditioning to hone its content.
In March, the Dream Gap fund was created to contribute $1 for every Barbie sold in the U.S. The fund supports minority organizations around the world and is dedicated to Hispanic girls access to role models and increasing representation of women and girls in general.
“Frankly, we’re leveling the playing field for girls,” McKnight says.
That message is relayed in the video “Did You Know?” which has 108,000 views.
Some 90 percent of moms fell that their daughters need more positive role models. Based on that insight, 10 new dolls are in development based on real women of achievement and women from history, like Amelia Earhart. The new dolls will join the ongoing career doll program.
“It’s all about highlighting women in careers where girls are underrepresented,” McKnight says. “We know that if girls can actually see it they can believe it.”
Churning out content
Over the past year content production has significantly increased as a powerful way to connect girls to female role models.
Barbie Vlogs on YouTube has 8.7 million views. A new video is posted every Friday from a first-person standpoint with topics about her life, wellness, sadness, inspirations and her favorite things. In one video, she talks about the fact that girls say “sorry” way to often and challenges viewers to count how many times they say it during the day. Each new vlogger episode delivers new subscribers. The Barbie YouTube channel has 6.3 million subscribers and is currently the No. 1 girl’s channel.
On Netflilx, “Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures,” which debuted in May 2018, ranks in the top 3 percent of all kids’ Netflix shows and last year won a Cynopsis Imagination Award.
Oscar-nominated actress Margot Robbie will portray Barbie in an upcoming movie in the first live-action feature film about the doll in partnership with Mattel and Warner Bros.
“As long as we are connected to culture and are comfortable with evolution we’ll stay relevant,” she says.
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McKnight, who spoke today at the ANA Brand Activation Conference, offered a few lessons learned from Barbie’s story:
• Evolution makes a brand relevant, purpose makes a brand eternal.
“The toy business is full of toys that peak quickly and then disappear. The purposeful brands, brands that engage with an idea that’s bigger than products, can have staying power for generations. Today’s consumer wants brands they can believe in.”
• Shared Values inspire powerful brand partnerships.
“While there is a lot that a brand can accomplish by itself, a purposeful leader never goes it alone. As the leading voice in the global coalition for girl empowerment, we see no limit to what Barbie and our partners can achieve together.”
• Bold risks are an investment in a brand’s future.
“A great brand cannot be selectively purposeful, selectively authentic or selectively brave. We had to look at our roots and be inspired by Ruth (inventor) and her willingness to take risks and this enabled us to take greater risks and double down on purpose. Today we invest everyday in the long-term vision of the brand, confident that the next 60 years hold even greater promise than the first.”
In case you’re wondering what Ken is up to, he got a body makeover over just as Barbie has. A year ago, Husky Ken was introduced as were dolls with different hairstyles like a man-bun and one with long hair.