By Amber Hudson
I loved Barbie as a kid – the Dream House, the Corvette, Western Barbie who, with a push of a button on her back would throw you a sassy blue eye-shadowed wink. Now I have an 8 year old daughter and while she plays with Barbie on occasion, it’s her Monster High and American Girl dolls (both also Mattel) that fuel an obsession.
What happened to Barbara Millicent Roberts? Over the last several years edgier, more relatable toys entered the market at a time when Babs was getting flack for unrealistic body parts (forget that Bratz dolls look like they charge by the hour) and lacked any relevance for moms and kids. At the risk of sounding sexist, there really was nothing to talk about besides the size of Barbie’s boobs. In brand terms, she didn’t have a clear point of view.
So Mattel tried to give her one. In 2014 the company launched the #Unapologetic campaign meant to reignite passion for the doll by rallying girls behind the idea that they shouldn’t have to apologize for their looks. While I agree whole heartedly with the sentiment, it’s hardly relatable when it’s coming from someone who looks like, um, a barbie doll. Sales continued to slide.
Then in October 2015 Mattel launched the ad that has the potential to change things forever for the brand. The long form is really worth watching:
Babs finally has a POV! “Through the power of imagination, Barbie allows girls to explore their limitless potential”. This reframing of the brand is “not about what the doll looks like, but about how a child looks at the doll”. Insightful, relevant, inspiring. Brilliant.
Forget dressing up a brand in pretty clothing. With an insightful point of view even an aging brand can become fresh and relevant again.