Barbie has been a leader in the toy industry for decades. Since her founding in the late 1950s, Barbie has become an iconic figure and a much-desired doll for young girls. Unfortunately for Mattel Inc. and the Barbie brand, times are changing, and parents are starting to boycott the flawless, blonde, 11.5-inch teen doll.
Barbie has the nostalgic factor on her side, but that’s the only thing going for her right now. Within the past three years, her popularity has begun to decline at a rapid pace, and other dolls such as Monster’s High and American Girl are starting to gain popularity.
Barbie sales have begun to drop significantly due to women realizing how harmful promoting unrealistic expectations regarding body image and appearance can be for developing young girls. Researchers have even come to the conclusion that in some cases, Barbie may be to blame for young girls developing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. This is not a message we, as a society, want to be sending to our youth.
Earlier this month, it was reported that Mattel Inc.’s third-quarter earnings have fallen to a shocking 33 percent after eight straight quarters of declining sales. Part of this steep decline is due to a stronger U.S. dollar, but the primary issue is still the product.
Over time, Barbie has become a toy without much substance. Besides holding women to impractical body standards, Barbie seems to lack any empowering or valuable traits that could be inspiring to young girls. Over the years, Mattel has tried to launch campaigns promoting a range of careers for Barbie, but none has been very successful. Barbie’s ridiculous physical proportions have continued to overshadow any positive steps Mattel has taken thus far.
In order to keep Barbie relevant in a society where women empowerment is on the rise, Mattel must change their marketing strategy, as well as alter the root of the problem, which is Barbie herself. Barbie used to be a more dynamic, goal-oriented toy, but today we typically see Barbie in less intellectually focused roles.
Some of these roles include Princesses, Rock Stars, and even an unusual combination of the two resulting in a "Royal Rock Star" Barbie, which is essentially a princess with a guitar. This generation is looking for a Barbie that young girls can look up to and aspire to be like.
As a result of the backlash, Barbie is going through a revamping phase. Barbie’s latest campaign is part of a much needed “ongoing brand evolution.” The ‘You Can Be Anything’ campaign is an effort to regain popularity among their target audience, and to promote the positive messages Barbie has to offer.
In the video below, Mattel goes about their advertisement with a much different approach than they have in the past. Instead of plastering the Barbie logo everywhere and showing a video with young girls playing with their Barbie dolls and accessories, young girls are put in positions of power. It isn’t until the end that you actually see Barbie’s face.
These young girls are put in roles such as teachers, veterinarians, soccer coaches, businesswomen, and tour guides at a museum. Barbie is working on presenting the idea that women have choices and, in turn, have the power to be anything they want to be when they grow up.
“We want to remind the world what Barbie stands for. Founded by a female entrepreneur and mother in 1959, the Barbie brand has always represented the fact that women have choices. This ongoing initiative is designed to remind today's parents that through the power of imagination, Barbie allows girls to explore their limitless potential," says Evelyn Mazzocco, the general manager of Barbie.
The question now is whether this will be a turning point for the company, or whether Barbie is just too far gone to ever be taken seriously again.