Happy 50th, Barbie ~ Brand Mix

Monday, March 9, 2009

Happy 50th, Barbie

Photo: fledsbo (Flickr)

Born 50 years ago today
at the American International Toy Fair in New York, Barbie is the most famous and successful fashion doll in the world. According to this article in Vision, 90 percent of American girls between the ages of 3 and 10 own at least one Barbie doll. Which is pretty incredible.

With fame and success comes criticism. In her case, Barbie has been criticized over the years as a bad role model for young girls. Just this last week, a West Virginia lawmaker proposed a bill to ban sales of the doll. Why? Well, apart from the publicity, according to this article, Delegate Jeff Eldridge thinks that: "Such toys influence girls to place too much importance on physical beauty, at the expense of their intellectual and emotional development." (I found this story via Dave Barry's blog who linked to it under the headline: "West Virginia, having solved all of its other problems, goes after the lone remaining threat to society.")

And her demise has been predicted for ages as well. "Is her star fading?" ask this Reuters report. It quotes Jerry Oppenheimer, author of an even-handed-sounding book on Mattel called 'Toy Monster,' as saying: "It's very clear that the taste of little girls who play with dolls has changed. They have come into the 21st century, where they play on their own laptops, and have their own cell phones. Dolls will be a part of their lives ... and Barbie will be part of that, but it will be a small window."

Yet, despite critics and naysayers, Barbie has made it to this 50th milestone. Said a fan at a recent celebration event: "She's still so popular with collectors and young girls alike. She's still got another 50 years in her."

Whether fan or not, as a marketer you have to admire the achievement and the contributions over the years from Ruth Handler (who had the original idea) to all those that have worked on the brand ever since. Congrats!


Gabriel said...


Barbie is undoubtly one of the most extraordinay Marketing cases of all times. Mattel had the vision to understand that products develop their own life as they enter the market place. Their executives have respected Barbie's essence and vitality in my opinion. When John Amerman took Mattel's CEO position (1987), he made a very smart move by investing in Barbie's power to save the company.

On the other hand, i believe Barbie's concept is getting out of date because it needs to be more multi-cultural and global. In addition, it's harder to fulfil the expectations of milleniums. Different values as well as different lifestyle.

Cheers from Brazil,

Gabriel Rossi

Rotkapchen said...

While only seen as an 'ideal', girls don't think they're going to be Raggedy Ann. They're vicarious characters.

But thank goodness for GI Joe, else we wouldn't have anyone to be willing to leave the comforts of their home and family to defend our country.

coffee maker said...

After 50 years Barbie is still in great shape; how does she do it?

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