Barbie Opens Up Her 'Big Pink Closet'

by , Feb 8, 2012, 4:17 PM
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With Toy Fair 2012 just days away, Mattel says it is introducing a new global campaign for Barbie, designed to appeal to the fashion sense and imaginative skills of little girls around the world.

Mattel, based in El Segundo, Calif., says “See What Happens When You Play with Barbie” invites girls to walk “through the giant pink doors to Barbie’s Dream Closet” in TV advertising. There’s also an augmented-reality online destination, a new line of apparel, and new products, all meant to encourage girls to experiment with fashion. “In Barbie’s world, role play often leads to real life,” says Stephanie Cota, SVP/global Barbie marketing, in the company’s release. “Barbie gives girls the opportunity to be anything they want to be, from a princess to a president.”

Toy buyers, gathering for next week’s event, are getting ushered into an actual closet in New York’s Lincoln Center, with jewel-encrusted 24-foot doors, and 9,000 square feet devoted to various fashion vignettes.

But Barbie, which saw a 6% increase in worldwide sales in the fourth quarter, is facing some midlife speed bumps, including younger competition from other toy companies, as well as global resistance.

“Barbie's challenge is how to change an iconically blonde doll with a literally unmatchable figure into a global brand that attracts all ethnic groups and body types,” Richard Gottlieb, CEO of Global Toy Experts, tells Marketing Daily. “The closing of the widely heralded six-story Barbie store in Shanghai after two years shows that something did not click. I believe that Barbie was too sexy for China,” says Gottlieb. “They like cute: Think 'Hello Kitty.' And Barbie is too Western in its facial construct.”

TV spots, directed by Floria Sigismondi, best known for the popular music videos of such artists as Katy Perry and Christina Aguilera, are scheduled to run in the U.S., France, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, and Germany.

The online destination, BarbieWow, is designed for fans in more than 30 countries, with new media channels for “sharing and trending,” enabling girls to raid Barbie’s closet in real-time. Augmented-reality “mirrors” let girls dress themselves up in her clothes, and using such digital and style destinations as Polyvore, Pinterest and Rent the Runway, “girls can take inspiration from Barbie to create real-life looks and designs that are all their own,” the company says. And in “Behind Pink Doors,” top fashion influencers share stories from their personal closet “as an example of the transformative power of fashion.”

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