Commentary

Goldie Blox Goes Viral With 'Girls' Send-Up

What do you get when you combine the Beastie Boys with Rube Goldberg with girls in pink playing princess? The makings of a stereotype-breaking video for a new company that is very successfully navigating the new stereotype for launching a business with a wing and the smart use of social media. 

Goldie Blox calls itself “a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers” on its YouTube channel, which has actually published 22 videos since its inception late last year. “We make construction toys for girls built from the female perspective.”

But the one that is getting a lot of attention is a 2:06 spot published Sunday that has gathered almost 7 million views. It is a “hot topic of conversation on social media,” Claire Cain Miller writes, as well as in the New York Times, where her story is on the front page of the business section of the newspaper and actually led the online Business Day this morning (with 94-and-counting thoughtful comments already posted).

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“The Princess Machine” starts with three girls apathetically gazing at a video of three other girls in pick princess outfits gyrating to the Beasties Boys’ “Girls,” which “some could say is one of rock 'n' roll's most blatantly sexist songs,” as Rene Lynch writes in the Los Angeles Times

But the new spot morphs into a “a lyrical twist” on the song, as viralviralvideos.com (“so viral we named it twice”) points out

“Girls to build the spaceship,
Girls to code the new app,
Girls to grow up knowing
they can engineer that. Girls!”

Meanwhile, the girls have “grab[bed] a tool kit, goggles and hard hats and set to work building a machine that sends pink teacups and baby dolls flying through the house, using umbrellas, ladders and, of course, GoldieBlox toys,” as Cain Miller reports.

In September 2012, FastCompany’s “Co.Exist” senior editor Ariel Schwartz did a piece about a Kickstarter campaign featuring GoldieBlox founder Debbie Sterling, an engineering graduate of Stanford. When she was growing up in a small town Rhode Island, she tells us early on in her launch video embedded in the piece, her parents’ “dream was for me to become an actress. They never bought me Legos. They didn’t buy me K’Nex or Lincoln Logs. It didn’t occur to them, or me either.… ”

Or, of course, to a lot of other girls or women who, as Cain Miller points out in another piece in the Times this morning, still only “account for about a quarter of all employees at Apple, Google, Facebook, Oracle and Microsoft,” although “many in the industry are aware that women are underrepresented and are trying to change that.”

Indeed, women represented 60% of the net change in hiring in the computer industry for the year ending in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. 

Sterling forged her own path. “After graduating in 2005, she spent time working in branding, marketing, and volunteering in rural India, all in an attempt to find her true passion,” Schwartz writes. Then an engineering friend “suggested the idea of creating pink Lego bricks” which “got Sterling thinking about the idea of an engineering toy for girls.”

She quit her job soon after and put her marketing chops to work in developing a concept that could compete with the likes of Dora the Explorer and Star Wars on the shelves of retailers.

"I tried to come up with a character that could be an instant hit,” she told Schwartz. “Goldielocks is this character that was never used by Disney. It’s this undefined character that could give an instant level of familiarity to compete with all those big names.

Sentiment for the new video, as judged by “likes” and “dislikes” is running more that 15 to 1 in thumbs-up territory but clearly not everyone enjoys the pink-bashing. 

A commenter identifying itself as “professor bland” yesterday wrote under the initial pitch by Sterling, “This is a far better commercial than the rube goldberg one. you should have just edited the kickstarter stuff out of this and used it. The story of the creator and the company is important to this brand, and to replace that with a ‘pink girlie toys are dumb’ angle is a mistake because the put-down of feminine cis-genderism is the message people will come away with instead of the message of the product itself.”

Included on the company’s YouTube channel, in a playlist within the playlist,  are five “behind-the –scenes” videos ranging from the crew, who spent three weeks “organizing chaos” in building the contraption to some quality time with Reese, the 6-year-old who “Iinvented” it. 

Commercials using Rube Goldberg-like devices are, of course, something of a cliché themselves, as collected by Cool Material. There’s this 1997 spot for Coke. There this one for the Honda Accord. And this Japanese spot for the Touch Wood cell phone. Goldberg even drew a few himself, back in the day, like this WW II one for Philco.

And someday, we hope, the female engineer will be a cliché, too. 

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