Commentary

If Barbie Could Talk ...

If Barbie could talk, Mattel thinks, sales of the perennial teenager will stop sliding at the precipitous rate of 14%, as they did in 2014. Meanwhile, a YouTube spot released last week has the Internet abuzz with praise — mostly — over its message, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”

And so, even as the company released results that show a 33% drop in profits for the third quarter and with the Disney Princess line about to leave the nest for Hasbro, CEO Christopher Sinclair was optimistic about the company’s prospects in a conference call with analysts. 

“We're very encouraged by the progress we are making on re-energizing the company,” Sinclair said. “As we continue our turnaround efforts, we remain comfortable with our full-year outlook,” the BBC reports.

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“In the time before iPads, robotic pets and interactive Yoda dolls, Mattel was the undisputed toy industry leader. But the company has faced competition in recent years from newer, nimbler upstarts that can more quickly adapt to evolving trends and technology,” Rachel Abrams points out in the New York Times.

That’s where the rollout of Hello Barbie next month enters the conversation. News about the  product, which is controversial in some quarters over privacy issues, surfaced in April. It will cost $74.99 at retail. Meanwhile, the original Barbie has gone viral and mainstream media is picking up the vibe.

“This one's inspiring for girls of all ages! Mattel knocks it out of the park with its new uplifting Barbie ad that shows little girls dominating at various careers,” writes Dominique Haikel for E!

“Imagine the Possibilities” is a 1:55 video where hidden cameras capture people’s reactions to girls “imagining everything they might one day become.” In one, a young lady strides to the front of a college lecture hall and announces, “Hello, my name is Gwyneth and I will be your professor today and I will be talking about the brain.” Another shows the startled, if restrained, reactions of pet owners to “Dr. Brooklyn,” a veterinarian. Then there’s Maddie. She puts a men’s soccer team through the paces. “Knees up, like a unicorn. Higher! Higher!” There’s more.

The spot, which has been seen by more than 4.6 million viewers since it was posted on Oct. 8, ends with the more familiar scene of Gwyneth playing with her Barbie and talking about the brain.  

“The commercial ends on an inspiring written message, which reads, ‘When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become,’” writes Naja Rayne for People. “While Barbie has faced backlash and controversy in the past, it's obvious that she's always stood as a pillar of inspiration for empowering you girls — and her new video further proves that.”

Recently appointed president and COO Richard Dickson is shaking things up in the executive ranks, too. Last month, Mattel announced the addition of two senior marketers from outside the company. Both report directly to Dickson.

Juliana Chugg, who had been president of General Mills’ Meals division, was named global core brands officer to “oversee all aspects of marketing strategy, creative execution and product development” across Mattel’s brands.

Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, who most recently led the corporate content and innovation agency at NBCUniversal, was named chief content officer to “lead Mattel's efforts to implement an integrated strategy for content creation and distribution, digital and media that connects consumers with the company's brands.”

“Sinclair is leaning on … Dickson, to recharge the company’s creative and marketing teams, and stage a turnaround for Barbie, as he did during a previous stint at Mattel,” writes Paul Ziobro for the Wall Street Journal.

If they can turn around Barbie’s image, perhaps anything is possible. 

“Barbie, the tiny doll with her impossible figure, has long been condemned by feminists as not having a positive impact on the way young girls think,” writes Kelly-Ann Mills for the Mirror. “But this new advert … is ready to challenge stereotypical ideas people have about her and aims to show her in a different light.”

There’s a pointer at the end of the “Imagine the Possibilities” video to http://www.barbie.com/YouCanBeAnything. Alas, the message at that URL this morning was: “Hey Doll! You actually found a place in the B Community that doesn’t exist. That’s pretty amaze! [sic] Please check out other spots!”

One gets the feeling the young ladies in the spot would never say, “amaze.”

2 comments about "If Barbie Could Talk ...".
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  1. Virginia Suhr from Lobo & Petrocine Marketing, October 16, 2015 at 8:35 a.m.

    Traditional toys do inspire much more creativity and imagination than video games do.  While Barbie, cars and other toys are suffering at this time, I hope that the Millennials will discover the wonders of "hands on" play for their children.  I loved Barbie and so did my daughter. I even taught her basic addition and subtraction by playing store with her, first with Fisher Price and then we had the Barbie boutique.

    Video games are fun and can be instructive, but "hands on" toys including board games are great for creativity, socialization and imagination.

    I wish Mattel the best and may all children dream "Big".

  2. Len Stein from Visibility Public Relations, October 16, 2015 at 8:59 a.m.

    LOL- what could Barbie possibly have to say? "Does my hair look OK?" "Let's go clubbing?"

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