Mattel and Barbie are icons in American culture. Mattel has done much to secure itself among millions of American childhoods, and Barbie can easily be named one of the most recognizable brands in history.
This year, it is looking for a change.
In 2013, Mattel broke off its 50+ year relationship with agency Ogilvy+Mather. Just last year, the popular doll turned a ripe 55 years old, and with much fanfare. Consumer advocates thinking that Barbie puts on a sexist image took to the streets, with Barbie contending that the doll was never meant to represent a "real" woman, just the perception of one.
This year, it was announced that Barbie's sales, for the first time, will be outmatched by another doll.
Princess Elsa, from Frozen.
Think Barbie and Mattel is going to let this go? (Corny pun). Think again. Mattel issued a worldwide creative brief to hear from agencies that can help it regain sales and notoriety and build a better image with a new crop of young girls who are growing up in a very weird and interconnected world.
An iconic brand looking for a makeover. Of course agencies, freelancers, and everyone in between must be lining up out the door for this one. Heck, if we weren't enjoying ourselves so much in this crazy education sector, we would throw our hats in the ring, too.
We started thinking: How would we pitch Mattel and Barbie? Well, it's clear that the new generations of young girls need a stronger feminine image. Yet beauty is still an issue, and Barbie should not stoop to "average."
Perhaps we're thinking with a guy mentality, but when we think of sports equipment, suits, hardware, and the like, no male consumer automatically thinks of "average."
The message must be attractive, yet tasteful. Smart, yet inclusive. What is fantastic about the minds of young girls is that they do not have the awareness of "ugly" or "fat" or "displeasing" until it is pointed out to them. Because, in all seriousness, if the doll was approached as just a toy, the previously mentioned article wouldn't exist, because no one would care.
We cannot wait to see what happens, although we know that pre-post campaigns for the brand are still a ways off. It's always good to be hopeful.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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