5 Barbie marketing keys to make your brand what it wants to be

Throughout its 64-year history, Barbie has managed to become much more than a successful doll brand, becoming a globally recognized icon. With more than 160 professions, this doll has been a revolution for children, helping millions of girls to grow up experiencing a world full of possibilities, without limitations.

On the other hand, this famous toy has also generated controversy, and not everything it has represented has always been rosy. Although this does not mean that it is still a very interesting case and worthy of analysis. This is why, below, we will discover some lessons that this emblematic doll has left us throughout its historyso that, by applying them, your company can be what it wants to be.

5 Lessons to Learn from Barbie Marketing

1.Create a new product that your audience needs (even if they don’t know it)

In the 50’s, Ruth Handlerthe creator of Barbie, realized that her daughter Barbara’s play options were very limited, predominantly baby dolls. While, on the other hand, his son could choose from a wide variety of toys that allowed her to develop stories with him at the center of them, imagining himself as a policeman, an astronaut, etc.

That is why he decided create a doll that allows girls to be, imagine and create their own story, and named her with the diminutive of his own daughter’s name. With Barbie, the girls were no longer caretakers, they played at being someone.

Despite the idea failed to convince Mattel managers in the first instancethe toy company her husband co-founded, Handler did not give up and reintroduced it after being inspired by a German doll called Bild Lilli that he discovered during a trip abroad. this second attempt was successfully acceptedMattel acquired the rights to the doll and developed it from Bild Lilli, keeping similarities in its physical appearance.

On the left the Bild Lilli doll and on the right the first Barbie

His official presentation occurred on March 9, 1959 at the New York Toy Fair, wearing a black and white striped bathing suit and sporting a high ponytail. At first and before such a novelty, it was doubted that Barbie would be successful as a doll that was far from the norm, but she soon showed that being something different and revolutionary was its main competitive advantage. And this is how one of the most famous dolls in the world was born.

2.Evolve while staying true to your values

The great motto of the brand is “You can be whatever you want to be”a philosophy that it has defended since its inception and that it has developed over the years. Barbie accumulates more than 160 professions different, with which she has broken stereotypes, creating a role model for girls.

In 1962 this doll already had her own house, a milestone that happened years before women could have their own bank account. In 1965, two years after a woman first landed in space, the astronaut barbie. The brand’s first black doll arrived in 1968 under the name of Christie, being introduced as a friend of Barbie, and two years later the dolls were created. first black and hispanic Barbiesbeing the main character himself and not her friends.

In 1985 the Barbie Executive Director and, in the same year, the “We Girls Can Do Anything” campaign was launched, a series of ads that encouraged girls to pursue their dreams and believe in themselves. In 1992 I was born barbie presidentin 2015 the Barbie Heroines collection was presented and in 2018 the range of Inspiring Women dolls under the #MoreRoleModels campaign (more models to follow), a tribute to great women who made history.

Image of some of the dolls from the Inspiring Women collection

Image of some of the dolls from the Inspiring Women collection

With each doll that went on sale and each advance in terms of representation and inclusion, the brand was evolving according to its values, becoming more diverse and representing all kinds of people, making more and more girls feel appealed by his message. In addition, in recent years, it has also endeavored to break with the idea that dolls are a toy only for girlsincluding children in their campaigns and sending the message that this is a toy that everyone can enjoy.

It is true that this does not mean that some of the changes that the brand has adopted have taken longer than they should arrive. For example, we don’t start seeing Barbies with various bodies until 2016 and it took a few more years to see dolls with hearing aids, prostheses, in a wheelchair, with Down syndrome or with vitiligo.

Likewise, the brand has also launched initiatives according to their values ​​and discourseas is the case of The Dream Gap project started in 2018. This has the objective of helping, through actions of the brand itself and support to external specialized organizations, to reduce the “dream gap”. A phenomenon that indicates that from the age of five girls begin to develop self-limiting beliefs and think that they have fewer abilities than boys, a fact that even begins to happen earlier in racialized girls.

3. Create powerful alliances

Barbie has managed to make very good contacts, attracting other major brands and professionals, which has given it more visibility and has accentuated its prestige.

One of the brand’s first strategies to gain popularity by linking to relevant personalities was the creation of dolls based on celebrities. The first of these, launched in 1967, replicated the British model Twiggy. Since then, the brand has paid tribute to many outstanding women throughout history or today.

Fashion is a fundamental element in the Barbie universe, so collaborations in this field had to happen no matter what. The brand’s first fashion partnership was produced with nothing less than Oscar de la Renta in 1984. The famous designer created a collection in metallic and shiny tones to dress the doll, and over the years his firm has repeated the experience. Likewise, Barbie has also been the muse of prestigious firms and designers such as: Donna Karan, Christian Dior, Carolina Herrera or Versace.

Barbies wearing the costumes designed by Óscar de la Renta in 1984

Barbies wearing the costumes designed by Óscar de la Renta in 1984

Added to this, we have also seen the doll associated with textile industry brands closest to the general publicas is the case of Puma, Zara or Gap, for example.

4.Diversify by creating different ranges

Barbie has her classic dolls, but also special editions. Although the bulk of the brand focuses on producing dolls whose audience is girls and boys, it has known how to play its cards and create other ranges that are sold under another pretext and message, but without losing the original essence.

The special editions, also called by the “Signature” or collector’s brand, are aimed at a public that values ​​the doll for its history and trajectory, for its status as a cultural icon. In addition, these also add value if they represent personalities, as was the case of the Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee celebration last year. this doll it was worth 75 pounds (about €90) and sold out in less than 24 hours.

Now, on the occasion of the live action movie of Barbie, the brand has presented a collector’s edition of dolls and accessories Inspired by characters from the movie. The most expensive dolls cost €74.99 and the car that the protagonist drives costs no less than €149.99.

Likewise, within the dolls aimed at girls and boys, we also find different ranges, types of dolls and accessories. We can highlight the “Fashionist”a series of dolls created to reflect diversity in all its forms, or the «Career Dolls»which group different professions with the aim of inspiring the next generations while they play.

Some of the Barbies and Kens from the fashionista range appear on a blue and purple background.

5. Create a whole universe and a narrative around your product

A whole universe (or rather multiverse) has been created around this doll that has helped to give it more personality and accentuate its interest. Barbie has family, friends, ex-partners and a partneralso accumulates lots of adventures developed in the form of films and series that enliven its history.

Needless to say, from all this narrative, then derive a multitude of products: movies, video games, dolls, accessories, pets… and all kinds of merchandising). Likewise, the brand has evolved with the times, adapting the Barbie multiverse to new trends.

In 2014the Instagram profile @barbiestyle, in which the doll became an influencer, dealing with topics such as fashion, travel, art and culture. and since in 2015 he opened his own YouTube channelthe doll is a popular youtuber who focuses her content on challenge videos, vlogs, tutorials, song performances and much more.

Photo: Barbie

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