Barbie rebranding

Rebranding Barbie, she’s more than just a doll

With the Hilary Clintons and Emma Watsons of the world, along with the #freethenipple and #OscarsSoWhite campaigns, some argue 2015 has been the year of feminism. As a result, traditional ‘girl’ toys, particularly Barbie dolls, have felt the heat, at least until now.

Blamed for unrealistic body images like a super skinny waist, and permanently thin arms, for many, Barbie is the epitome of the limitations women experience everyday. Barbie may have worn the white coat, and been the ultimate career woman, but to some, the perfect hair, flawless makeup, all while wearing high heels, relates an unrealistic expectation for young girls to look up to. Life definitely is not always short skirts, pink lipstick and long legs.

Diminishing sales Mattel has experienced in recent years evidences this branding issue. But it seems Barbie is ready to do it all once again. Part stunt and part ad, Mattel released a new film called “Imagine the Possibilities” that looks to put Barbie back on top. Check it out here:

This brilliant, highly entertaining film successfully rebrands, and reframes how we think about Barbie Dolls. Barbie is much more than what her physical appearance lets on; instead Mattel wants Barbie to be a means, not an end. Barbie represents a child’s imagination at work, a conduit for the development of self-image, a blank space for young girls and boys to imagine themselves as anything they want to be. But like Barbie, Mattel is smarter than you think, and this film is actually not targeted to kids, but rather to their parents.

The problems surrounding Barbie have always been adult problems, children never initiated Barbie’s controversial image. Rather, it was always the product of adults worrying how a Barbie Doll instills an unrealistic body image in kids. With this genius rebranding tactic, Mattel is looking to disarm parents of their negative thoughts by presenting them with a child’s view of the toy. This film is an insight into what a child experiences when they play with Barbie.

To drive this point home even more, Mattel used real adults and their real reactions to these precocious little girls in this film. This creative decision boosted entertainment value, but it was also an important strategic element. Seeing other real adults understanding and playing along with the big imaginations of these young girls as they role-play as a professor, businesswoman, and soccer coach, normalizes their role-playing.

Sure, the adults are surprised, but they are accepting, and even more importantly, they play along. That makes it a little bit easier for any adult watching this marketing masterpiece to believe that children project their own image onto the doll, and not the other way around.

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