Barbie Rules; the NGram and tracking cultural importance


Screenshot 2014-01-03 10.52.48To see a better view click here

We know what the popular toys are; all we have to do is look at market share and revenue dollars.  What, however, are the brands that have strong cultural relevance; that are an integral part of our culture and how we see the world?

That is what I wanted to know when I decided to take advantage of Google books NGram Viewer.
The NGram viewer allows a user to see trends in brand, name or phrase analysis time by measuring the number of times they show up in books.  

I decided to apply NGram to notable toy brands as a way of seeing how important they were to the broader culture; in other words just how many times did writers mention them?  There are choices you can make in terms of the number of years in question and the languages preferred.  I chose to measure using 1985 as the start point and English as the language.  2008 was the NGram default for the most recent year. 

The brands I chose were Barbie, GI Joe, Mickey Mouse and Lego.  I chose them for no particular reason other than they are well known toy brands.

So, what does the NGram show up about toy brands? According to the number of times Barbie is mentioned in writing she is, by far, more ingrained in our popular culture than any other toy brand and amazingly that includes Mickey Mouse.   This is not to say that the other brands are not important; it just shows how powerful Barbie is to our culture.  Some love her and some deplore her but whether you are pro or con; Barbie counts.  And any brand that has that kind of depth is going to be around for a long, long time. 





Leave a Reply