Barbie is back….Big Time. Here is how the Wall Street Journal sizes it up:
Mattel Inc.’s MAT +11.15% flagship doll posted a 29% sales increase in the third quarter, leading the toy company to 10% revenue growth in the period. It was the largest quarterly increase posted by Barbie going back at least two decades, the company said.
That’s good news for Mattel and the entire toy industry. Great brands drive passion for play and little feet into the toy department.
But why is Barbie back? In my opinion, it’s no accident. Mattel has been working hard, much of it behind the scenes, to set Barbie firmly in the 21st century. It has been no easy task. Its one thing to change Barbie’s molded plastic appearance. Its’ a whole other thing to change the minds of mothers who disliked her impossible to copy shape or her seemingly blase ability to handle any job. Those moms and daughters who were neither blonde nor tall nor slim saw her as lacking relevance.
20th century Barbie, slim, tall, and curvy, has given way to 21st century Barbie. The new version comes in tall, curvy, and petite body styles with hairstyles and skin colors that match the American, minority-majority, child populations. These changes have not gone unnoticed, and moms and their children have responded.
And that’s not all. We see a new generation of mothers who don’t have the same negative view towards Barbie held by older mothers. Barbie due to Mattel’s changes, is increasingly relevant to today’s mothers who are far more liberal and open-minded than earlier generations. As such, they respond well to Mattel’s efforts to be more inclusive.
You can’t get much more relevant than the new Barbie®BMR1959™ Streetwear line (see picture at the top of the page). Elle magazine took notice and let their readers know what they thought with this headline: “The New Streetwear Barbies Are So Extreme.”
Mattel is also allowing children to play with genderfluidity. The Creatable World dolls are gender-neutral . Children can make them into a girl, a boy, and all stops in between.
Barbie has even taken on race. Its not an easy subject to discuss, particularly in a polarized America but Barbie did it and did it well. Watch Barbie’s vlog to see how Mattel accomplished it: “Barbie and Nikki Discuss Racism.”
Mattel has done a lot of things right, and they did them at just the right time. Children stuck at home, are lacking in opportunities to socialize. They can Zoom each other, but there is no substitute for being physically together. A doll like Barbie can be a substitute for a friend who can’t be present as well as a tool for playing out socialization themes. Watch and listen as girls play with dolls and you will hear a lot going on as they work out their daily dilemmas through doll play.
This is a scary time for children. They need to be nurtured as well as to nurture. A doll is an excellent way for a child to practice making someone else feel secure and, in doing so, creating a peaceful place for themselves.
So good for Mattel and hooray for Barbie. She’s back.