In light of the iconic doll’s smash-hit movie, Mojo Nation’s Billy Langsworthy looks at Barbie’s strong ties with the inventor community.
Cinemas across the world went a shade of pink this past weekend as the Barbie movie broke records as the biggest movie launch of the year so far. Part of the box office success has been attributed to the unlikely Barbie/Oppenheimer – or ‘Barbenheimer’ – double bill catching the imagination of movie-goers; not to mention giving film journos the perfect opportunity to use ‘Blonde. Bombshell.’ as a headline. As well as whetting the appetite for the future Mattel Films slate, it got me thinking about the brand’s enduring relationship with the inventor community. Last year, we at Mojo Nation interviewed Kenna O’Brien, Senior Product Design Manager for Barbie. She told us: “Barbie is one of the most inventor-friendly brands around.” Whether looking in the archive at launches like Moovin’ Groovin Barbie or Pop Sensation Barbie – both from renowned Chicago-based invention house BMT – or recent launches like last year’s Barbie Hatch & Gather Egg Farm – invented by IDEO and Sound Machine – the brand has a rich history with inventor collaborations. Invention houses like IDEO, Tantrum Innovation, Bang Zoom, Fuse and Hands On Design have all licensed Barbie inventions in recent years, as has the New York-based studio Catapult Concepts, whose items include the Barbie Face Mask Spa Day and Barbie Fast Cast Clinic.
On the inspiration behind the Fast Cast Clinic, Catapult Concepts’ Westley Ciaramella told us: “Barbie does a million sports – how has she never broken her leg? That was the joke that kickstarted the concept… We’d used Barbie Dough as face masks in the Face Mask Spa Day playset, and the Dough worked well as a cast, especially when you cut it off.” He adds: “With Barbie, it’s about telling a story. She broke her leg, she goes to the doctors, she gets a cast, then she comes back to get the cast off. You can tell a complete story with the product.” Last year we spoke to Kim Culmone – Senior Vice President of Design, Barbie and Fashion Dolls at Mattel – about Barbie’s relationship with inventors. She told us: “My team and I are extremely proud of our relationships with inventors. I’m not sure I can overstate how important they are to us. I view the inventor community as an extension of our Barbie design family and an essential element of the brand’s success.” It’s a sentiment backed up by Robert Best, VP of Barbie Product Design at Mattel, who added: “Working with inventors really opens up what the possibilities are around Barbie.” Best also shared with us some advice for inventors looking to pitch Barbie concepts to Mattel, namely: “Don’t limit yourself to preconceived notions or rigid ideas around what Barbie might be, because you’ll be wrong! Some of our most exciting inventor launches in recent years would seem – on paper – totally antithetical to what ‘the Barbie brand’ represents.
“The head-to-toe pink view of Barbie is just one simple facet of what has become a very multi-faceted brand that actually covers a lot of ground.”
Barbie already has strong ties with the inventor community, but if the success of the film leads to even more activity centred around the brand, then further opportunities for external innovators looks sure to follow. On that, we did ask Best – back in January, before the first trailer for the film had landed – about the sorts of opportunities he hoped the film could bring Barbie. He said: “I hope the movie creates a franchise filled with opportunities for more great entertainment, because how cool would it be to see a new team of creative people reinterpret what Barbie means for an audience in 2027? We’re on, what, our 10th Batman now? Everyone is still thrilled with that, so we hope Barbie can break through in a similar way!” A global opening weekend box office of $377m suggests that it might. To read Mojo Nation’s full interview with Mattel’s Robert Best, head to: https://mojo-nation.com/robert-best-vp-of-barbie-product-design-at-mattel-on-working-with-inventors-and-keeping-the-brand-fresh/