New Barbies campaign promotes possibilities

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 30, 2016

I’m an easy mark, and the kids know it.

“Aunt Michele, I want …”

“Aunt Michele, will you buy me …”

“There’s this cool thing ….”

One of Christopher’s favorite cool things is Legos, and I’m cool with that. But every time he gets another set, I shake my head.

Back in the day, kids had a Legos set, or a larger Legos set. Ditto Lincoln logs.

These days, manufacturers cleverly package the Legos needed to make one thing. Mixing and matching is not encouraged. I’m convinced it dampens creativity. Instead of having a pile of building blocks with which to build anything one wants, the message we are sending is “you can only build this.”

Which brings us to Barbie. Suntan Barbie was the rage when I was a kid, but basically Barbie was available as a blond, brunette, or with a suntan, as was her boyfriend, Ken, and a couple of family members or friends.

I had a whole trunk of doll clothes, many of which my mother made, and a grand imagination. One character, limitless possibilities.

Then Mattel got smart. Barbie clothes were almost nonexistent the last time I tried to find them, but the versions of Barbie were almost limitless. Barbie as a princess, a bride, a doctor, a teacher, a nurse …. And again. Rather than having lots of clothes and a limitless imagination, marketers are capturing more of our dollars by limiting the doll to the character dictated by her clothes.

And now, Mattel has gotten even smarter. On Thursday, the toy manufacturer unveiled curvy, petite and tall versions of its iconic fashion doll. The company has been criticized for years because Barbie’s shape represented an ideal that was totally unrealistic for most females. The new body types will also be sold in an assortment of skin tones, eye colors and hairstyles.

Mattel has acknowledged that Barbie sales have fallen in recent years, and they’re working hard to pull the demographic that pulled away from Barbie back to Barbie.

Some experts say slumping sales are related to a move away from traditional toys and more toward electronics. Customers also want less gender-specific toys, experts say.

It’s great that, come March, children will be able to get dolls that look more like them.

It’s even better than the marketing campaign “Imagine the Possibilities” will focus more on Barbie’s career ambitions than her body image. ‘When a girl plays with Barbies, she imagines everything she can become,” the adorable video reports.

The possibilities are endless.




Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Star-News.