Our spring intern, Vivian Ramy, takes a look at one of the leading brands in the toy industry and how they utilize social media and digital marketing.
56 years ago Mattel, the toy-making company, introduced Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known today as Barbie, the world’s most famous doll. From the beginning Barbie reinvented marketing strategies throughout the entire toy industry.
Mattel revolutionized toy marketing in 1959 when Barbie appeared on the television screens of every home across the United States, making Barbie the first toy to dominate advertising with a strategy based mainly on television commercials. Mattel’s marketing team was able to tap into a medium that the industry hadn’t utilized before with TV commercials that showed the iconic doll in all her various clothing options that instantly changed Barbie from a fashion model to a singer.
Modern-day Barbie didn’t have it quite as easy, though with children maturing faster than ever before. The window of time that children were interested in Barbie quickly began shrinking. Every little girl’s favorite doll now mainly appealed to children ages 3-5 years old, where as before she appealed to children ages 3-12 years old. Barbie was considered “too young” and “immature” for the new ten-year old who could easily play online games and apps with the touch of a button on their new smartphone.
Over the years Barbie was known for reinventing her look to keep up with the trends. She now needed to keep up with the market and the changing interests of today’s young girls.
Mattel began their marketing strategy to “humanize” Barbie. Barbie soon had her own Twitter account with 89,000 followers and Facebook page with 2.8 million fans that interact with her on average 5,000 times a day. She was able to talk to her friends through social media and in turn, they were able to ask questions and offer her feedback.
On February 14th, 2004, Mattel announced the iconic “It” couple, Barbie and Ken, had officially broken up. Barbie’s publicist, Ken Sunshine, spoke on Barbie’s behalf saying that the break up was simply due to a parting of ways and a need for Barbie’s personal growth.
While Barbie was reinventing herself as a newly single, independent, globetrotting, career-attaining woman, Ken was trying his best to get over his break up with Barbie. Mattel partnered with Match.com to create a YouTube video of Ken, from a first-person viewpoint, surfing the web trying to find another soul mate that wasn’t Barbie only to end up matched with Barbie.
From here, the “Ken Wins Back Barbie” campaign commenced. Like any millennial man, Ken took straight to social media posting Facebook statuses and Twitter updates. He checked-in at different locations using the mobile app Foursquare as well as showcased himself on billboards in major cities across the country to win back his true love. A website was set up to allow fans to keep up with the campaign’s progress throughout.
On Valentine’s Day in 2011, after seven years, Mattel announced that Ken had indeed won Barbie back, bringing to a close one of the toy-industry’s most successful marketing campaigns. Barbie’s Facebook page saw a 34% increase in fans and a 200% increase in engagement, through comments, shares and likes. Her Twitter account following grew 39%.
In the future the company is looking to increase its marketing spending and looks to adapt Barbie even further to the digitally-savvy youth of today by allowing girls to control more of the doll’s clothing designs through apps as well as further engagement through social media and across multiple digital platforms.
By humanizing Barbie, Mattel strengthened her original purpose; that through the doll, a little girl can be anything she wants to be. She has the ability to make choices for herself. And she is a beautiful and independent woman. With Mattel’s new integrated marketing strategy they have found a way to make Barbie relevant for an entirely new and ever-changing audience.
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