Mattel is first and foremost known for creating nostalgic toys across multiple generations for the past 60 years. Arguably, their most well-known venture is that of Barbie.
With the upcoming release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie the Movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, the toy brand has become even more of a huge talking point!
The Backstory of Barbie
Manufactured by the American toy company Mattel in 1959, Barbie was launched solely to fill a gap in the market.
Before the 1950s, most children’s toy dolls were representations of infants, reinforcing the gender roles of the time; women were seen mostly as housewives and mothers. Barbie, however, was created as one of the first dolls that was adult-figured.
Since its initial launch, Barbie very much fell into a stereotype. During 2012 and 2014, Mattel experienced a 20% drop in sales after criticism about how Barbie’s appearance could impact children's self-esteem, with the dolls being deemed too unrelatable. Mattel swiftly went back to the drawing board and re-assessed the message that Barbie evokes.
From then, with each social and political change, Barbie has made larger efforts in recent years to respond to cultural shifts by acknowledging its previous mistakes and adapting its branding. No longer just blonde, thin and pink-loving, Barbie now wears many hats, from the occupations she takes on to the inspirational public figures she’s based on. With each new Barbie that’s released, we’re beginning to see a more accurate representation of society.
For a lot of us, Barbie was a formative part of our childhoods, and consistently, Mattel has managed to appeal to one generation after the other. With Barbie currently taking centre stage in viral discussions, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the best Barbie campaigns of all time!
Here are the top five campaigns we’ve picked out…
Top Five Barbie Campaigns
Close the Dream Gap
According to research, from the age of five and onwards, young girls begin developing limiting self-beliefs in comparison to their male peers. In 2018, close to the doll’s 60th anniversary, Barbie dedicated itself to tackling the ‘Dream Gap’ between genders.
Since 2019, the ‘Close the Dream Gap’ campaign has granted charities working with young girls $250,000 every year and has invested in research programmes all over the world! The campaign consistently pushes the message to young girls across the world that no dream is too small and is striving to offer support and resources to as many people as they can.
To celebrate Women’s History Month this year, Barbie launched its ‘Role Models’ campaign, which simply does what it says on the tin; celebrates role models. With a multi-faceted campaign, Barbie released a collection of one-of-a-kind dolls paying homage to 12 industry leaders in STEM, tech, education and more.
From Shonda Rhimes to Pat McGrath, Mattel helped to platform inspiring women and empower the next generation of female leaders by sharing their stories.
A Doll Can Change the World
In 2021, Barbie released its campaign titled ‘A Doll Can Change The World’ to appeal to parents who valued STEM-focused educational toys as opposed to dolls. Barbie’s campaign repositioned the way we see dolls and highlights the skills that they can teach to children.
To produce their short film, Mattel teamed up with Cardiff University and found that playing with dolls increases empathy, social skills and imagination within children. More particularly, they found that the region of the brain that’s associated with social information was activated when children were playing with dolls with other children and on their own. As a result of their campaign, Barbie saw a 4% increase in sales!
The Future of Pink is Green
Barbie essentially owns the colour pink. Every time you think of a Barbie doll, pink is at the forefront of anyone’s mind. With this, Mattel released their campaign, ‘The Future of Pink is Green’, with the goal of promoting sustainability.
The campaign carried the slogan, ‘Barbie Loves the Ocean’, and was the first doll to be made from 90% recycled plastic materials that have been found in the ocean!
With each purchase of the dolls, donations were made to the ‘Mattel Play Back’ program, which works towards keeping materials out of landfills and recycling! The campaign proved to be a huge hit, with many people praising the brand on social media.
Barbie The Movie
Set to be released on July 21st, Barbie The Movie has had everyone talking since the trailer dropped in April. Directed by Greta Gerwig, the film is set to break box office records, and Barbie’s marketing campaigns have been nothing short of excellent.
The social media platforms for the movie went instantly viral with the release of their 24 promotional posters, one for every Barbie, Ken and other characters featured in the film, from Dua Lipa as Mermaid Barbie to Emma Mackey as Barbie with a Nobel prize, internet users then rushed to make their own.
Warner Brothers released a Barbie Selfie Generator: an AI-powered website allowing anyone to put themselves into the poster and choose their own catchphrase. Other brands also hopped onto the marketing train. Architectural Digest recently released an episode with Margot Robbie, which sees her giving a tour (in full Barbie mode, of course) of the highly-anticipated Barbie set!
Today, it’s apparent that Barbie has transitioned into a reflection of society. Rather than getting left behind, Mattel has shape-shifted the Barbie image through endless cycles of reinvention and cultural changes.
And, no doubt, this will continue for many years to come! We’re excited to see how Mattel continues their efforts and what the brand will do next!