How Mattel set out to demonstrate the doll’s relevance by embracing female empowerment and diversity
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After 57 years and over 1 billion units sold, the world’s most iconic doll was in dire need of a makeover. Mattel felt Barbie was losing her appeal among a new generation of parents and therefore decided it was time to move past the luxurious but vapid lifestyle the 11.5-inch doll had been living for years.
This is when Mattel decided to expand the Barbie Fashionistas line in 2015 and 2016, by making it easier for girls to find a doll that looked just like them and, crucially, made Barbie inclusive and relevant in a 21st-century, multicultural world. The 33 new models of the 2016 line came with 30 possible hair colours, 24 hair styles, 22 eye colours, 14 face sculpts and seven skin tones. But most striking of all, girls have the option of playing with a Barbie with a little more meat on her. After years of being criticised for promoting an unhealthy body image, the doll finally has a fuller figure. Now, Barbie is available in a ‘curvy’, as well as a ‘tall’, ‘petite’ and ‘original’ body type.
Barbie is not only making its toys more inclusive, it is also becoming more inclusive in the targeting of its audience: after featuring a boy in an online video for a collectible Moschino Barbie in 2015, in 2017 it started reaching out to dads too.