Throughout the past sixty years one woman underwent more personal rebranding than any other. First born as a symbol of beauty she rebranded herself time and time again to epitomize the era she lived. She became many things throughout her life. She was a fashion model, a marine biologist, an eighties fitness fanatic, a princess, and a president all rolled in to one. I am speaking of none other than, Barbie. The doll that we know as Barbie was invented in 1959 by the Mattel toy corporation. (Mattel) Being that she is such a timeless, established brand, if we are to examine the life of Barbie we can see the progressions between classic marketing to social media marketing over time. By looking at two key aspects within marketing that progression can be more defined.
Let’s start off with language used within marketing campaigns. In classic marketing, language is considered to be proper and formal. The language surrounding Barbie when she was introduced epitomized classic marketing language. When Barbie was invented she was presented as the ideal toy for any little girl. She was blonde and the personification of American beauty at the time. The langage surrounding her can be described as, “the teenage fashion model.” It is as formal, fully formed sentenced that established Barbie as a desired brand for young girls to buy.
With the cyber-revolution, came a revolution in the mindset of consumers. Over the past decade the Barbie corporation has undergone numerous criticism for how their toy affects the mindset of young girls. Looking back at the classic language in campaigns she was something beautiful to be admired and nothing more. Many believe that it enforces traditional gender roles and strict body standards on impressionable minds. As a result, sales have steadily declined over the past few years. (Fortune) Fortune Barbie Mattel launched a new campaign that changes the language surrounding Barbie. The new campaign is #Youcandoanything. This campaign is used on multiple platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and of course television. It reinvents Barbie as a catalyst to a young girl’s imagination. It is informal and captures the current moment. This language is genuine, presenting Barbie as an everyday woman who has accomplished incredible things. There language suggests that young girls also can. By becoming less formal, modern consumers became more responsive to Barbie.
Direction of Communication
One of the great aspects of classic marketing is that the information a campaign spreads is completely defined by the advertisers. Direction of communication within classic campaigns consumers merely took on the position of the passive listener. Marketing campaigns could present a flawless image to the public. They were able to establish a brand that is removed from the critic of society. This was wonderful in establishing the Barbie brand. You can watch below the original commercial for Barbie that was launched in 1959.
While this served it’s purpose in the 1950’s, campaigns like this can not cut it anymore. The problem is that in the modern era the airbrushed façade has broken. Today, consumers are taking on an active response to the products that are being presented to them. They want to feel a genuine connection to each product that they buy. It is up to social media marketing to change the dialogue surrounding traditional brands. Anthony Young in his book, Brand Media Strategy, elaborates this in saying, “Media selection is more than just reaching the consumer; it’s delivering memorable, interactive, and emotional occasions with the brand. The key is planning media from the consumer’s perspective.” (Young 23) Consumers no longer want to simply buy a product that is advertised to them, they want to have an emotional connection to the brand. Barbie tries to answer this new need from consumers with their #YouCanBeAnything campaign. In their newest commercial, launched in 2015, we see the Barbie brand finally revitalized for modern viewers. They end with the sentence, “When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she becomes.” (Barbie 2015) Watch the commercial here:
When it comes to Barbie, she has always managed to reinvent herself for the current times. The same can be said for marketing. Both classic marketing and social media marketing have served the Mattel corporation. There are excellent aspects to both forms of marketing, yet they need the combination of both to brand an icon like Barbie.
Brand Media Strategy By: Young, Anthony. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
“Kids.Barbie.com” Mattel. 2016. Web. 17 January 2016.
Kell, John. “Mattel hasn’t figure out how to save Barbie.” Fortune.com July 16, 2015.
“Barbie.com” #YouCanBeAnything Mattel. 2015. Web. 17 January 2016.