ORLANDO, FL: Mattel has enjoyed considerable success in transforming its Barbie brand by adopting an approach which holds that "nothing is sacred" – a philosophy helping to rebuild equity and reverse declining sales.
Juliana Chugg, EVP/Chief Brand Officer at Mattel, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2016 Masters of Marketing Conference.
And she reported that the launch of Barbie dolls with various body shapes, heights and cultural backgrounds earlier this year drew on a desire to accurately reflect society, even if it meant undercutting elements of the product's heritage.
"Finding new and innovative ways to represent the brand is a critical part of her transformation," she said. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: The evolution of an iconic Barbie brand in three videos.)
"We're challenging everyone in the organisation to take risks and challenge all aspects of the business, from product to marketing – and everything in between. Nothing is sacred."
There was some in-house concern about harming a brand which had, for decades, been connected primarily with a svelte, blonde-haired figure.
"Barbie was so iconic, and the brand was so associated with one particular image. There was a lot of concern that if we added diversity in both body and ethnicity, then who was Barbie? What does Barbie become?" said Chugg.
While the aesthetics might have changed, the marketing for Barbie has simultaneously sought to recapture the empowering tone that was at the heart of the brand's earliest messaging.
And alongside extremely positive consumer sentiment, sales figures demonstrate that Mattel's boldness is leading to actual purchases.
"Barbie's ten quarters of decline has halted and brand momentum has been restored. Barbie sales are up 23% and 16% percent in the second and third quarters of 2016 [respectively], with our still largest season yet to come," said Chugg.
"It took a lot of internal risk to change the shape of Barbie and to change the fundamental construct that was originally designed … It took a lot of courage. And with great risks come great rewards."
Data sourced from Warc