Barbie

Barbie

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Barbara Millicent Roberts, or more popularly known to the world as "Barbie" was was introduced at the American Toy Fair in New York City in February of 1959 by Ruth and Elliot Handler, founders of Mattel Toys. Ruth originally thought of the idea while her daughter, Barbara, was playing with paper dolls. She realized that as her daughter grew older and began to imitate adult conversations and the world around her, she needed a three-dimensional representation of it as well. She shared her idea of a woman doll for children with her husband and the all-male executive team at Mattel, but they refused saying that it would be too expensive to produce and would have little appeal to the American public. In 1956, while touring in Europe, Ruth chanced upon a relatively popular "adult doll", the Lilli doll. The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a German comic strip. The adult-figured Lilli doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel. Eventually, Ruth convinced the team to try and develop this adult doll for children. Mattel acquired the rights to the Lilli doll. A new body/mold was designed, a new concept was created (innocent, all-American image), and the doll was given a new name: Barbie, after Handler's daughter, Barbara.
"The first Barbie doll wore a black-and-white "zebra-striped" swimsuit and ponytail with tightly-curled bangs. The dolls were available either as blonds or brunettes." She was introduced as a "teenage model." She had her own fashion-line of clothing specially designed by the Matell team (Charlotte Johnson). They created a wardrobe from which each child could choose an outfit to create her own personality for Barbie; therefore they had to develop fashions to coordinate with society's expectations and aspirations.
Barbie was not a success at first. During and after the New York Toy Show its sales were yet to be what Mattel expected. Most of the buyers, used to baby dolls, did not like the new adult look of Barbie. When Barbie was conceived and launched, the doll segment of the toy market was dominated by other companies (Vogue dolls and Ideal Toy &Novelty Corporation).
In order to deal with those two strong competitors, and with the issue of the adult look, Mattel commissioned a toy study by Ernest Ditcher, a famous marketing man at that time.

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The study included several observations of children playing with Barbies as well as follow up interviews with the children and with their parents. This became the basis for marketing Barbie to the American public.
In the early 1960's, television played an important part on how children participated in the decision to purchase the toys that they wanted. For the first time in history advertisers had wide-reaching access to the youth market. Toys were shown in commercials making it possible for children to determine exactly what they wanted. Using the guidelines determined by Ditcher's study, this was how Mattel reached its public. This served as the Introduction stage of Barbie.
During the growth stage and maturity stage of "Barbie," there were several strategies employed by Matell to sustain rapid market growth as well as to maintain its market leadership in the doll industry (the 60's to the 90's):
· Improvement of product quality and adds new product features and improved styling / Product Modification [Quality improvement, Feature improvement and style improvement] (Barbie's face has been redesigned several times in order to keep up with current fashions in make-up and hair styling and to adapt the doll to an ever-changing market. Barbie's body has not changed in proportions but it has endured several changes in the design of joints, molds and moving parts according to new production techniques and materials. The continued production of outfits by top designers in the world. The production of dolls with different skin tones as well as themed outfits. Special edition series of Barbie.)
· It adds new models and flanker products (introduction of other dolls like Ken, Midge, Skipper, and other doll friends; CD-ROM of clothing patterns with printable cloth; Barbie fashion designer; Barbie story maker; Barbie Print'n Play)
· Enters new market segments / Market Modification (Older girls started to collect and display their dolls. Serious doll collectors started to reveal themselves in the market )
· Increase in distribution coverage and enters new distribution channels (Magazines, Books, Worldwide coverage of Barbie dolls through retailers; Internet selling/shopping and advertising; Interaction with other products like NASCAR)
· Product-preference advertising (Fashion show launchings, Having a portion of Time Square in new York named Barbie Boulevard, Barbies put in time capsules for the Bicentennial celebration as the favorite doll of the century)
"Since the beginning Mattel invested in designing and redesigning Barbie based on changing role models. This tendency proved to be definitively successful once it became possible to have the "role model of the moment" translated into a Barbie doll."
"More than one-third of Mattel's nearly $4.8 billion in annual sales can be attributed to "Barbie". With a 16% share of the US toy market, the company has succeeded in expanding and maintaining itself with its mature brands. Its strategy for achieving constant growth relies on its capability of managing change and constantly revitalizing and reinventing its products. From beginning to end, Barbie "updates" and new designs were done with a full understanding of which kind of design was most appropriate to that moment."

As a product that is already a cash cow of the Matell Company, It would be foolhardy to try and create a new product rather than continuing to reinvent and remodel Barbie as a product. It would cost huge amounts of money to do so (research and development, a new set of marketing strategy would be needed; it would be targeting a smaller target segment (market fragmentation) and due to time constraints (shorter PLC of toys). The need for organizational support would also be very critical in handling a new product that would be developed, which means more and new people to come in which also affects finances. It is also riskier to do so because it will have to commit resources to this new developing product and at the same time take resources away from its top earning product. In doing so it might cause a weakening of Barbie in terms of "defending its turf" from its competitors.
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