All Tech Considered


Now, from cookies to dolls. Ken is getting a digital makeover. Mattel wants us to know more about Barbie's lesser half, so Ken Carson is putting it all out there on the Internet.

NPR's Shereen Meraji reports that making Ken Web savvy is part of Mattel's Valentine's Day marketing campaign.


SHEREEN MERAJI: I'm at the beach in Malibu, California, talking with Ken's contemporaries: surfers Fritz Gerhardt and Taylor Moore.


MERAJI: So are you guys from around here?


MERAJI: This is where Ken lives. Did you know that?

NORRIS: Ken lives in Malibu?

NORRIS: I had no idea.

NORRIS: I heard Ken and Barbie broke up or something.

MERAJI: Yes. Ken and Barbie broke up. According to Mattel's senior VP of marketing, Stephanie Cota, it happened seven years ago.

NORRIS: She did meet an Australian surfer named Blaine, and I think he caught her eye.

MERAJI: But that didn't last. And Mattel wanted to sell more stuff in time for Valentine's Day. So it looked to the Web and launched a marketing campaign to help Ken win Barbie back.

NORRIS: You know, he really felt that it was important to get with the times and to get with the program.

MERAJI: For the past two months, Ken has been getting with the times by updating his Facebook status, tweeting, and occasionally checking in on Four Square. That's the site where you share your location with your friends.

Erica Swallow follows Web trends for Mashable, a social media and tech news site.

NORRIS: On Twitter, it gets a little pushy. Sometimes for a brand, it's difficult to split the line between what's promotional and what's actually interesting.

MERAJI: Ken repeatedly asked his Twitter followers to vote online for whether Barbie should take him back. You could vote at or text your vote. Mattel also made YouTube videos for Ken.



MERAJI: In this one, Ken is creating a profile, where he discovers his perfect match is - you guessed it - Barbie. So we've got YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Four Square, the Barbie and Ken site...


U: So, what do you guys think we're going to do today?

U: I don't know. We probably have a Barbie mail.

U: Yeah, let's check it out.

MERAJI: And a reality show on Hulu where hot guys all compete to be the best real-life Ken.


U: Oh, hey.

U: All right.

MERAJI: Retail analyst Howard Davidowitz doesn't think Mattel is going overboard. And he's surprised he's not seeing more brands taking full advantage of the Web.

NORRIS: Look how prominent it is in Egypt, my God. It didn't create a revolution, but it's a key part of it.

MERAJI: Using social media to organize a peaceful uprising and to sell plastic dolls are two very different things. But, Davidowitz says, either way...

NORRIS: You have to go where the people are. This is where the people are.

MERAJI: As for the dolls, Barbie and Ken, she took him back. And, says Mattel's Stephanie Cota, Barbie went online to seal the deal.

NORRIS: She's changed her relationship status on Facebook. So Barbie's taking this very seriously.

MERAJI: Happy Valentine's Day.


MERAJI: Shereen Meraji, NPR News.

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