Barbie Doll Improves Inclusivity, Diversity, and Sales : The Indicator from Planet Money There's been a Barbie boom recently, and it's due in part to new collections of products featuring diverse skin tones and body types, as well as an accompanying PR makeover.
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Barbie's Big Makeover

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Barbie's Big Makeover

Barbie's Big Makeover

Barbie's Big Makeover

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/991013395/991065713" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Mattel
Photo of Barbie 2021 Fashionistas courtesy of Mattel
Mattel

2020 was a big year for Barbie. Mattel, the company that owns Barbie, generated nearly 1.5 billion dollars in revenue from the iconic doll. But just five years ago, Barbie was a brand in crisis. Sales were in a freefall: between 2011 and 2015, Barbie sales dropped by a third.

Kelly Gilblom, an entertainment reporter at Bloomberg News, says part of the problem was that the doll hadn't really evolved since it was first launched in the late 1950s. It was still a blonde doll modeling the white ideal of beauty, and that was becoming increasingly a problem for Mattel. When Mattel's CEO ordered a big consumer study about Barbie, the responses were...not pretty. Everybody thought Barbie was vapid and shallow. None of the little girls seem to think Barbie was aspirational, despite all her many careers. And then there was the body image issue. People were saying that if Barbie was expanded into human size, she wouldn't have enough room for a liver and she wouldn't be able to hold her head up!

Mattel decided it was time for Barbie to get a makeover. In 2015, they launched Barbie Fashionista dolls, a line of two dozen dolls with eight different skin tones and some curly hair options. In 2016, Mattel rolled out curvy Barbie, tall Barbie, petite Barbie. Barbie also started making more Youtube video blogs quarantine, talking about relevant topics during the Covid-19 pandemic like, wearing masks, missing friends and even social issues like racism.

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