Launched in March 1959 by Mattel, Inc., Barbie has sold over a billion dolls and is Mattel’s second largest brand after Fisher-Price. In 2015, sales figures reached an all-time low since 1993, and Barbie‘s attempts to reinvigorate the brand with new initiatives have only resulted in a 23% rise in the second quarter of 2016 – significant, but insufficient to restore Barbie back to its place as an industry giant.
Research shows that smart devices are becoming more popular with American children aged 12 and below and are increasingly being used to substitute physical toys. As a result, Barbie is becoming less relevant to their target consumers.
What do they need?
Having ventured into creating their very own Barbie tablet and interactive Hello Barbie doll, which were met with a resounding lack of consumer enthusiasm, Barbie needs to continue searching for ways to remain relevant in today’s technologically advanced society. They can use social media platforms to directly
- engage consumers in an interactive manner,
- gain exposure for their social campaigns, and
- encourage organic discourse about the change in their brand image.
How are they currently meeting these needs?
Current Social Media Tactic #1: Keeping up with Social Trends
Barbie has been focusing on breaking stereotypes – more specifically, they are advocating diversity and female empowerment, both of which are prominent current social issues. By doing so, they hope to shake free the controversies that have been dogging at their heels.
Barbie’s New Makeover – a product modification; doll body templates now reflect female shapes of all colours and sizes so as to promote inclusivity and body positivity.
‘You Can Be Anything’ – a viral marketing campaign showing girls that they can take on any career path of their choice.
Current Social Media Tactic #2: Keeping up with Digital Trends
Research shows that American children below 12 years of age are increasingly preferring smart devices over physical toys as their mode of play. As a result, Barbie has tried to connect with consumers on social and digital media platforms, but these attempts have met with limited success and have room for improvement.
Dreamtopia – a movie about the endless possibilities inherent in a make-believe fantasy world that led to a spin-off web series with a matching product line.
Life in the Dreamhouse – a web series stylized as a mock reality show available on YouTube, Netflix, and various other streaming media sites.
How can Barbie utilize social and digital media to engage and build relationships with parents such that Barbie products become more relevant to their children?
Project Goal & Target Audience
To build a relationship between Barbie and young American parents aged 25 to 34 (B2C – between Barbie and their primary audience), thereby increasing relevancy of Barbie’s products to young American girls aged 3 to 11 (C2C – between their primary and secondary audience).
Our message? That physical toys and virtual games do not have to be mutually exclusive – both serve to enhance the entertainment experience for adults and children alike and provide increased opportunities for parent-child interaction.
Methods & Strategies
We plan on creating a game application on the iOS and Android platforms that will adopt an adventure-style storytelling with achievable goals that would allow consumers to feel more emotionally involved in the game and its characters, and thereby, drive brand loyalty and sales figures. To promote this, we will use Snapchat and the tried-and-true channels of Facebook and YouTube to reach out to both new and current consumers alike.
Why Snapchat? Because our primary target user demographic is Snapchat’s fastest growing segment and we can capitalize on that. Snapchat is also one of the few major social media platforms that Barbie has yet to use in their marketing efforts.
- Introduce Barbie game-related filters
- Pair filters with animation shorts
- Use shorts to mimic in-game experience
- Provide an easy, direct download link
Aim: Expose consumers to the Barbie brand and the new adventure-based Barbie game, allow them to find out more about what the game is about, and make the consumer download decision-making process simpler and thereby, more attractive.
iOS & Android application
- Create adventure-style storytelling with pursuable goals
- Tap on psychological need to pursue achievements
Aim: Tie digital engagement to physical sales by creating a new game-related doll line and including QR codes in each product package that will unlock new in-game content and items.
Facebook & YouTube
- Create advertisements for the game on YouTube
- Show expected in-game experience
- Share it on Facebook
Aim: As Barbie’s official Facebook page and YouTube channel have the highest following among their social media accounts, we want to utilize these platforms to reach out to their current consumers.
Barbie’s low product sales as a result of the rising popularity of virtual games on smart devices is not a sign that the company is getting too old to remain an industry giant in doll-making. Rather, it is a sign that Barbie should capitalize on this trend in order to bolster their product sales. To do so, we will be looking at Barbie’s current social media efforts so as to emulate the best parts, improve on the worst parts, and focus their social media efforts to obtain maximum results and sufficiently improved product sales.