‘The Indicator From Earth Money’ Investigates Barbie’s Transformation : NPR

Matel has given Barbie a total makeover, and it’s led to skyrocketing sales. The Indicator

Matel has given Barbie a total makeover, and it’s led to skyrocketing sales. The Indicator from Earth Money explores how obtaining a much more inclusive lineup of dolls was important to the company’s achievements.


What does it take to remodel a manufacturer? We are talking of a brand that looks a little bit tarnished but whose entrepreneurs consider it far too significant to fail. Barbie. Stacey Vanek Smith with The Indicator From World Income investigates this transformation.


STACEY VANEK SMITH: Concerning 2011 and 2015, Barbie product sales dropped by a third. Kelly Gilblom is an leisure reporter at Bloomberg News. And for Mattel, suggests Kelly, this was a entire-on disaster.

KELLY GILBLOM: Individuals say, you know, nevertheless Barbie goes, that’s how Mattel goes.

VANEK SMITH: Mattel’s CEO purchased a significant sweeping buyer examine about Barbie, and the responses ended up not rather. People today imagined Barbie was vapid and shallow. And then there was all the stuff about Barbie’s human body.

GILBLOM: There were being scientific studies that have been coming out that had been saying if Barbie was expanded into human measurement, she wouldn’t have ample place for a liver and she would not be capable to keep her head up.

VANEK SMITH: Those people matters experience essential.

GILBLOM: (Laughter).

VANEK SMITH: Mattel went into complete disaster mode.

LISA MCKNIGHT: Barbie – she’s much too significant to are unsuccessful.

VANEK SMITH: This is Lisa McKnight, world head of Barbie at Mattel. She arrived on board at Barbie’s darkest hour.

MCKNIGHT: The stakes ended up significant and of class, we realized we necessary variety.

VANEK SMITH: In 2015, Lisa and her staff introduced a new line of Barbie fashionista dolls.


Unidentified ACTORS: (As figures, singing) Won’t be able to resist a fashionista.

VANEK SMITH: Usually, the fashionista dolls had been nearly all white with long, straight hair. The new line of two dozen dolls had eight various pores and skin tones and some curly hair possibilities, but they were all nonetheless the lean, liverless Barbies of yore. And Lisa says that was the following thing they appeared at.

MCKNIGHT: We essential system diversity.

VANEK SMITH: In 2016, Mattel rolled out curvy Barbie, tall Barbie, petite Barbie, and Barbie product sales began to choose up, so Lisa and her staff pushed even further. They launched a Barbie who came with a wheelchair, a Barbie with the pores and skin problem vitiligo. Keep in mind, though, seems to be had been only section of the issue. A good deal of the issue experienced to do with Barbie’s identity.

MCKNIGHT: She was viewed as way too perfect, unrelatable. We started off to have her grow to be vulnerable.

VANEK SMITH: Mattel beefed up Barbie’s YouTube channel, and an animated Barbie now does repeated movie posts from her extremely pink bed room. And then the pandemic strike. Kids had been out of the blue household from school, and parents started desperately shopping for toys and game titles and videos to entertain them. Demand from customers for all factors Barbie went nuts. Mattel also doubled down on Barbie’s vlog. Barbie and all of her mates went into quarantine. They talked about donning masks, lacking their mates and even social troubles.


Unknown ACTOR #1: (As Barbie) Hey, everyone.

Unidentified ACTOR #2: (As Nikki) Hey, everyone.

VANEK SMITH: This is Barbie and her Black good friend Nikki speaking about the Black Life Issue movement and racism.


Unidentified ACTOR #2: (As Nikki) People may possibly feel that my daily life seems wonderful, but the fact is, I and so quite a few other Black people have to deal with racism all the time. It can be genuinely hurtful, and it can be scary and sad. And I wished to share some tales about that today.

VANEK SMITH: By the finish of very last year, Barbie’s vlog had 10 million subscribers, and Mattel experienced marketed virtually $1 1/2 billion worth of Barbies. And the inclusive Barbies ended up top the pack. Just one of the top-providing Barbies of 2020 was the Barbie who came with the wheelchair. A different mega strike – a Maya Angelou Barbie created in honor of Black Record Thirty day period. Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR News.


Unidentified Man or woman: (Singing) Occur on, Barbie, let’s go get together.

TORI V: (Vocalizing).

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