According to Barbie’s official website, the Barbie doll is evolving. Last week, Mattel announced the Barbie brand aims to diversify itself by adding different shaped dolls with different skin tones to the product line. This appears to be in a bid to stay a relevant toy company in an increasingly competitive and diversifying society. The range now comes in seven different skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 different hairstyles. As well as this, the dolls on offer are now of different heights. The original Barbie shape is set to continue to sell alongside the new range, which launches in Spring 2016, and the entire range aims to promote the diversity of women around the world.
Barbie was launched in 1959 when founder Ruth Handler discovered a need for a fashion-doll-product for her daughter to play with. At the time, there were little dolls like Barbie on the market. Over the years the Barbie doll has been altered to meet customer demands, for example in the 1960s Mattel designed a Barbie doll with blue eyes and red hair for the first time in its company history. In the seventies, the Barbie doll changed style to suit the fashion at the time. Barbie appears to have continued to change over the years as a reflection of the times. According to a recent press release concerning the 2016 Fashionista dolls, Barbie is offering girls choices which are more reflective of the world they see today.
The productive aspect of this business decision by Mattel, appears to be the impact this may have on young children buying and playing with their toys. The increased product range and diverse choices of dolls becoming available this year may project Barbie in a positive light and result in more sales. This decision may also help them gain competitive advantage over similar businesses offering a similar product. Makies, a toy making company, specialises in creating customized dolls through the use of 3D printers. The British company, established in 2012 creates custom-designed dolls and aims to improve diversity in children’s toy boxes. They offer dolls which appear to have mental conditions or differing characteristics such as birthmarks or scars, as well as additional features such as hearing aids and small guide dogs. This may bring more choice and customisability to the child which may be an alternative to choosing Barbie. However, Barbie’s new range may be the first step in a new direction.
Lego, is an additional toy company which has recently made changes to its product line to cater to different groups of children. It is said to be embracing diversity by recently introducing a new disabled mini figure at the Nuremburg International Toy Fair in Germany. Like Barbie, Lego has been around for a long time and may be embracing diversity in order to remain competitive. The productive aspect of creating more diversity in children’s toy boxes is it may increase representation for disabled children as well as change cultural perceptions.
The changes underway at Mattel may be one of the many steps that the company aims to take over the next year to increase their customer reach and remain competitive. It appears embracing diversity in toy companies may be increasingly important as time goes on, as we live in an increasingly globalised and diverse society. Mattel and Lego may be the first of many toy companies aiming to embrace diversity and integrate this into their products. Barbie may need to continue to evolve in the future in order to remain relevant.
What are the benefits of businesses evolving in order to embrace diversity?