Case 4-2 Barbie: Growing Pains as the American Girl Goes Global

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1.Barbie dolls represent an idealized version of the American dream and lifestyle. The popularity and sales of Barbie dolls have diminished in recent years as a new competitor’s doll line, Bratz, has gained market share and recognition within Barbie’s original customer demographics. Mattel has recognized the importance of expanding distribution of Barbie dolls into European and Asian markets, as these populated regions contain a much larger potential customer base than the American market. Marketing executives with Mattel assumed that the cultural and ethnic adaptations of Barbie dolls that were well-received in the US would also be required for international markets. As such, management created dolls that fitted to the accepted aesthetic standards for each of the country’s markets. Even though accepted cultural standards were provided for each market, the data from the European and Japanese markets demonstrated that the original American version of Barbie dolls was in greater demand instead of its “culturally adjusted” versions. In contrast, the Middle East market required Mattel to be culturally and religiously sensitive to the modest clothing customs in order to compete with the local producers of dolls. Management discovered that the original American prototype of Barbie was the most popular version sold in a large number of foreign markets, in direct contrast with the American market which required various “culturally adjusted” versions. Although Mattel tried to accommodate to the principle of “think globally and act locally,” doll sales of the original American look was more successful. 2.The decline in Barbie sales was attributed to the success of the Bratz line. This newly developed product appealed to the new generation of tweens, despite its edgy look that had the potential to scare off parents. Before Bratz dolls were introduced, Barbie dolls were considered the fashion doll and a symbol of the American lifestyle and prosperity. Though Barbie dolls...
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