‘I’m a blonde bimbo girl, in a fantasy world.....Life in plastic. It’s fantastic.’ (Aqua)
Barbie was born in 1959 but she has never aged because she is a doll. To date over
1 billion Barbies have been sold by the US company that own her - Mattel
Corporation. Ruth Handler, who founded the company along with her husband, Elliot, modelled the doll on an 11½ inch plastic German toy called Lilli sold to adult men.
She named the adapted doll after her daughter, Barbara. It is estimated that the average girl aged between three and 11 in the US owns 10 Barbies, in Britain or Italy she owns seven and in France or Germany she owns five. With annual sales of over
$1.6 billion, it is little wonder that the Barbie brand is valued at some $2 billion making it the most valuable toy brand in the world. But how has this plastic doll endured for so long in an industry notorious for its susceptibility to fickleness and fashion? Surly it must have come to the end of its life cycle? The answer lies in innovative marketing and product extension.
When originally introduced into the market Barbie was competing with dolls that were based on babies and designed to be cradled and cared for. By way of contrast,
Barbie, with her adult looks, exaggerated female figure, normally with blonde hair and pouting lips, was seen as adult and independent - a child of ‘liberated’ times, one that could become anything or anyone the child wanted. But Mattel describe
Barbie as a ‘lifestyle, not just a toy....a fashion statement, a way of life’. Barbie was not only innovative, it was intended to be more than just a doll.
Every year Mattel devises some 150 different Barbie dolls and 120 new outfits. She has always been trendy and continues to reinvent herself. She was a ‘mod’ in the
1960s and a hippie in the 1970s. Her hair style has changed from ponytail, bubblecut, page boy, swirl to side-part flip. She has various role in life - from holidaying in