After 125 Careers, Barbie Gets Her Geek On
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After 125 Careers, Barbie Gets Her Geek On

The Barbie brand, determined to move the sales needle upward, in a declining economy, made a bold marketing move to reinvigorate one of its flagship mainstay lines that had been around since the beginning of Barbie – her career line.

Holmes Report

For the past 50 years, Barbie has been the world’s #1 selling doll that girls adore and women admire. The Barbie brand, determined to move the sales needle upward, in a declining economy, made a bold marketing move to reinvigorate one of its flagship mainstay lines that had been around since the beginning of Barbie – her career line. Moving beyond the sparkle, high fashion and glamour that had defined the marketing strategy in 2009, the brand shifted gears to magnify the doll’s aspirational side, positioning Barbie as an inspiration to women in the workplace and motivating girls by becoming an advocate for exploring a world without limits.

PR created excitement via consumer engagement and a wave of social media chatter to announce her newest career – computer engineer. Barbie would get her geek on in grand style and conquer the unknown business and technology media outlets, whose reporters had never before entertained “a doll story.” PR prevailed as the brand’s primary marketing and promotion channel, driving renewed demand for Barbie and generating a 114% sales increase for Mattel’s “I Can Be…” doll line.

OBJECTIVES
Business Objective
• Generate consumer demand and sales of the new “I Can Be…” career doll line, in a difficult economic climate

Communications Objectives
• Maintain high profile awareness and visibility of the Barbie brand in 2010
• Engage more consumers directly in the Barbie “I Can Be…” campaign

Media Objective
• Expand media coverage of the brand outside Barbie’s usual women’s lifestyle and parent magazine comfort zone

TARGET AUDIENCES
• “Girls” of all ages, including past, current and future Barbie fans
• Young adult and career-minded women who grew up with the brand
• Business and consumer lifestyle media that influence Barbie’s consumer image and social relevance (including entertainment, women’s, parenting, technology, social media/blogs)

RESEARCH / PLANNING
Research helped embellish the brand story that would help drive the new crowd-sourcing campaign and enlist consumers to choose Barbie’s next career. The team:
- Administered a global consumer survey, asking both girls and moms around the world what career they would like Barbie to pursue
- Conducted an audit of Barbie’s entire 50-year career history to share with fans
- Researched emerging trends in women’s careers and the workplace, along with high-profile and inspirational women in the workplace who could be spokespeople and role models

The research revealed a seismic generational shift in preference among women for traditionally male-dominated careers – including architect, surgeon, environmentalist and the winning career of computer engineer. The brand simultaneously researched stories and trends to shine a spotlight on women in these careers and cultivate mainstream interest and curiosity around “geek chic.”

STRATEGY
Engage consumers on a social media and experiential level, all the while highlighting the career line and increasing sales – PR engaged with consumers via social media channels, media events, and direct-to-girl/mom marketing to remind consumers of the history of the “I Can Be…” toy line, while promoting the new additions on the horizon. PR helped propel Barbie’s social currency by giving consumers control over determining what careers Barbie should choose next, with a first-ever consumer vote

Move beyond the sparkle, high fashion and glamour and shift the brand to magnify Barbie’s more practical aspirational side – Furthering the Barbie “I Can Be…” message, PR aligned with third-party partners that share Barbie’s passion for women leadership in the work-place

EXECUTION / TACTICS
Through a variety of tactics that touched social media, consumer engagement, traditional media and more, the brand was able to propel Barbie into the aspirational spotlight she needed.

Consumers Increase Barbie’s Social Media Status
Like all good celebrity publicists, Barbie doll’s publicity team advised the doll to actively post updates to her friends on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, daily. As Tweets and Facebook messages poured in, it was clear the public was behind “geek chic” – next up was convincing the non-plastic world of serious journalism and technology to take Barbie seriously, too.

Barbie Aligns with the Right Crowd to Increase Her “Geek Cred” – GIRL POWER!
The Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering were tapped to provide input on an authentic look for the Computer Engineer Barbie doll. These prestigious organizations also helped identify an engineer spokesperson that helped bring the doll to life.

Turning Heads at New York Toy Fair
PR created a press conference at Toy Fair and placed a mystery, opaque Barbie box front and center to heighten suspense for the unveiling; when revealed the tech media in attendance finally understood why they were there and applauded the unexpected pink high heeled step.

EVALUATION OF SUCCESS / MEASUREMENT

Objective #1: Maintain high profile awareness and visibility of the Barbie brand in 2010
Public relations secured 1.1+ billion consumer impressions and 1,300+ media placements including saturation across national TV shows (e.g., Today Show, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox and Friends) and major print outlets (e.g., Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Redbook and more)

Objective #2: Generate consumer demand and sales of the new “I Can Be…” doll line in a contracting economic climate
The campaign produced a point-of-sale increase of 114% within the “I Can Be…” line in U.S. sales year-to-date

Objective #3: Engage more consumers directly in the Barbie “I Can Be…” campaign
More than one million consumers voted online, and the brand interacted with more than 444,440 fans (average person has 130 friends) on Barbie’s Facebook page, and 17,945 followers via Twitter

Objective #4: Expand media coverage of the brand outside Barbie’s usual women’s lifestyle and parent magazine comfort zone
PR secured multiple placements in tech media, reaching millions. Coverage relayed Barbie as an aspirational leader, with stories in Wired, Gizmodo, PC World and a Wall Street Journal story called, “Revenge of the Nerds: How Barbie Got Her Geek On”

 

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