Barbie Celebrates 50 Fabulous Years
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Barbie Celebrates 50 Fabulous Years

On her feted 50th anniversary in 2009, the Barbie brand wanted to prove to girls of all generations that Barbie was still the ultimate queen of contemporary fashion, the social diva of pop culture and a valued and beloved playmate and inspiration to girls everywhere.

Holmes Report


For five decades, Mattel’s iconic Barbie brand has reigned steadily as the world’s favorite and most talked about fashion doll. In recent years, however, Barbie sales had grown increasingly sluggish as the franchise faced more competition for “share of girls’ playtime.” On her feted 50th anniversary in 2009, the Barbie brand wanted to prove to girls of all generations that Barbie was still the ultimate queen of contemporary fashion, the social diva of pop culture and a valued and beloved playmate and inspiration to girls everywhere. The anniversary celebration became the brand’s critical moment in time to re-ignite the world’s understanding and love affair with Barbie and refresh her relevance by celebrating her iconic and glamorous past, present and future with show-stopping public relations events. In fact, PR would become Mattel’s driving marketing force throughout the entire anniversary year, driven by the desire to finally get the real story and magic behind Barbie’s legendary success “just right.”   Barbie rolled out her pink carpet -- staging a fashion show of the likes that Fashion Week had never seen, and building a real-life Malibu Dream House that made even cynics drool. The results: an 18% sales spike and nearly universal awareness of her “anniversary” among women, during one of the worst consumer recessions and declines in consumer spending since 1929.
Business and Communications Goals
·         Generate increased demand for Barbie and turn around several years of stagnant sales and flat growth during the anniversary year (during a recession)
·         Drive widespread consumer awareness of Barbie’s 50th anniversary among women of all ages
·         Re-engage the Barbie brand and business in the high fashion and pop culture world
·         “Girls” of all ages, including:
o   Children who play with Barbie dolls, toys and products
o   Moms and grandmothers who buy and recommend Barbie products
o   Adult Barbie collectors and avid Barbie fans
o   Young adult women who grew up with Barbie and could relate once again to Barbie’s fashionable, pop culture appeal
·         Business and consumer media (including fashion, entertainment, women’s, parenting, new media/blogs)
·         Fashion community influencers, including potential fashion brand partners, celebrities, and tastemakers
The PR team conducted an exhaustive brand review of Barbie archives, historical imagery and facts, previous anniversary (40th, 45th) stories, and the brand’s most recent consumer research to coalesce the Barbie 50th anniversary story and bring to life her rich and elegant past, present and ideal future in living color, creative imagery, words and sound.
Besides unearthing 50 years of fame and success, the team also had to confront 50 years of “media baggage”… inaccurate information, urban legends, a proliferation of “unofficial” fan sites and oodles of unflattering images and stories, as well as outdated photography. While we intuitively knew that the media would cover Barbie’s 50th anniversary – she was Barbie, after all – we wanted to reframe her new story to more accurately reflect Barbie’s intended brand positioning and core values, her updated and contemporary style, and renew consumer focus on recent brand news and new products. To shape the story of Barbie’s rich history and current status as a fashion, pop culture and inspirational icon, the PR team designed a break-frame, comprehensive media kit. Spanning five decades, the Barbie 50th anniversary press kit featured colorful facts and figures and decade-by-decade illustrations of Barbie’s many multi-faceted careers, fashions, faces of beauty and dramatic impact on pop culture. Designed in the form of a fashionable clutch purse (and offered in three doll-icious patterns), the three-fold press kit was not only media-friendly, but also truly a pinktastic reflection of Barbie’s uber signature style.
1)      Place Barbie at the epicenter of mainstream and cutting-edge world fashion and pop culture to remind women of her sizzling celebrity appeal and to dramatize her 50 years of timeless popularity and everlasting inspiration.
2)      Team up with “only the coolest” partners and celebrity alliances to catapult Barbie into the limelight and onto the media’s center stage.
Every anniversary event needed to reinforce the DNA of the Barbie brand’s central message: that Barbie is a timeless inspiration to girls and an ageless icon of fashion and pop culture – as relevant and successful today as she was when she first made her debut in 1959. Barbie needed to be brought to life through dazzling, life-sized, real-world events – in ways that would inspire and awe both yesterday’s, today’s and her next generation of female fans.
Barbie’s anniversary year “show” needed to be a series of carefully orchestrated, seamless and high profile events fitting of a true celebrity. Our series of show-stopping live events included: 
o   A high fashion Barbie Runway Show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (strategically timed to occur with New York Toy Fair)
o   Creation of an actual life-sized Barbie Dream House, bringing one of Barbie’s best-selling and most aspirational play accessories of all time to life – right in the heart of Malibu, CA
o   A pink-carpet birthday bash to top all birthday bashes on Barbie’s actual birthday (March 9th)
o   Special Malibu Dream House “Open House” for mom influencers/bloggers and their daughters
Barbie hosted her first runway show at the prestigious Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, earning rank as one of the largest star-studded and spectacular productions Fashion Week had ever witnessed. Barbie’s fashion show included 50 designers who used Barbie as their muse. The Barbie fashion show attracted more than 300 international and U.S. media and a packed house of 1,500 fans, with more than 700 fans overflowing into the lobby, hoping to catch a glimpse. 
Turning plastic into real-world fantastic, the team retained famed interior designer Jonathan Adler to custom design Barbie’s legendary Malibu Dream House. The Dream House became a spectacular Hollywood set to stage her birthday party where 200 of Barbie’s closest celebrity and designer friends, including Heidi Klum and Lauren Conrad, walked the pink carpet, enjoyed music spun by DJ AM and sipped on cocktails such as the Barbie “Doll-icious.” Some of the creative party details included floral centerpieces shaped as stilettos heels and thousands of miniature Barbie sunglasses, shoes and handbags filled Lucite lounge tables. The Dream House served as a backdrop for numerous media tours – including CNN, Associated Press and Access Hollywood. 
To celebrate with mothers and girls directly, Barbie invited Southern California’s most prominent mommy bloggers and their daughters to a Malibu Dream House “Open House” on March 14th. Hosting nearly 50 moms and girls (including actress Courteney Cox & daughter Coco as well as actress Denise Richards and daughters Sam and Lola), guests received a private tour of the house, enjoyed pink treats and refreshments and played with some of the newest Barbie dolls and toys. 
Objective #1: Generate increased consumer demand for Barbie and turn around sluggish sales
·         The campaign produced an 18% increase in U.S. sales during Q1 2009; peak brand sales spikes could be directly linked to media coverage timing
·         Generated 100% sell through of new limited edition original Bathing Suit doll within one week
Objective #2: Drive widespread consumer awareness of Barbie’s 50th anniversary
·         Mattel research found that 67% of consumers surveyed were able to report that it was Barbie’s birthday
·         Media coverage consistently relayed Barbie brand’s key positioning message: “Through the decades, Barbie is always a reflection of fashion, pop culture and inspiration”
·         Public relations events secured 9.8+ billion consumer impressions globally; more than $100 million in advertising equivalency and 3,500+ media placements, including saturation across all national TV shows (e.g., Today Show, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, Regis & Kelly, CNN, FOX Business, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Associated Press TV, Access Hollywood, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and more) and major print outlets (e.g., USA Today, Women’s Wear Daily, Los Angeles Times, New York Post Front Page Feature, People Magazine, La Opinion and more) 
·         Garnered more than 130,000 fans on Barbie’s Facebook page, 220,000 blog posts, 4,0000+ Twitter followers
Objective #3: Re-engage the Barbie brand/business in the high fashion and pop culture worlds
·         Ignited brand relations among key business constituents, securing new high profile co-branded marketing partnerships across several categories including:
o   Beauty: Stila Cosmetics, T3 Micro, Inc.
o   Retail: Shanghai Flagship Store, national partnership with Bloomingdales, an unprecedented Shop-in-Shop at Fred Segal
o   Fashion: Christian Louboutin specially-designed pink patent shoes, Rootstein Mannequins, Karl Lagerfeld
“Barbie: our favorite playmate, our best friend, the girl we told all our secrets to. What makes her so special? We’d need 50 more years to tell you. But in a word, she’s a living doll. Today we toast our special friend. Thanks for the memories, sister golden hair.” 
– Houston Chronicle, March 9, 2009
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