How Barbie is stepping out of the Comfort Zone

Barbie is evolving

The fashion doll par excellence is getting out of her Comfort Zone. Barbie is no more only the Original; she is also Taller, Petite or Curvier and she has a Smart Home.

I grew up with her. I can still distinctly remember when the logo was bold, pink and white. When every recognition I was aiming for was Barbie related: a new doll, a new dress, new accessories, the car, the 2-floor home with a manual elevator (yes, it was in the eighties), and the swimming pool. When imagination was without boundaries, and you could be whoever, you want to be. Who doesn’t know Barbie? Who did not grow up with Barbie? For sure most of my peers did.

I have to recognize that she has not been on my radar for quite some time. I had, at least, 20-years of information gap on what happen in the Barbie world. Then I saw something that triggered my attention.

Barbie has a Smart Home

As a marketer who works in the Smart Lighting / Connected Home category, and as a former kid who can still remember the manual elevator, I was hooked. I was curious to know more and fascinated by the idea of looking at the Barbie universe with the eyes of an adult. I discovered immediately that the Smart Home is not the only news behind the doll and that Barbie is profoundly evolving: she is no more only the Original.

Barbie is embracing diversity

The traditional idea of Barbie is now outdated. Barbie is stepping out of the Comfort Zone.

Regardless of what you think about Barbie, she is out there, restless from 1959. Mattel, the toy company behind the product, presented the doll during the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. Only in the first year of production, they sold about 350,000 pieces. Since the date of her birthday, for more than fifty years now, Barbie represented an important part of the fashion doll market, with over a billion on dolls sold. She was one of the first toys to have a marketing strategy based on commercials.

She has become a cultural icon and role model with obviously quite some interesting implications from the sociological point of view. I learned that Barbie’s appearance changed many times, most notably in 1971 when the doll’s eyes were adjusted to look forwards rather than having the demure sideways glance of the original model. I also realized that Barbie’s careers had been designed to show that women could take on a variety of roles in life. And that criticism of Barbie is that she promotes an unrealistic idea of body image.

Everything so far seems in line with the traditional image of the famous doll so far. But we know that the world is changing, and it is changing quite fast, so does Barbie.

The world of Barbie – or we can better say the Marketing Strategy – is also evolving. Mattel just announced a game-changer: new body shapes.

The effort is in line with the journey that Mattel started in 2015 when introduced new skin tones and hair textures. It is the final confirmation that one size – and one color – doesn’t fit all. Barbie is no more only the Original, but she is also Taller, Petite or Curvier.

This change is quite radical as they are saying that there is no more this narrow standard of what a beautiful body looks like and that it is important for Barbie to look like the real people in the world. Today she comes in four body types (curvy, tall, petite and original), seven skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 24 hairstyles.

Barbie is getting the most dramatic transformation in her 57-year history, and the power of the message is tremendous. She is stepping out from the conventional, one sense – blond, tall, skinny – of beauty and the value is bigger that the concept of beauty itself. The new course celebrates Diversity, one of the most significant human challenges.

It is worth to put on paper what diversity truly means. Diversity includes acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each person is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each person. It is about stepping out our Comfort Zone.

The span of the challenge is increasing in today’s world. The open and connected nature of the society in which we live enables us to meet people different from us. Diversity is a value, and the challenge is to embrace it.

Regardless of the role of Barbie in our life, the new direction is excellent as is touching the Comfort Zone as a result of our education, experience, and habits.

If what I learn is “blond, tall, skinny” I see the world as “blond, tall, skinny” and I tend to experience my life and build my habits with the “blond, tall, thin” filter. My Comfort Zone will be the result of that. If what I learn embraces diversity, I can look at the world with wide eyes open and open mind. And it will impact experiences and habits, and I will have all the elements to step steadily out from my Comfort Zone.

Even Barbie can help us with our Comfort Zone.