Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Negotiating Meaning

Barbie and Ken are officially together again after a 7 year break up. A video at barbieandken.com documented the event on Valentine's Day.

Ken is on a comeback trail after riding high from his role in Toy Story 3, one of this year's 10 Oscar nominees for best picture. And now, in honor of his 50th anniversary — Ken met Barbie at a commercial shoot in March 1961, two years after her own debut — Mattel has been spotlighting Ken with new products and promotions.

For example, Ken had New York's famed Magnolia Bakery customize a cupcake (image) for his lost love. He's even taken out billboards in Manhattan and Los Angeles to proclaim his ardor, making heartfelt declarations like "Barbie, we may be plastic, but our love is real."

Mattel values Barbie as a $3 billion brand with an 8% increase in revenue in 2010 largely due to products aimed at slightly older girls. In a competitive doll market Barbie has competed for shelf space with Liv, Bratz, Disney Princess, Moxie Girlz, BFC Ink and iCarly...

It's interesting to think about the values which Barbie (and Ken) have reflected for generations of girls, the adjustments made in marketing, and the perennial decisions parents must make about them.