Barbie, all the successes and failures of a blonde doll

The film, dedicated to the most famous doll in the world, was undoubtedly a success: Barbie a record-breaking one, and he managed to restore the luster of a somewhat tarnished pop icon after six decades and generations. After a box office breakthrough (US$155 million at a production cost of 128 million) in Italy, it grossed €7.7 million in four days, midsummer.

Even before its release, the film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling gave la one advertising and marketing campaign from $ 150 million exposed by Warner Bros and Mattel (the manufacturing company), as well as agreements with dozens of companies that released themed products, from clothing to travel bags, to makeup kits, from all kinds of gadgets to an agreement with Microsoft about the Xbox for the console, inspired by the world of Barbie, and themed cruises. With an initial positive effect on the original product, the doll, on its brand and on the company, which is the second largest toy manufacturer in the world in terms of turnover after another giant, Lego.

Not bad for this “girl” approaching retirement age (65 next year) after a long and varied career as a model, dancer, nurse, doctor, astronaut, dentist, florist, paleontologist, yoga teacher and US presidential candidate and more. .

From theaters to financial markets

Mattel shares rose more than Nvidia, Meta and Apple shares in June, the best shares on the Nasdaq: +12.2%. And the growth continues in July, by another 10 percentage points. Among the first effects of the film, of course, relaunch of the Barbie brand, down, according to sales data, in the first half of 2023; The success of the film seems to have caused a surge in sales of the doll. Not only that: according to the eToro study (reported by, in the three months preceding the release of the film, share price struggling company, as mentioned in the first half of the year, will increased by 22%.

And maybe, let’s suppose, the choice to make live action movie no coincidence, since the Danish brand’s overtaking of the famous brick against Mattel, if not only for it, happened at the same time as the success of the film Lego Moviereleased in 2014, when the turnover of the American company fell by 7% compared to 2013.

After all, films featuring a brand or product have often resulted in a significant jump in the shares of the owner companies in the stock market. An enthusiasm that, according to some analysts, will soon fade. In terms of sales, the current growth of the Barbie brand could continue over time, making Mattel’s flagship toy the protagonist of the market in the third quarter of the year with a possible decline phase in the fourth quarter or the first of 2024. .

The decision to make a Barbie movie was not an easy one. brand extensionbut is part of a long-term commercial strategy that will be repurposed with the rest of Mattel’s portfolio of 400 toy brands (including Fisher-Price and Hot Wheels). Even if we can’t talk about a completely original commercial strategy. In 2009, Hasbro, another major toy manufacturer, released a movie about Soldier Joe. Soldier Joe: Rise of the Cobra, starring Channing Tatum, which grossed $300 million worldwide. Even better was the sequel, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis, which earned $375 million.

Pink clouds, gray clouds

However, the skies above Barbie weren’t always so “pink”. Indeed, since 2013, the doll maker’s revenue has plummeted (in 2015, then-CEO Brian Stockton stepped down, after only three years at the helm). terrible year for the company), based on the global number $6.5 billion net sales a 4.5 billion in 2018. While the years of the pandemic have brought signs of recovery, the companies are far from their former glory. 2021 has been a booming year, with revenue from the Barbie brand catching up. 1.7 billion dollars worldwide, the highest net sales since 2013. In the same year he was named number 1 toy in the worldand this is long before the outbreak of “Barbeamania”.

Not only hits

Like humans, even Barbie had some “fall”. Not all versions of the doll and her friends have been successful. Let’s look at some “flop”ranging from a pregnant version of Midge, Barbie’s “historical” friend from 1960, who appeared in 2002 with a removable belly and a toy baby inside, to Allan, Midge’s husband and friend Ken (Barbie’s historical boyfriend), whose traces eventually disappeared, and the game the Barbie and Tanner set (complete with a pooping dog) was recalled with 680,000 copies in 2007 due to safety issues with some of the components.

The “adult” version of Skipper (Barbie’s little sister) from 1975, whose breasts developed when the arm was turned, and the themed Barbie “Oreo” (yes, the famous cookie) released in the 1975-90s and then discontinued, also from -for at least an unsuccessful combination of the color of the biscuit and the doll. Up to 2010’s “Video Girl Barbie” for kids ages 6 and up with built-in video camera, even discouragedFBI as a possible tool for pedophiles and 2015’s “Hey Barbie,” which spoke, listened, and responded through a microphone, sophisticated electronics, and a Wi-Fi connection, but whose features raised privacy concerns.

Password: reinvent yourself

Besides, there’s nothing that makes Barbie stand out more in these “first” 64 years of her “life” than constantly reinventing yourselfalthough not always painless. Thus, from a white, slender, blonde Barbie with a very narrow waist, big breasts, always on heels, in 2016 we come (even in the face of the already mentioned drop in sales) to a more realistic depiction of a female doll. , with new barbies more inclusive and diverse in their appearance. Barbie is “reborn” in four body types and seven skin tones, 24 hairstyles and 22 eye colors. If this does not represent an absolute novelty in the world of Barbie (in which there have always been versions of each ethnic group), the real evolution can be identified with the “Fashionistas” line, a representation of a different beauty, the purpose of which is to make children aware of the topic of physical disabilities, through dolls in disabled wheelchair, bald or with vitiligo.

Since the 2000s, Barbie has been init was digital, thanks to the creation of Barbie Entertainment. First film, animated feature film Barbie and the Nutcracker, comes out in 2001. The launch of the website will follow. But that’s not all: the doll is now on blockchain and was the first toy brand to become nft.

hot origin

If Barbie is one of the longest-lived toys in history, then the brand that makes it is even more so. Mattel was founded in (1945 Ruth Handler, her husband Elliot and Matt Matson (the brand name is the result of the union of the names of two men). The idea for Barbie came to Handler while watching his daughter Barbara, after whom she got her name, while playing with paper dolls. But the revelation came during a family trip to Lucerne, Switzerland, when she and Barbara spotted a doll in a toy store. Made in Germany, called Build Lillyand was inspired by comic strips of a very liberated young woman, especially towards men, published in the tabloids. Bild Zeitung. It was considered an “adult toy”.

Handler bought three and set about building a wardrobe to customize the doll. barbie debut (née Barbara Millicent Roberts), set in 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York, but success came only after the first television commercial. In the first year around 300,000 dolls at $3 each (equivalent to about $31 today). Soon the company was inundated with fan letters asking for a boyfriend. So in 1961 he arrives Ken, named after the Handlers’ son Kenneth. Mattel then bought the rights to manufacture Lilli in 1964 and the German doll was discontinued. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the original Barbie in excellent condition can reach $27,000while the range of contemporary dolls ranges from $10.99 “Fashionista” to a single piece created by Australian jewelry designer Stefano Kanturi that sold in 2012 for $302,500.

Fashion icon and muse of artists

Barbie is not just a toy, buticon from modern societythat evolves and adapts to every new trend. The fashion doll that has traveled the world has been the subject of articles and editorials in magazines such as Fashion, El AND cosmopolitan. He inspired and still inspires world famous designers, stylists and artists.

Also Andy Warhole decides to pay tribute to her with a portrait in 1986, now at Mattel’s headquarters in California: the image echoes the features of the particularly successful Barbie Peaches and Cream series (Barbie Fior di Pesco in Italian). produced in 1984. Roughly 30 years later, Mattel launched the “Barbie Collection”, a collection of dolls inspired by the Warhol figure and created in collaboration with the Andy Warhol Foundation. The circle that is closed.

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