By Brenna Parker
American pop culture is often defined by what we consume. And for many women we have grown up with Barbara Millicent Roberts. In many ways Barbie is an introduction to womanhood. She has played a role in how young girls (and boys) view femininity and gender. Her many career choices from a UNICEF Summit diplomat to a Baywatch lifeguard, have shown that women can become any profession they so chose. Although, Barbie has changed with the times by reflecting changing social norms, she in herself has become a stereotype.
Mattel, Barbie's parent company, has fiercely protected her image and brand over the past 57 years, but Mattel decided they could no longer ignore their number one customer: millennial parents. In an attempt to save America’s golden “it” girl the brand launched an internal campaign to make Barbie more relevant. The result was three different body types: tall, petite and curvy.
In a recent interview with TIME magazine, Barbie General Manager Evelyn Mazzocco, said millennial parents are more concerned about what brands signify within their household. Barbie for many young girls represents the “ideal body type” that so many look to achieve. Mattel felt as though consumers on social media painted Barbie as an out-of-touch product that consumers did not relate with.
Mattel shifted its focus to try to rework the company’s social responsibility to young consumers. As a result, Mattel spent two years on the secret “Project Dawn” campaign to adjust the brands relationship with Barbie and the public.
Some of the criticism Barbie faced from consumers on social media was that she did not reflect the multicultural environment that her audience plays with. Barbie’s Senior Designer of Design Robert Best said that Barbie’s hair is the most significant part about the doll. Some of the dolls the company plans on releasing feature different textures of hair, multicolored hair and even some dolls with half-shaven heads.
Mattel hit a strong mark by listening to their consumers. Their struggle was not with young girls, but with parents (particularly with moms) who have questioned the role Barbie has played in their lives and now in the lives of their daughters. It is unfortunate that the company waited 57 years to address the root of the issue that not all women are built the same.