Barbie | How a $3 toy inspired a billion dollar dream world?

The summer blockbuster ‘Barbie’ will be released in theaters on Wednesday, with Margot Robbie playing the famous doll. The film is set to launch Mattel’s cinematic universe and the collaboration is growing by leaps and bounds.

photos from last june margot robbie And ryan goslingThe stars of the upcoming Barbie movie have gone viral. A year later, as the film’s release draws closer, fans can now dress up as their favorite dolls. The Barbie x Impala roller skates, priced at €190, are part of the hundred collaborations and brand partnerships that parent company Mattel has signed to capitalize on the excitement generated by the film directed by Greta Gerwig, one of the star films of the summer Are.

Mattel President and Chief Operating Officer Richard Dixon told Forbes while wearing a Barbie T-shirt, Barbie is at “the beginning of a new chapter in the evolution of the brand”. “Barbie has gone from a doll to a franchise. Our ability to extend and market the brand is more important than any product. ,

If it seems like the world is turning pink lately, it’s by design. There’s everything from Barbie-branded Crocs to hot pink Beys luggage and a Barbie x Moon electric toothbrush. Fans can bathe with Barbie x Truly soap, apply Barbie x OPI nail polish, wear Barbie x Meundees underwear and Barbie x Gap clothing. They can also listen to the film’s soundtrack, which includes new hits from Dua Lipa and Nicki Minaj. It’s even possible to spend the night in an actual Malibu dream home on Airbnb (John Legend and Chrissy Teigen have moved their families there before).

The film, which stars Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae and Hari Neff as Barbies, Simu Liu as Kanes, John Cena and Kingsley Ben-Adair, and Will Ferrell as Mattel’s meta-CEO, was shot between 80 and 100. Should be brought million dollars (70 and 90 million euros) in its opening weekend.

Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie and America Ferrera attend an interview session for the film ‘Barbie’ at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on June 25, 2023 in Los Angeles. Getty Images

For a doll who is approaching retirement age (Barbie will be 65 next year), as a fashion model, nurse, ballerina, nursing sister, astronaut, paleontologist, florist, yoga teacher, etc. Despite a long career, he shows no signs of slowing down. The dynamic dilettante targets annual sales of $1.7 billion (1.5 billion euros) in 2021, a record. In the same year, Barbie was declared the number one toy in the world.

And that was before this summer’s Barbie Mania.

Mattel was founded in 1945 by Ruth Handler, her husband Elliott, and Matt Matson. (Elliot handled the design and Ruth the business). “She Was the Driving Force Behind the Company,” Tanya Lee Stone, Author the good, the bad and the barbie, “It is thanks to him that they moved from the garage to the rental premises. ,

Ruth and Elliot Handler, March 20, 1968. Getty Images

As president of the company, Ruth was “the embodiment of her doll”, i.e. a “woman who can do anything”, says author Robin Gerber. Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Made Her, “This woman was an entrepreneur, a business leader, at that time and in a field where there were no women at this level. ,

The idea for Barbie came to her as she watched her daughter Barbara and her friends play with paper dolls whose clothes kept falling apart. What particularly appealed to Ruth Handler was that the girls did not pretend to be children or mothers with their creations, but instead pretended to be librarians and teachers. Robin Gerber says, “She was amazed by the fact that little girls wanted to be big girls.” But adult dolls designed to entertain children did not exist.

The inspiration for Barbie’s design came to Ruth during a family trip to Lucerne, Switzerland, when she and Barbara saw a doll in a toy store. It was called Build Lily and was inspired by a cartoon character from a local newspaper who was looking for gold. He bought three and started building a wardrobe for his avatar of the doll. “She understood right away that you could make a doll and then take the clothes apart,” says Gerber.

“Ruth’s goal was to make a small mannequin and make it very easy for the girls to take off their heads and change clothes,” says Tanya Lee Stone. This way, “girls can imagine themselves to be who they want to be”.

Barbie made its debut at the American Toy Fair in New York in 1959, but the toy didn’t really become popular until children saw its first TV commercial later that year. About 300,000 dolls were sold in the first year at a price of $3 ($31 today, or 28 euros). Today, an original Barbie doll in mint condition sells for more than $24,000 and contemporary Barbies range from about $9 for Barbie fashionistas to a unique doll created by Australian jewelry designer Stefano Canturi that sold for $302,500 Is. 2012 (about $400,000, or 356,000 euros today).

Shortly after Barbie’s arrival, society was inundated with letters asking if she might have a boyfriend. In 1961, Ken—named after the Handlers’ son Kenneth—appeared. (Kenneth Handler died in 1994 at age 50 and Barbara Handler is 82 today).

“If you owned Mattel stock in the 1960s, you would have gotten double-digit returns every year,” says Gerber. But the next decade brought its own problems for the Handlers. Ruth, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, resigned in 1975, three years before she and several other former Mattel executives were indicted by the Securities and Exchange Commission for providing false financial statements. Ultimately he pleaded not guilty.

After a few lean years in the 1980s—during which Barbie worked as an aerobics instructor, cashier, travel agent, and veterinarian—there has been a renaissance. Mattel president John Ammerman told Forbes in 1991, “It took 28 years for Barbie sales to reach $430 million (€382 million) and only three years to reach $700 million (623 million euros).” It accounted for half of Mattel’s sales.

In the 2000s, Barbie entered the digital age. Richard Dixon oversaw the creation of Barbie Entertainment. Barbie’s first film, the animated film Barbie in the Nutcracker, was released in 2001. Her first website,, was also launched.

Mr Dixon left Mattel in 2010 and joined in 2014 when the company was going through one of its worst times. Barbie reached its lowest sales volume in 25 years with only $900 million (800 million euros). “One of the most shocking headlines when I came back was on CNN, which was literally titled ‘Is Barbie Dead?’ “”, he recalls. “The standard of beauty that Barbie represented for more than 50 years – thin, white, blonde – no longer resonated with consumers. Her identity of perfection was out of date,” he telling.

So Barbie needed a major image change. Mattel started with the color of his skin and his ethnic origins. Mr. Dixon explains, “The method used was not just to introduce skin-colored dolls, but to change the entire graphic identity of the brand.” Mattel’s packaging and advertising has been updated to reflect the new diverse lineup. Barbie’s highly prosthetic body has been reimagined for the 21st timeI Century: The doll was launched in large, small and over-sized versions. But since the Barbies were not the same size; Their clothes, their cars and even their houses had to be changed. Everything had to be made anew. ,

The Barbie movie captures the complicated relationship that audiences have had with the 11-inch Handler couple icon over the decades. Richard Dixon explains, “Greta Gerwig espouses the idea of ​​telling strong stories led by women and in which women are celebrated.” “The Barbie brand is no exception and shows that the famous doll is a very strong female protagonist who is in control of her own story. This would not have been possible if we had not already done this amazing thing. ,

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling attend the European premiere of ‘Barbie’ at Cineworld Leicester Square on July 12, 2023 in London, England. Getty Images

The decision to make a Barbie movie wasn’t just a brand extension, it’s a long-term business strategy that will be implemented repeatedly over the rest of Mattel’s portfolio, which includes some 400 toy brands.

Nor is it an entirely original strategy. Hasbro released a G.I. Joe movie in 2009. The first film starring Channing Tatum, GI Joe: Rise of Cobra, grossed over $300 million worldwide. The sequel, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis, did even better with $375 million.

“We have over 13 film projects in development. And we have over 30 TV shows under production,” says Richard Dixon.

Barbie’s departure also comes at a time when Mattel’s balance sheet needs a boost. The company ended the first quarter in April with net revenue of $814.6 million (€725.2 million), down 22% year-over-year. Worldwide gross sales of Barbie were $177 million (€157 million), down 44% from the previous year, but accounting for approximately 58% of sales. Mattel’s gross business for all dolls. “We couldn’t be more confident and excited about the future of the brand,” Mr. Dixon said in a recent earnings conference call.

Her positivity towards the brand is reflected in the beautiful palette of pink. “We work with the best in console games and mobile games, among many other digital experiences that put Barbie in the spotlight,” says Richard Dixon. Barbie entered the world of blockchain and was the first toy brand to become an NFT. “We accept cryptocurrencies,” Dixon says. “Barbie is a canvas for artists, influencers and collaborators. ,

And as she turns 65 next year, Barbara Millicent Roberts’ heart will continue to beat with the same spirit that Ruth Handler instilled in her six decades ago.

“Barbie isn’t just a toy,” says Dixon. “She’s an inspiration. ,

Article translated from Forbes US – author: Marissa Deltto

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