Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Barbie Doll turns 50

2009 is turning into an interesting year, full of milestones. One of these milestones is The Barbie Doll will be 50 years old. Ken, Barbie’s long term boyfriend is only 48. Who knew that Barbie liked younger guys?
Actually Barbie and Ken were named after the children of Mattel founder Ruth Handler.
When Ruth and her husband introduced Barbie at the International Toy Show in 1959, toy stores were not excited. Consumers loved Barbie and as they say, the rest is history.

Ruth was 42 when she introduced this controversial doll, a doll with breasts. Another first for Mattel, with Ruth at the helm, was to buy 52 weeks, 1 year of advertising on the TV show, the Mickey Mouse Club. One year of advertising toys directly to the demographic who could not buy them but could make their wishes known had not been done before. TV itself was in its infancy, but Ruth and her husband Elliot saw the potential. They were right again.

Ruth Handler who died in 2002 at age 85 was an admirable business woman. She combined business, Motherhood and being a wife in a time when women were not encouraged to work outside of their homes. What genius to name her doll toys after her children. What PR savvy to partner with her husband but confident enough to be the spokesperson for their toy company. At age 51 Ruth introduced Hot Wheels. This toy’s success rivaled Barbie’s for boys. Menopause in the work place didn’t stop Ruth Handler from success, nor does it appear to stop her creation, the Barbie Doll.

This doll could be called ‘Hot Flash Barbie’ or ‘Menopause Barbie at age 50. Looking at her founder, I think Barbie has a great future ahead of her. She looks great for 50. Fashion designers have clamored to design her clothes. Barbie sports gowns from Dior and Bob Mackie. Now the cosmetic company Stila launched a collection based on Barbie. Mattel, which the Handler family sold in the 70’s, had a bad fourth quarter for 2008. Can the Golden Anniversary Barbie bear the financial pressure for the entire company? Mattel is trying with a big party in Malibu, the home of Malibu Barbie, which is of course Pink!

by Haralee Weintraub

No comments: