Barbie faced major declines
Barbie has been heavily criticized over the last few decades for projecting an unrealistic image for girls. Launched in 1959, Barbie was the blonde all-American dream, but a complete fiction that many believe to be doing more damage of the self confidence of girls. The modern Moms didn’t want their daughters playing with Barbie anymore. All of a sudden, Barbie sales declined 20% in 2012 to 2014. The brand needed to make a dramatic change.
Barbie took a dramatic step forward–even if just to catch up to where they should be–by launching new possibilities with realistic options for body type (curvy, tall and petite) and various ethnicities (seven skin tones) They needed to create a Barbie that Moms would think acceptable for their girls to play with. These moms wanted a good symbol for their daughters, not something unrealistic and unattainable. The new Barbie is a good first step.
Next, the supporting Advertising for Barbie has gone viral with over 20 Million views. The ad starts by showing a young girls in situation as a College Professor, a Museum curator, a Veterinarian or a Soccer coach. The supporting copy: “When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.” with a bold tag-line: YOU CAN BE ANYTHING. This is a great ad with a new message that should fit with the modern moms.
Barbie sales are up 8% this past holiday period, a good start to the turnaround.
Here are five lessons for Brand Turnarounds
- Ensure the right people in place: Before even creating the plan, you need to get the right leadership talent in place. Talent, motivation, alignment. Mattel brought in new CEO last spring who reshuffled a lot of the executives in an effort to turn the business around.
- Look to close leaks on the Brand: Use brand funnel to assess, using leaky bucket tool to close leaks. Find out where the specific problems are coming from. Barbie has done a nice job in listening to their consumers, the moms who were rejecting the brand due to stereotypes.
- Cut the fat, re-invest: go through every investment decision, invest only in programs that give you an early break through win. Even faced with Sales declines, Mattel made a smart move to cut costs by 10% to drive profits back into the business. It is hard to do a turnaround while the profit keeps falling.
- 3-stage plan: In stage 1, find early/obvious win, halts slide, helps motivation. In stage 2, invest behind new positioning/new plan, focused decisions, take risks. In stage 3, make adjustments to plan, build innovation behind new ideas that fit plan. Barbie started talking about the plan a year ago, listening to consumers and preparing for the big launch. So far, they’ve stemmed the decline, but now they need to build a plan for the next 3-5 years that grows this business.
- Motivating a demotivated team: Losing can be contagious to a culture/team. Recognize wins to fuel performance driven culture. People on the team needed new leadership and needed room to take chances with this iconic brand.
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