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It’s all about their brand: Mattel and more Barbie FAIL

November 23, 2014

Recently, I mused over Mattel’s Barbie FAIL in context of attracting and retaining girls to STEM. Well, Mattel has apologized – sort of…turns out that it’s all about their brand:

“The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for.” (CNET, 2014)

Really. Really?? [ugh]

In the CNET article, Lori Pantel, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing for Barbie explains

“We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”

Back to this:


Perhaps it’s just me, but nothing about the Barbie brand ever resonated with what I considered to be a model of an independent, intelligent woman who lived in a world without limits. Perhaps it was the gross abuse of the color pink that obscured that view from my eyes. Perhaps Barbie herself still doesn’t believe it, based upon the view from her pink eyeglasses:

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 8.38.36 AM

Mattel: thanks for the apology attempt but this is a branding problem on many levels. Please educate yourselves on the realities of being female in male-dominated disciplines. I’m not suggesting we have to destroy our femininity or pretend we’re not women (though I’ve seen that happen, sadly), it’s that we have to be quite self-aware so we can understand how we present ourselves to others. After all, if we don’t project respectability, our knowledge, skills, and abilities won’t matter – in any environment. I suggest conducting focus groups with real-life women in STEM before you release one more iteration of any book or product in this area.

Clearly, like Barbie, your branding team doesn’t have a clue.

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