When it comes to Barbie’s body, it won’t be one size fits all.
On Thursday, Mattel unveiled curvy, petite and tall versions of its fashion doll, whose unrealistically thin shape has attracted criticism for decades. The three body types will also come in an assortment of skin tones, eye color and hairstyles.
The move is about more than just making Barbie look different. Once Mattel’s powerhouse brand, sales of Barbie have plummeted in recent years, as the doll has struggled to remain relevant to little girls who do not look like her.
“This is about drawing a wider demographic that had turned away from Barbie back to Barbie,” said Jim Silver, editor of TTPM, a toy review website.
Last year, Mattel introduced dolls with a variety of skin tones. The company also shifted its marketing campaign to focus more on Barbie’s career ambitions than her body image.
“The ones in multiple skin tones did phenomenal for Mattel and it showed them that people wanted much more than the blond, blue-eyed Barbie,” Silver said.
Still, Mattel executives have struggled to rebrand Barbie as an aspirational figure, one not so closely identified with her unnatural body measurements.
“It’s hardly a bolt of genius to say let’s make dolls that look different,” said Sean McGowan, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. “It’s more like saying ‘Yeah, we stuck with that one single iconic image for too long, let’s try multiple ones.’”
The new dolls are available for preorder online, and are expected to hit store shelves at major retailers including Wal-Mart and Toys R Us in March, according to a Mattel spokesman, Alex Clark.
A curvy, or more full-figured, Barbie doll is about more than just reshaping one brand. The initiative is part of a broader cultural shift at Mattel, where executives have been trying to transform the company into a 21st-century toymaker.
Faced with sagging sales in its core brands like Barbie and Fisher-Price, and criticism that it was too slow to pick up on trends, Mattel has undertaken several efforts to improve innovation.
A little over a year ago, it created its Toy Box division to fast-track new products, like the talking Hello Barbie doll, which the company has also used to signal that it can be as technically adept and innovative as its competitors.