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  • 1. Research Project Olivia Herrock Marketing 3001 Professor DeNardin July 31, 2013 “Researching ‘American Girl’ Marketing” American Girl is a nationally known company that began in 1986. The company was originally called the Pleasant Company and released its first doll that same year, according to the American Girl website. This company manufactures dolls for girls between the ages of 3 and 13. The reason the company is called “American Girl” is because they create dolls that come from important times in American history. For example, the dolls include girls from the Victorian era, the pioneer era, the World War II era, the depression era and the Civil War era. Each doll has her own name and a book series that talks about the lifestyle each girl was living during that time in history. According to the website the dolls are 18 inches in height and come with a short biography about each girl (“American Girl”). Along with the dolls the company sells doll furniture like beds, bathtubs and tables and chairs, as well as, clothing, books and even movies. The America
  • 2. Girl company also sells baby dolls called “Bitty Baby” and “Bitty Twins.” These dolls are marketed towards younger girls between the ages of 3 and 6. The website also sells matching clothing for the girls who buy the dolls. In 2004 the company began producing American Girl films. These are based on each of the dolls and highlight the lives these girls would’ve lived during the specific time in history they live in (“American Girl”). They have released 7 movies in the past 9 years. These movies go straight to DVD though so the opportunity for vast advertising hasn’t really been seen. These products are based off of the wants of the consumers. This isn’t something the consumers need but it is a toy for younger girls. For the American Girl company it had to research and develop a marketing concept to understand what consumers want. As consumer demands have usually been consistent when it comes to certain products for younger girls the dolls would easily be successful. What the company needed to do was decide on the image of the doll and how they wanted to market the product, which will be explained in more detail below. This company is manufactured in Middleton, Wisconsin. There are two warehouses and distribution facilities,
  • 3. according to the American Girl website. The American Girl company is a B to C company. B to C means the company is business to consumer (Lascu and Clow). The company sells directly to consumers through the online store and through the 17 retail stores the company has. All of these dolls are marketed for younger girls between the ages of 3 and 13 but the target audience would also include mothers because they’d be buying the dolls. This company provides a wholesome doll that also teaches girls about American history in a creative way outside of the classroom. Dolls have always been a staple for little girls. What the American Girl company needed to do was decide the type of girls they wanted to represent in these dolls. One way to make a decision about the product was by understanding the values of the consumers. The American culture has always been known as the melting pot and this company managed to include different ethnicities and lifestyles of groups of people from so many different times of the United States’ history. This can be considered as acculturation. The textbook talks about acculturation saying it means to learn about a new culture (Lascu and Clow). Because of the number of different cultures in our nation the American Girl company managed
  • 4. to create something unique and different from every other competition product out there. And since they have copyrights on their products that means these dolls and the backgrounds and ideas the company has created can’t be copied. The company also has trademarked a number of the products they’ve created. I’ll include a list of these trademarks. Trademarks     Addy  Walker   AG  logos   American  Girl   AG  Boutique  and  Bistro   AG  Café   AG  Crafts   AG  Fashion  Show   AG  Mysteries   AG  Place   AG  Programs   AG  Publishing   AG  Trading  Cards   Bitty  Baby   Bitty  Twins   Caroline  Abbott   Cecile  Rey   Chrissa  Maxwell   Dress  like  your  doll   Felicity  Merriman   Follow  your  inner  star   History  Mysteries   Josefina  Montoya   Kirsten  Larson   Proud  to  be  an  American  Girl   Runaway  Pup   Your  story  your  star   Next we’ll move into target marketing. The textbook explains that companies use target marketing to “identify segments of consumers who are similar with regard to key traits, select the segments that the company can serve most efficiently and offer products to the market” (Lascu and Clow). All of these target marketing tactics help the company understand what type of market it’s looking to focus on.
  • 5. Target marketing targets the consumers the company knows will buy the product. The marketing has to be specific to those who are most interested in the brand. This can be done by branding the product. As the textbook explains, branding is a name and/or symbol that becomes the identity of the product or seller (Lascu and Clow). The brand is used to set apart the product from competitors products. The textbook also says the brand is a guarantee that the product will always be the same when any consumer purchases said product (Lascu and Clow). The textbook describes a brand as “a name, design, symbol or a combination thereof that identifies the product or the seller and is used to differentiate the product from competitors’ offerings” (Lascu and Clow). There are a couple of different ways American Girl brands these doll products. One way is through the brand logo. The logo simply says “American Girl” but there is a star next to the word “American” and then stars in place of the dots over the “I’s” in American and girl. Another
  • 6. way the dolls are branded is by their appearance. The dolls could also be considered the company character. While each doll has a different hair, eye or skin color, all of the facial and body features are similar. These features, as well as the company logo, are what create the brand image. Consumers look at the products and know what to expect from the company. The textbook says the brand image is “the consumer perception of the particular brand” (Lascu and Clow). The consumers also see the brand image through the brands identity. This identity includes the brand name, mark, logo and characters, according to the textbook. To properly market these products American Girl must go through many processes. The textbook explains that a company must have a marketing concept, which means the company can compete effectively by researching consumer needs, wants and preferences (Lascu and Clow). The company
  • 7. must also look at personal interests of the consumers it is targeting. One way to do this is by examining the sociodemographic and cultural environment. This environment looks at demographics, subcultures, cultures and other things about the consumers like backgrounds, interests and values, according to the textbook. The textbook also explains how demographics play into marketing by saying “demographics are the statistics that describe the population, such as gender, age, ethnicity, education and income” (Lascu and Clow). Over the years the American Girl company has developed dolls of many different ethnicities. In 1993 the company debuted Addy Walker, an African-American girl from the Civil War era in 1864. In 1997 Josefina Montoya, a New Mexican girl from 1824, was introduced to consumers and in 2002 the company presented Kaya, a Nez Perce girl from 1764. Each of these dolls, along with the rest of the
  • 8. dolls, describe moments in history for the girls who buy the product. More specific ways the company markets the products is through advertisements and social media. The company has a catalogue that has been around for about 15 years. This catalogue presents all of the new dolls, furniture and clothing the company has created. The company also has a magazine that was first published in 1992, according to the company’s website. This magazine has articles that are age appropriate and, as the website says, “affirm self-esteem, celebrate achievements and foster creativity in today’s girls.” The company also advertises in print and online. The ads usually consist of a young girl one of the dolls, smiling and looking at the camera with the American Girl logo prominently placed on the ad. These ads promote simplicity and also address the exact demographic and target audience the company is looking to sell to. When it comes to social media the company has a Facebook page and a Twitter page. Both of these media sites provide plenty of opportunity to interact with consumers but they do differ. With Facebook, the company
  • 9. posts pictures of new products and sweepstakes the company has. These are effective because the pictures and posts show up automatically in the consumers’ news feed. Of course, in this case most of the consumers are too young to have social media sites so the company appeals to the parents of the young consumers. With Twitter the posts also show up automatically in the newsfeed but there are links to pictures. Twitter has less of a visual aspect because it consists of clicking on a link that may take the parents away from the main page. Facebook gives more visual opportunities. While visually Facebook is in the lead when it comes to connecting with the parents and consumers Twitter is much more effective. This reasoning is because Twitter has more of a texting feel to it. Consumers can ask questions about the dolls or upcoming sweepstakes and giveaways. Twitter really helps the company interact with the consumers in more of an intimate setting than Facebook. American Girl does not have an official Instagram to post pictures. This company has numerous marketing techniques that are very useful in advertising the products to consumers. When trying to find different ways to brand the company it was difficult to come up with more ideas because the
  • 10. company is effective in what it’s doing currently. When it comes to creating different marketing strategies I think it really comes down to research. I’d create a research group and start by examining consumers, specifically what products are we selling the most. I’d have statistics gathered and graphs made to understand what’s being sold. Then it would be time to go out to the consumers and talk to them. What makes them want to purchase this doll over another? Or this type of furniture? What do they like about the American Girl company? What should the company change in their opinion? Is there some product the company currently doesn’t have that the consumers would like to see? I’d say it’d be important to start by talking to at least 50 consumers and even talk to 100 of the customers. And not only should we talk to the parents who buy these products for their children, but we should also talk to the children since that is the target audience. Kids can have a lot of incite when it comes to things that are important to them. Then we’d need to compile all of the information we received and start making a marketing plan based off of what the consumers said. After we’ve established some new ideas we’d need to select a small amount of the consumers to come in and sample our new products. Once we do this we
  • 11. can poll them again about their experience with the new products or new ideas we have. This would be a great way to connect with the consumers and it’d also be a great way to sample the new products the marketing team has designed. After sampling the products we’d need to get rid of the stuff that didn’t work or redesign the products to what the consumers were hoping for and do another test run on the new products. I feel that doing something like this really helps the company connect with consumers. The marketing team would be able to make notes of things to think about in the future and it shows the customers that the American Girl company wants ultimately wants to satisfy the customers and create great products. One way I’d market the product is by creating an Instagram account and taking photos of production and other things happening around the company. I’d specifically stage photos of the dolls so consumers could see the products the company is looking to sell. In this day and age the consumers want visuals. They want to be able to see what they would be buying and using Twitter can be hard to do that. Also, Twitter usually links the consumers to Instagram so by creating an Instagram account it’s really cutting out the middleman.
  • 12. Another way to brand the company is through more promotions and advertisements. Since American Girl has a limited target audience that means the news outlets may be limited as well. I’d also include more diversity in the advertisements. The company has been very diverse in the different dolls it creates and sells so I’d add that into the advertisements for the company. To promote diversity though you need even more diversity amongst the dolls. I’d talk to production about creating even more dolls with different cultural backgrounds. This is not only to appeal to those demographics but to also create more learning for the consumers purchasing the products. The company has plenty of books. Promoting the books even more would help get people aware of the products as well as the company. Because the company presents such a wholesome product I think it’d be interesting to talk to production about creating a television series for consumers. These television shows can give even more depth to the dolls and make the products more mainstream. With the types of television shows being aired these dolls could represent a positive aspect and encourage learning for the young girls who would be most interested in watching the television show.
  • 13. Another way I’d market the American Girl products is by lowering the prices of the goods. The company would start by creating a team to do pricing research. This, of course, would mean there would need to be meetings with the production team about demand for the products and how the price cut will affect the income the company receives. This isn’t a simple solution and needs much more thought and planning because you can’t simply cut down the price of the product until you factor in how much the production costs and what your outsourcing of money costs. But it would be important to understand how consumers feel about the price of the product. Do they find it unreasonable or is the price understandable because of the quality of the products they are purchasing? All of this must be taken into account before the company can really make any decisions. Also, the company needs to come up with marketing strategies in case they lose business from the expensive prices. How can they get those consumers back? Does the company move on from those consumers and look for ways to bring in new customers? It is very important to think of all aspects of it and also do some of the math on how the decrease in customers or the increase in prices would affect the company, as well as the consumers.
  • 14. The American Girl dolls are sold in store and online. The website says to buy one doll and the accompanying book costs $110. To buy the doll, book and accessories it will cost $129. The doll and boxed set costs $138. After polling American Girl consumers I found that 12 out of 30 said they would purchase American Girls for their daughters and 7 of those 12 said they already have purchased dolls for their daughters. One of the consumers said she purchased one of the dolls for her daughter’s birthday and found that since it was the “big” present she was getting her daughter that $110 dollars was a reasonable price. Another consumer said she had planned on purchasing a doll for her two daughters but found that spending over $200 was out of her price range. This consumer explained that having more than one daughter automatically doubles the cost of the toys she buys because she wants to buy one for each daughter. The Walt Disney Company has recently released the “Princess and Me” dolls in Toys “R” Us stores around the country. Their website shows that one of these 18 inch dolls costs $49.99. To buy one outfit the website has it priced at $14.99. This price is considerably lower than the American Girl dolls.
  • 15. I talked to the 30 consumers and asked if the lower price made them prefer the Disney products to the American Girl dolls. Out of the 30 only 5 said they’d consider switching to the “Princess and Me” dolls. The consumers explained that their children have some of the Disney movies but when buying dolls for their children the parents were more interested in buying the American Girl dolls because of the history that their daughters can learn while playing with the dolls. One consumer said she loved the old clothes some of the dolls have and her daughter ended up loving the pretty clothing that came with the doll. The Walt Disney “Princess and Me” dolls come from an already established brand name. When it comes to promoting these products consumers know they can trust this company. Also, these princess dolls already have very well-known movies that have been around for numerous years. These are household names that establish trust with the consumers, which the Walt Disney Company is capable of playing to its advantage. The “Princess and Me” dolls are sold exclusively at Toys “R” Us stores. Consumers can also buy matching outfits so the girls who own the dolls can wear the outfits as well. This changes the marketing technique from
  • 16. the American Girl company because Disney is focusing on making girls feel like princesses. This is the angle the Walt Disney Company takes in selling the products. When it comes to promoting these “Princess and Me” dolls the Disney company differs from American Girl in a vast way. This is because Walt Disney has many different products in so many genres to appeal to kids of all ages whereas American Girl focuses on one specific target audience. Because Walt Disney has so many different products, the social media sites they use must promote all of the products the company has. This is the case for Toys “R” Us as well. This is a marketing tactic that could put Disney at a disadvantage from American Girl because the Disney Company’s focus has to be on all products and not just these particular dolls. The packaging for these “Princess and Me” dolls is very simple. They come in a box with a plastic front. The in-store packaging is much more appealing because the clothing is set up on smaller hangers so younger girls can go shopping. Everything in the store has really been shrunk down to accommodate these younger consumers and the small dolls. When trying to think of different ways to package these products I found it difficult because I don’t see a
  • 17. way to really change how it’s being done. You can’t simply add more dolls because the princesses are based on the Disney Princesses from the movies. But as new movies are made it’d be important to continue creating these dolls. One thing I’d consider is broadening the locations I’d sell these dolls. I’d specifically start selling them in Disney stores and look into selling them at stores like Wal Mart or Target. This way the dolls can get more attention. I’d also have sales in local newspapers for some of the dolls or just the clothing. I’d also consider creating a specific Twitter or Facebook page for these dolls and for the Disney Princesses in general. By doing this you can be more one on one with the customers and promote the new arrivals. These are not the only products being sold by the Walt Disney company, nor is it the only product being sold in Toys “R” Us stores. As already mentioned, this makes it a challenge to promote these dolls on social media sites because there are other products to show to the public. Toys “R” Us has many different toys for girls and for boys. They have video games and board games. But when it comes to other toys for girls there are numerous products. For example, the Strawberry Shortcake dolls, the You and
  • 18. Me 14 inch Hugs and Holds doll and of course the Barbie dolls are extremely popular amongst the target audience. The “Princess and Me” dolls appear to be durable dolls. They are big enough to not get lost or stuck in small places but not so big that you can’t take them in the car on road trips or simply to run errands. These dolls are lightweight and the clothes are also made of durable fabric. Another brand that is also sold exclusively in Toys “R” Us stores is the Journey Girls. These dolls are extremely similar to American Girl dolls but they are lacking in the products that come along with them. These dolls are also 18 inches in height just like the “Princess and Me” dolls as well as the American Girl dolls. The Toys “R” Us website has these dolls priced at $32.99. To buy one outfit it costs $16.99. In appearance these dolls are similar because of the facial features and hair types. These products are also diverse when it comes to ethnicity of the dolls but there are only 6 dolls whereas the American Girls currently have 13 dolls. Toys “R” Us also sells furniture for the Journey Girls, which is just like the other two products we’ve discussed. The difference with these dolls is that they do not have background. They don’t have any books or movies
  • 19. to go along with them. Now, a background isn’t required to buy these dolls but it lacks marketing opportunity because there is nothing to add to them. With the American Girl dolls you know you’re buying something that has a historical element to it. With the “Princess and Me” dolls these also have a history of the movies that have been out for so long. The Journey Girl dolls aren’t as prominent in the doll world because when consumers are looking to buy dolls there are more obvious dolls that stand out because of how the company has branded them. For the Journey Girls I’d change branding by giving the dolls some background. Not just giving them a name but a little history to go along with who they are. I’d look into books and different ways of promoting these dolls. As it was mentioned with social media and the “Princess and Me” dolls, these Journey Girls have less opportunity to be advertised on social media sites because Toys “R” Us has numerous other products to promote. And not only do they have all other types of products but they also already have the “Princess and Me” dolls. This is a problem because it is huge competition alone between the two brands and the fact that they’re sold in the same store. For Journey Girls I’d be looking to sell them in other stores like Wal Mart and Target. I’d really try to make
  • 20. profit from that and do it before the Walt Disney Company had a chance to also look into these stores. As mentioned earlier, this is not the only product the Toys “R” Us company sells. As for Journey Girls, the clothes, furniture and dolls are the products sold by that brand. The Journey Girls are also durable dolls that are big enough to take with you on trips but lightweight to where they can’t hurt a child in any way. The clothes are also durable and won’t fall apart. When asking the 30 consumers about the Journey Girls dolls I found that most of them had never heard of these dolls. 23 out of the 30 said they had never seen the dolls whereas the other 7 said they have seen the dolls when shopping at Toys “R” Us but haven’t ever purchased them. When asked if they cared about the dolls having a background or books to go along with the dolls 11 out of the 30 said they didn’t care about the backgrounds and books. Others said they simply chose American Girl dolls for their daughters because the dolls were recommended by family members or friends. There are many ways to discuss the characteristics of the American Girl products. The textbook discusses the characteristics of services, which
  • 21. are intangibility, perishability, inseparability and variability (Lascu and Clow). Let’s go through each one and see how it applies to these products. First we have intangibility, which the textbook says is “referring to lack of tangible goods that can be seen, touched, smelled, heard or tasted before a purchase” (Lascu and Clow). Because the American Girl has a store and has an online store as well the consumers can instantly see what they are about to buy. Online shopping means the consumers won’t be able to actually touch the product but if the consumer was making an in-store purchase of any American Girl products they would be able to touch the product and hold it to understand what it feels like. Next we have perishability, which the textbook describes as the “inability of a service to be inventoried or stored”(Lascu and Clow). The American Girl dolls are made of plastic therefore they will not perish. These products can be stored in a warehouse until the consumers are ready to purchase them. Inseparability “refers to the simultaneous production and consumption of a service,” according to the textbook. According to the American Girl website these dolls are basically made by hand. The faces are sculpted by hand, the eyes are painted by hand and the
  • 22. bodies are sewn and stuffed by hand. This can affect how quickly the product can be made to meet the demands of consumers. The last characteristic is variability, which the textbook says “refers to the unwanted or random levels of service quality customers receive when they patronize a service” (Lascu and Clow). This has a lot to do with customer service and it’s important to make sure employees of the company know what needs to be said to consumers when placed in a difficult position. If I was personally branding the American Girl product I’d start by limiting the licensing. The textbook explains that licensing “involves the owner of the brand name allowing a manufacturer or a reseller to sell the product under the owner’s brand name in return for a licensing fee” (Lascu and Clow). The textbook also explains that too much licensing can weaken the quality and the name of the brand (Lascu and Clow). Also, I’d copyright the brand name, logo and the names of the dolls to protect from counterfeiting. The American Girl company does not currently co-brand with any other company. The textbook explains that co-branding “involves using the brands of two different companies on one single product” (Lascu and Clow).
  • 23. When packaging the American Girl dolls the doll comes in a rectangular box. The top of the box is hot pink and has a circle cut out of the top to show the dolls face. In the center of the top of the box is the brand logo in the center. The book that comes with the doll lies on top of the doll in the box. This is the initial packaging but, of course, if the company was shipping the doll then this box would go into a cardboard box with foam peanuts to protect the product. This packaging is classic to the American Girl company. The class textbook describes the term of packaging as “all the activities involved in designing the product container” (Lascu and Clow). The box the doll comes in is very sturdy and won’t bend easily therefore the doll will be protected during shipment. When it comes to the product life cycle the textbook explains that this is “the performance of the product in terms of sales and profit over time” (Lascu and Clow). As most businesses start, the American Girl company started in the production introduction stage, which is when “the product becomes available for the first time.” This began when the company first started in 1983 and introduced the very first doll. Then comes the growth stage which the textbook describes as the “PLC stage characterized by increasing competition, with new product
  • 24. variants offered to the market…” (Lascu and Clow). This is the stage the American Girl company has been in for the last few years with the Walt Disney Company creating the “Princess and Me” dolls and the Journey Girls. The American Girl company has continued to grow and present new products to consumers with rise in competition. By adding new dolls of different ethnicities this opens up the range of consumers who might be interested in purchasing the product. The company has been in this stage for a while but could soon shift to the maturity stage, which the textbook describes as “a slowdown in sales growth as the product is adopted by most target consumers and by a leveling or decline in profits primarily as a result of intense price competition” (Lascu and Clow). The American Girl company could come to a point where they even out and the sales become steady and consistent because of other competitors like the Walt Disney Company and the Journey Girls. One thing the American Girl company should consider is the price of the products. In today’s economy it’s hard to spend over $100 on a doll. Some family’s do it and can survive but for most of the population that may not be doable. The problem with lowering prices is that most of
  • 25. the doll parts are hand made. This slows down how many dolls can be made in a given time and it also means that more money is being spent on the quality goods the company is using for the dolls. Now, the expensive doll does mean that consumers should understand they are purchasing a quality product. But the company should look to accommodate other consumers. This could be a great way to broaden the target market. The name “American Girl” has been around for many years so people know the product and they expect a quality out of the product they are purchasing. If the company can’t bring down the cost of the dolls then they should look at how they could bring down the cost of other goods the company sells to consumers. This is a product that could last for a long time. There is also the decline stage, which the textbook explains is when the product is “rapidly losing ground to new technologies or product alternatives” (Lascu and Clow). The American Girl company has yet to reach the decline stage of the products. As it was mentioned earlier, dolls have been a necessity for young girls for hundreds of years. It’s a staple in most households so the decline stage for the American Girl dolls could possibly not come for a long
  • 26. time. Now the company can get to a point where the products have been around long enough so that the girls who purchased some of the first American Girl dolls will now want to share that memory with their own daughters. This could be a great way for the company to appeal to consumers. It would be a new way to market and advertise the product by appealing to the nostalgia a mother may have. The company could create an advertisement appealing to how a mother can share her own childhood memories with her daughter through this doll and through the memories the mother made when she was a child. This will be something the company could really market well and it could easily benefit the company in a new way that the competitors like the Walt Disney Company’s “Princess and Me” dolls or the Toys “R” Us Journey Girls may not be able to match. Another way the American Girl company could appeal to consumers is through new age appropriate products. For instance, the target audience is girls between 3-13. But what about when the girls get older? How about creating things that are also appropriate for a 14-15 year old demographic? This could be something that would not work for the company but it is always worth coming up with possible ideas and then gathering consumers to test the
  • 27. product. By the time a girl turns 14 the stage of playing with dolls is coming to an end. Since this is the case the American Girl company could instead focus on books for these girls. Something age appropriate that discusses the coming of age for a girl and things girls will deal with as they get older. These books would need to have age appropriate content but also something fun, interesting and appealing for these 14-15 year old girls that doesn’t have to do with playing with dolls anymore. This could be a new marketing tactic the company could explore. Because the American Girl Company has been around for 30 years there is an opportunity for the company to create new marketing tactics. By talking to consumers and being aware of new target markets this company can continue to be successful in the United States and also around the world. The opportunity to teach young girls about different times in history and different ethnicities this company has something that is very unique from other competitors. The goal now is to continue to set the American Girl company apart from said competitors and to also continue to give the consumers something they can’t receive from any other company. By focusing on customer satisfaction this company can strive to create an atmosphere of learning and playtime
  • 28. that gives younger girls the chance to experience different ways of life and new ways of thinking. The marketing tactics I have explained could be new and possibly good ways for the company to broaden its way of thinking as well as its way of connecting with the current audience and even new audiences in the future. The best ways of doing this is through promotions and advertisements. Also, by examining the current economy and understanding the current salary of the average American, this company could also look into lowering the prices of products to bring in a new wave of consumers. It’s important to make sure your brand is known as won’t easily be forgotten. Through new advertising projects the company can appeal to older girls as well as mothers who also grew up knowing the American Girl company. By creating books for older girls the company will be able to keep the connection alive and have a positive influence on the next generation of girls. During this paper we have examined the American Girl company and the products it sells. We have looked at the target market and how these consumers may view this product. We have also looked at the social media for the company and created new ways the company might be able to connect with its customers. By doing this we have a better
  • 29. understanding of this company and we have also been able to apply the marketing tactics and examples taught over the course of this class.
  • 30. Works Cited "American Girl." American Girl. N.p.. Web. 30 Jul 2013. <>. Lascu, Dana-Nicoleta, and Kenneth E. Clow. Marketing Principles. 4th. Textbook Media Press, 2004. Print.