by Sec A Gro
Barbie, most collectible doll in the world. So named by ideator Ruth Handler after daughter Barbara’s
nickname. Handler found that young girls enjoyed playing out their dreams in adult roles. Barbie made
its debut in the American International Toy Fair in New York on 9 March, 1959. Barbie sells over ₤1
billion annually across 150 countries. Barbie has had over 40 pets, including 21 dogs, 14 horses, 6 cats,
parrot, chimpanzee, panda, lion cub, giraffe and a zebra and a boyfriend Ken
Not manufactured in USA due to cost related issues. Complex manufacturing process
• the United States ships the cardboard packaging, paint pigments, and moulds to manufacturing
facilities in China that provides the factory space, labour, electricity, and cotton cloth for Barbie
• Taiwan refines the oil into ethylene for plastic pellets for Barbie’s body
• Japan attaches nylon hair
She demonstrates girls that they can be anything they want to be—a princess, a teacher, an Olympic
athlete, a doctor etc. represent varied cultures, regions, and occasions.
Barbie’s curvaceous body and revealing garments are perceived to promote sexuality and promiscuity.
unrealistic body proportions and for promoting materialism associated with amassing cars, houses, and
clothes. Girls tend to develop an inferiority complex, as they grow up, if they can’t look exactly like
Barbie. The desire to attain the physical appearance and lifestyle similar to Barbie has been termed as
Banned in Russia because the doll was thought to awaken sexual impulses in the very young, and
encourage consumerism among Russian children. Saudi Arabia, declared Barbie dolls a threat to
morality and offensive to Islam
Mattel markets a Moroccan Barbie and collectors’ doll Leyla that represent Muslim women. Mattel’s
portrayal of the Middle Eastern Barbie as the stereotype of a belly dancer or a concubine hardly
appealed to present‐day Muslim customers. Most Muslim buyers identify more closely with Islamic dolls
Islamic dolls generally show young girls that the hijab (veil). Parents believe that putting scarves on
Islamic dolls their
daughters are learning inculcate the value
An Islamic doll is a tool for young Muslim girls to learn. The value of things like education and religious
piety instead of focusing on their bodies as the most significant aspect of their lives.
Q1. Explore the secret of Barbie’s success that made it the dream‐toy for girls across the
1. Barbie was positioned as the ultimate American girl. She demonstrates girls that they can be
anything they want to be—a princess, a teacher, an Olympic athlete, a doctor
2. Represent varied cultures, regions, and occasions
3. Barbie was marketed as a glamorous, physically developed teenage fashion model with a range
of fashion accessories
4. The concept expanded beyond a doll with story, boyfriend associated with the character
5. A way for girls to play out their dreams and fantasies in a relevant way
Q2. Sensitivity to culture is crucial to success in international markets. Evaluate Barbie’s
product adaptation for different markets?
6. Barbie has adapted very well to different cultures.
7. Indian Barbies flaunt a saree which have been acceptable by people in India
8. Though the story around Barbie has not been modified to make it more socially acceptable
9. Barbie’s product adaptation in case of middle east has been very superficial
10. Although Mattel was able to introduce barbies with traditional dresses of various cultures, but
fine details were missed
11. E.g. Conservative clothes for Islamic nations
12. Barbie might fare well on the grounds of looks of the product but cultural aspirations were not
met. E.g. Use of more traditional and family oriented doll for Islamic nations
13. Stereotyping visible in some cases. E.g. Moroccan Barbie wears a belly dancer’s dress
which is not routine dress
Q3. Barbie has been criticized for its curvaceous, unrealistic body and materialism, leading to
controversies and its ban in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia to what extent are such
criticism and bans justified?
• Bans are only justified if they have scientific backing. E.g. Barbie syndrome has been well
documented in USA, thus a ban on unrealistic Barbie can be justified. E.g. anorexic practices in
the west by teenage girls trying to imitate Barbie have been found which might be a sound
reason for a ban.
• However, bans due to intolerance towards freedom of expression cannot be justified
Q4. Despite adaptation to represent vast ethnic groups, nationalities, and occasions, Barbie
dolls have been jostled out from the Islamic markets. Identify the key reasons.
14. The story of Barbie being very open and individualistic also deviates from actual lifestyle of
women in the conservative Islamic markets
15. Physical appearance of Barbie is very different from women in these nations. E.g. Skin tone,
body proportions etc. of Barbie are very different form women living there
16. The attire of Barbie also is very different from any girl in those
17. Portrayal of the Middle Eastern Barbie as the stereotype of a belly dancer which doesn’t resonate
with girls there.
18. Accessories of Barbie are also more western and were not adapted for Islamic Nations. E.g.
Clothing of Barbie
Q5. In view of the fast‐growing popularity of Islamic dolls among Muslim customers across
the world, suggest a marketing plan to address the specific needs of the Islamic markets.
Also evaluate the impact of suggested plan on the brand image of Barbie in other markets
1. Detailed and thorough market research
2. Understanding of the cultural values and aspirational values
3. In some conservative nations parents are the sole decision makers, thus they must be targeted and
not the kids themselves
4. Merchandising should be changed as well
5. E.g. different head scarfs, abaya or Persian cat as compared to normal cats found in USA
6. Promotion and positioning must change from an individualistic character to a conservative one
7. Make dolls that resonate with values and portray an Islamic celebrity like Malala
8. The story of Barbie must be changed for Islamic Barbie Dolls
and Barbie must be portrait as conservative, single and family