Barbie wants girls to be their own bosses

The Mattel brand is hoping to get more girls excited about being entrepreneurs later in life with a new Career line doll.
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Mattel is hoping to inspire little girls to be their own bosses with a new Career Barbie and business bursary for budding young entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur Barbie launched late last week, with a PR-heavy campaign focused on getting girls (and moms, aunts, teachers, friends, etc.) to sign up or nominate someone under 18 they think demonstrates true entrepreneurship.

The Barbie Business Bursary will award three youngsters $2,500 to fund their big idea. It will be supported by a digital campaign on various Corus-owned networks, including YTV, Nick Jr. and Teletoon, as well as iVillage and Own.

“Barbie has always taken on careers where women are under-represented,” says Alicia Sumar, brand manager for Barbie at Mattel, on the latest addition to the Career lineup. Past occupations include Astronaut Barbie (launched four years before man walked on the moon) and Surgeon Barbie (launched when the majority of female doctors were in GP roles, with few in the surgeon ranks). It’s worth noting that the jury is still out on whether Barbie has a positive or negative effect on girls’ career aspirations, with one study saying girls who play with the doll are less likely to desire traditionally male-dominated careers (though it was, admittedly, a small sample size).

There was discussion among the Mattel ranks over whether it should be CEO Barbie or Entrepreneur Barbie (both careers are incredibly under-represented in today’s day and age). The end decision fell to Entrepreneur, Sumar says, because it was a more open-ended role (for example, she says girls may dream one day to be makeup artists, and it “takes an entrepreneurial spirit” to venture on their own to follow that dream).

The brand surveyed women entrepreneurs in June of this year, which found 70% believed anything was possible when they were a young girl, while two-thirds believed they were living out their young dreams as a child. “That was the aha! for us,” she says. “It’s so important that we help foster that mindset and build dreams early on so girls can feel like they’re living that out later in life.”

The campaign is geared at boosting positive impressions of the brand, and making a connection between playing and Barbie. Emphasis will be placed on measuring attitude, though sales will also be a factor, she says (with success of other Career Barbie lines measured to see if the Entrepreneur Barbie push offers a positive halo over the rest of the line).

The campaign targets the traditional demo, girls aged three to eight, but also their mothers, Sumar says, as the Career line is one of the few extensions where product demand comes from both moms and daughters (traditional lines typically skew towards demand from the girls). The campaign, by Strategic Objectives on PR and overall strategy, TrojanOne for the digital site and Carat on media, will run until the end of October when the winners of the bursary are announced.