Barbie gets Britney-fied for the tween set

What's the deal?
Barbie goes urban.

What’s the deal?

Barbie goes urban. Mattel’s new ‘My Scene’ dolls rework the traditional blonde Barbie doll with bigger eyes, a bigger head and funkier clothes to target the tween girl market (girls aged nine to 12). Not to be confused with MGA Entertainment’s Bratz line of hip-girl big-headed, big-eyed dolls introduced in 2001, My Scene dolls were inspired by the Barbie brand itself, says Erica Van Kamp, marketing manager for girl’s brands at Mattel.

Three dolls are currently in the line, each representing different fashion flavours: ‘it’ fashionista Barbie, uptown girl Madison, and bohemian Chelsea. Van Kamp says there are plans to introduce two boy dolls and another girl doll in the coming year, as well as a boy/girl ‘date set’ for Christmas 2003. Fashions, vehicles and environments for the dolls are also planned. Meanwhile, other licensing opportunities have been discussed, but nothing has been confirmed.

Why did they do this?

My Scene is familiar territory for Mattel: back in 1999, it introduced the Generation Girl line of twentysomething girl power dolls that targeted nine- to 10-year-olds. Van Kamp says the dolls are no longer available because newer themed dolls generally lose their appeal after a two- to three-year life cycle. The reason for creating the new positioning with the My Scene dolls, she says, is because ‘kids are getting older younger. There’s an important part of the market that isn’t playing with Barbie but is still playing.’

Mattel is hoping to latch on to the higher end of the three-to-12 demographic they’ve been losing over the last five years as girls are increasingly outgrowing the toys. Gone is the princess pink of the old school Barbie, replaced with the pleather and faux fur of the new school.

What’s the marketing push?

To emphasize the social interaction aspect of the My Scene-sters, an extensive Web site was created at that includes fashion trend updates, ongoing Webcam stories and journal entries of the three doll characters. Tweens can also send My Scene e-cards to each other online.

Television advertising was created by Peterson Milla Hooks (PMH) of Minneapolis, Minn. A huge print campaign was posted in New York’s Times Square – a first in the marketing of the Barbie brand – which includes each of the dolls, next to a quote that expresses her personality in a witty double entendre.

Mattel also sent out dolls to key marketing influencers. Says Van Kamp: ‘We want to make it the ultimate desk accessory for twentysomething ad execs.’

The Verdict?

Carol A. Green, president of marketing with Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Children’s Creative Marketing, predicts that tween girls may take to the Web site approach since they’re very interested in the Internet and chatting with their friends. Green is skeptical, however, that tweens would gravitate to the My Scene dolls. She believes the dolls would likely appeal to girls five to seven as opposed to nine to 12.

‘It’s just not cool at that age to be playing with dolls,’ says Green. ‘They’re moving out of the fantasy world of playing with the doll into the real world of boys and everything else that’s going on in their life.’