Today's youngsters are digital natives, which is why Mattel is retooling its marketing to fit their behavior and interests.
Iconic toys like Barbie have nostalgic appeal, to be sure, especially among parents who played with Barbie and Ken as children. Still, Barbie has lots of company (meaning competition) on toy store shelves, including the incredibly popular Frozen sisters from Disney.
In addition, the target market for Barbie and similar fashion dolls is becoming narrower because girls are moving onto more grownup toys earlier than in the past.
Now, with Barbie's sales down for the third consecutive year, and company profits drooping, Mattel is using updated technology for Barbie's 21st century makeover.
The latest Barbie models have ToyTalk technology, allowing them to "converse" with girls. "The most requested thing that kids have wanted to do with Barbie, and
Mattel's done unbelievable amounts of research over the course of
decades, is to talk to Barbie," says ToyTalk's CEO. Supported by an aggressive product development schedule, Hello Barbie will be on toy shelves late this year, if all goes well.
Another classic Mattel toy, the View-Master (see photo above), is also getting a 21st century make-over. It will be introduced with virtual reality apps (a Mattel proprietary app and others available on Google Play) for more compelling images. The original View-Master was introduced in 1939. This new, affordable VR version will repurpose some of the existing images. Will digital natives go for it?