Friday, January 20, 2012

Bald & Beautiful Barbie -- Will a Bald Doll Sell?

The past few days I have been flooded with calls and Facebook posts from friends who want me to jump on the Bald Barbie Bandwagon. "A lot of people are doing it," a friend told me on the phone. "It's been on the news and Facebook."

I pointed out that Mattel has already done a OOAK bald Barbie in 2011 for a little girl, Genesis Reyes, who is battling cancer, and that Mattel had probably already considered doing a bald Barbie. Personally, I think it is a nice idea, but for a company -- is it a VIABLE idea?

The Problem with Diversity

More and more lately, various demographics and minorities have clamored for a Barbie in their image, and Mattel has usually aquiessed. African Americans demanded more dolls of color and Mattel obliged even though historically the African American dolls do not sell as well and remain on the shelves until 1st or 2nd markdowns. doll makers and doll sellers alike lose profits when dolls go to markdown.

In May 1997, presumably after some clamoring from disability groups, Mattel introduced the $20 Share a Smile Becky in her hot pink wheelchair as a Toys R Us exclusive.  However, there was soon an outcry because the doll would not fit into the elevator of Barbie's Dream House and Mattel had to redesign the house to accommodate the doll - a doll sold in comparatively lower numbers than a basic Barbie doll.

The Future of Bald Barbie

What does this mean for a "Bald Barbie?"  In all likelihood, Mattel will issue one to appease the public. When the doll is first issued, some buyers and collectors will snap them up either because they know someone who has lost their hair, or because the doll is a novelty or just to show how diverse and PC they are. After that, the chances are very good the rest of the Bald Barbies won't sell well unless they come with cute wigs. More than likely they will sit on shelves until they are marked down or clearanced out.

I think the Bald Barbie is a great idea, but I will let Mattel make up their own minds. I also think everyone who signs the petition should be 100% obligated to buy a Bald Barbie at full price to put their money where their mouth is.

For more thoughts on this topic, read:

Bald & Beautiful Barbie petition -- but will it sell?

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