Barbie – The Ultimate Promotional Toy

Tomorrow, March 9, marks Barbie’s 51st birthday (though she doesn’t look a day past 22). Yes it was 51 years ago that “Barbie” – named after her creator Ruth Handler’s daughter Barbara – was first presented at the American International Toy Fair in New York City. It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries since its debut, despite plenty of controversy and lawsuits that have tried to deface this cultural icon. But, alas, Barbie has prevailed through the decades, enchanting the lives of little girls everywhere and helping to boost many other noted brands as a promotional toy.

Barbie and Oreo– In 1997, Mattel teamed up with Nabisco for a cross promotion of Barbie and Oreo cookies creating ‘Oreo Fun Barbie.’ This combo unfortunately proved unsuccessful as Oreo can also be considered a derogatory term in the African American community meaning that a person is “black on the outside and white on the inside,” like the sandwich cookie itself. Sales for the doll were poor and both black and white versions of the doll were quickly recalled after much criticism surrounding the expression.

Barbie and Twilight – Barbie has had a history of pairing up with movies to create pint-sized versions of popular characters in film from the Wizard of Oz, to Charlie’s Angels to Star Trek. The most recent cinematic personas to be included in this long tradition are none other than Edward Cullen and Bella Swan of the Twilight series. The release of the Bella and Edward Barbies coincided along with the release of the second film in the trilogy – New Moon – on November 1, 2009.

Barbie and Christian Louboutin – A Christian Louboutin designed ‘Cat Burglar Barbie’ clad in a black catsuit with four pairs of mini Louboutin heels was released on December 4, 2009 and sold out by the end of the day. He designed three Barbie dolls total that all were tremendously successful, but not without their own share of scandal. Mr. Louboutin apparently had to reshape Barbie’s foot to fit his famed pink heels, which spawned a wave of media criticism claiming he thought Barbie’s ankles were too fat. Louboutin’s response: “I just added my little science to Barbie and I’ve been proud to serve her. But fat ankles she didn’t have, she just could have had thinner ankles. That’s all.”


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