Sunday, April 26, 2009

China: A Barbie World

Barbie, with her blond hair and ridiculous measurements (transferred into real life, 36-18-33), is trying to make a splash in China.

Here is a video from the BBC, reporting from the six floor Barbie shop in Shanghai:

Here is a write-up from The Global Post from March on Mattel's pushing of Barbie in China:

HONG KONG — Tall, blond, impossibly large breasts. Barbie stands out anywhere, but in China, she really turns heads. And that, of course, is exactly what Mattel, the U.S. company behind the Barbie doll, wants.

On Mar. 6, Mattel is opening a six-story, 38,000-sq.-ft. Barbie superstore in Shanghai. In addition to dolls — lots of dolls — the boutique will feature a hair salon, a bar and a $15,000, adult-sized Vera Wang gown.

“This is not just a store for children” said Laura Lai, general manager of Barbie Shanghai. “Girls of all ages will love it.”

Barbie’s made-in-China makeover is part of a push to re-brand the iconic American doll on the eve of her 50th birthday. With domestic sales slumping, Mattel has set its sights on China, hoping to the weather the financial storm in the relative calm of the country's vast — and comparatively untapped — consumer market.

The plan is to turn America's favorite doll into fashion fodder for China's upwardly mobile, trend-setting elite. By moving up-market and focusing on Barbie-branded merchandise, the company hopes to widen profit margins and attract a new demographic: Chinese women.

But, will they buy it?

Summer Wang, an assistant at a film production company, certainly will. "Barbie is beautiful like a princess,” she said. “And every Shanghai girl wants to be a princess."

Read On

One isn't going to be surprised to hear that I think Barbie's penetration into the Chinese market is not a very good thing. To have little Chinese girls, and their mom's too I suppose, buying into everything that Barbie represents is not encouraging.

Whenever I think of Barbie dolls, Lisa Simpson and her crusade against Malibu Stacey comes to mind. This quote from Lisa, on the effects Malibu Stacey has on little girls, is classic:

It's not funny, Bart. Millions of girls will grow up thinking that this is the right way to act; that they can never be more than vacuous ninnies whose only goal is to look pretty, land a rich husband, and spend all day on the phone with their equally vacuous friends talking about how damn terrific it is to look pretty and have a rich husband!
Well put, Lisa.

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