đź‘€Brandwatch (4 min): Barbie – the empowering and educating force.

⏳4 minute read

Barbie’s days as a pink ‘princess’ are long gone. She has evolved through the times to become an aspirational role model – available as an astronaut, a judge, a paramedic and even a president. I explore what makes Barbie the original female empowerment icon.


Barbie is a fashion doll manufactured by the American toy company Mattel, Inc. Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, observed her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls for hours. This sparked Ruth’s vision to create a 3-D doll for girls to play out their dreams.

In this article – you will learn:

  • How Barbie empowers young girls and their mothers through social media.
  • The positive effect these diverse dolls are having on young girls and mothers.
  • How Barbie addresses sensitive issues, like racism.

Here’s the very first Barbie:

  • Barbie made her debut in 1959 with a striped swimsuit, blonde ponytail and red lipstick at a New York toy fair.
Barbie was originally built to empower young girls and women.

How Barbie kept up with the times:

  • At first, Barbie was received with scepticism, she was too perfect and unrelatable.
  • Barbie had to evolve and modernise to survive. This meant striving to offer girls choices through dolls and their endless storytelling possibilities.
  • In 2016, Barbie became available with more skin tones and body types and in 2019, Mattel introduced a line of gender-neutral dolls. 

How Barbie empowers young girls:

  • Barbie’s social media approach genuinely amazed me – I was not expecting to see such empowering and inspirational messaging told through colourful, playful images and bright, eye-catching videos.
  • The refreshingly diverse range of Barbie dolls are presented as ‘role models’ – from judges, astronauts, paramedics, firefighters, teachers, scientists to a president.
  • Barbie’s social media tone of voice can be described as ‘pink’, happy and feminine.
  • The ‘sweet’ and friendly tone of voice conveys an important, bold message for mothers and daughters – “you can be anything.”

It’s OK to be a princess:

  • The social media content strikes a nice balance between being a princess one day and then being an astronaut the next. It does not try too hard to sell a narrative, in fact, the astronaut probably drives back to her Barbie dreamhouse in her pink classic convertible once she’s done walking on the moon.

The Dream Gap Project:

  • Barbie established the Dream Gap Project Fund with $250,000 in March 2019 to start the work of removing barriers that prevent girls from reaching their limitless potential.
  • Research shows that children pick up on cultural stereotypes at a very young age that suggest women aren’t as smart as men. These stereotypes are often perpetuated by the media and grown-ups who subtly reinforce them. Barbie works very closely to ‘The Dream Gap Project to address this through its dolls and social media messaging.
  • Showcasing positive role models appears to be at the heart of its social media strategy. Its Instagram story features a whole range of role models from different backgrounds, careers and walks of life.
Scientists, pilot, Mexican artists Frida Kahlo, American civil rights activists Rosa Parks, Barbie with Vitiligo and football player Barbie

Vitiligo Barbie:

  • Barbie launched a doll with the skin condition vitiligo last year – which became its most “liked” post ever.
  • The doll was well received by parents as it allowed them to educate their daughters about why some people may look/be different.

The feedback from parents was overwhelming:

The doll was a huge success with women who wished that this product existed when they were little girls.
  • Barbie also stays current with the latest trends on social media. For example, it features young girls talking about what they want to be when they grow up. They explain why it’s so important to believe in yourself. Check out this heart-warming #DayOfTheGirl Instagram story. Check out the Instagram story HERE.

Barbie even addresses racism:

  • Barbie is not afraid of #RealTalk. Her YouTube vlog recently went viral on Twitter when she talked about how hurtful racism is, making the conversation easy for children to understand. A must watch!

Barbie – living her best life on Instagram:

  • The aesthetically-pleasing ‘Barbie Style’ Instagram account shows the 61-year-old doll as a social media influencer with an endless wardrobe living her best life.
  • The longer I scrolled through the account, the more I became convinced that her account is secretly genius – a lot of Barbie’s “posts” are pretty much exact copies of the type of pics real-life influencers take. It also feels like Barbie is mocking how we so badly want to appear ‘perfect’ on Instagram with her perfectly-shot pictures:
  • Here she is in an art gallery showing that she’s cultured and hip:

Gone are the days of ‘bimbo Barbie.’ Barbie is now an empowering and educating force for young girls. I was pleasantly surprised to see this side of Barbie. This is definitely a brand that I will keep a close eye on.

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