Last month, the bottom dropped out of Barbie's world when Mattel Inc.'s longtime Chief Executive Jill Barad was forced to step down after two years of poor performance and plunging stock prices.
This month brings new beginnings for Barbie whose earlier success was largely responsible for Barad's rise to the top with the launch of several new products.
As Mattel attempts to recover from a number of setbacks, it's relying on Barbie more than ever, even though the company's old stalwart and biggest moneymaker has been showing signs of age.
"The challenge with Barbie is that it's a 41-year-old brand, and little girls today are nothing like little girls of 41 years ago," said Chris Burns, editor of Toy Report Weekly, a trade journal. "The challenge is to continue to reflect who girls are today."
Hence the arrival of a new Barbie look this summer. Not only will the doll get a drastic makeover, she'll get a host of new accessories like electronic games, makeup and kits. A new ad campaign was also launched last month hoping to appeal to pre-teen girls, who have left Barbie in the dust in recent years.
The new Barbie will have a more natural body shape less busty with wider hips. Company representatives say the old doll didn't fit into the new clothes, like the trendy, low-slung slacks, they wanted to dress her in.
The first-ever Barbie with a belly button, called Jewel Girl Barbie, is also coming out this summer. She will wear trendier fashions that the company hopes will appeal to older girls.
Ninety-five percent of the newly released Barbies will have the retooled body and face. The new doll's look is "subtle and a little more refined, without the wide, toothy grin she's not quite as bold looking. Gone is that bright aqua-blue eye makeup," said Julia Jensen, director of public relations for the Barbie line. The new products are set to come out in August.
Other changes include a new signature style logo and packaging using a lot less pink, an expanded line of books and clothes, and customized lip gloss and nail kits.
Barbie is also going high-tech, with products like a Barbie scrapbook with talking stickers and voice-activated locks, and a compact that allows users to record a secret message that plays back when it's opened. For the holidays, Mattel introduced a new Barbie computer, available only via the Internet.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.