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07-0580, Section M

Muhammad Ahsan Shafiq

Barbie: The American Girl Goes Global
National University of Computer & Emerging Sciences
FAST School of Business

Q1. Describe Mattels global marketing strategy for Barbie and assess its success.
The case mentions following 3 strategies adopted by Mattel Inc. for global marketing strategy:
1. Mattel 2000 - focused on companys direction in the 1990s
2. Friendship Barbie - initiated when Barbie was launched in Central & Eastern Europe
3. Long Hair Star Barbie - Mattel Inc. introduces American Barbie in Japan
4. Market by Market - the company will adopt to local tastes, economic conditions, and
Lets examine these strategies one by one
Mattel 2000:
Mattel 2000 focused on companys global direction; probably it was a roster of next markets. In
Europe Mattel Inc. used a pan-European approach and introduced the original US Barbie in
Western Europe.
Friendship Barbie:
This strategy was adopted by Mattel Inc. when it entered Eastern and Central Europe. Barbie
was tailored and it reflected the basic lifestyle children had experienced under communism.
Key result for Mattel Inc. was that the little girls in Europe prefer US Barbie on local versions.
Key learning: Standardized offering works
Mattle Inc. Enters Middle East and South-America
With its glittering Barbie, Mattle Inc. entered the conservative regions of Middle East and
received a rigorous response in the form of look-alike dolls which actually competed with
Barbie on social and religious norms. These moves were executed by Government probably to
protect the Islamic norms present in the society. Same happened in Brazil but this time it was
the physique of Barbie which pricked the Brazilians; they were unable to identify with the doll.
Esteralas Susi competed with Barbie on physical features and won not only in Brazil but also in
Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uraguay.
Key learning: Standardized offer might not work every where
Long Hair Star Barbie - Mattel Inc. introduces American Barbie in Japan
Here company faced another challenge apart from physique of the doll; distribution channels.
After annulling 2 joint ventures with local companies Mattle Inc. decided to control marketing
and sales operations in the country itself. Later it again ventured with a previous local firm and
this time it was successful; a profitable distribution system was achieved.
Market by Market
After all the global learning Mattel Inc. settled on one strategy which was Market by Market.
According to this strategy the company will adapt its products to local tastes, economic
conditions and pricing. Hence the company officially cancelled a mix of Regio-centric and
Ethnocentric approach it had before.
Q2. Mattel has experienced problems in entering the Japanese market. How could Mattel
have achieved greater success in Japan?
A. It has been three times that Barbie failed in Japan which includes 2 entrance attempts in
collaboration with the local businesses; Takara and Bandai. The latter 2 cases show that it was
because of improper walling that caused Bandai and Takara to capitalize on competencies of
Mattel Inc. and they offered their markets dolls that were tailored to the society. Mattel Inc.
could have been in a better position if it had ventured with only marketing and sales firms of
Japan. The problem was not in the offering; Dolls, it was in how the product was marketed.
Japanese firms know the local market i.e. tastes, trends, distribution network etc. and venturing
with these firms would have meant understanding the market and serving it efficiently. Mattel
Inc. should have kept decision making in its own hand whilst Japanese firms work on the needs
of the society.
Q3. What strategies should Mattel employ to combat the threat from the Susi doll in Latin
A. Susis success in Brazilian and other South-American market is because of its projection
which is oriented with the society. Girls can identify with Susi because she is like them. Barbie is
a glittering American doll with all the fancy of a consumer society i.e. branded apparel etc. In
order to compete with Susi, Barbie should be customized to a degree that reflects true Brazilian
culture and female thinking.
Q4. How important is culture in childrens toy preferences? Will cultural differences result in
failure for Mattel as the company faces new competition in Middle East?
A. No doubt culture has great implications on childrens toy preferences. They will prefer those
toys which go hand in hand with the culture in which they were raised up be it western or
eastern. As far as Middle East is concerned, yes, Barbie should abide by the cultural norms
because in order to get in childrens home you have to win the hearts of parents because
ultimate purchasers of the toy are the parents.