Barbie Goes Sexier to Target Older Audience

Others have talked about this news story about collector Barbies.

Designed to be peered at rather than played with, the [Way Out West] gal is the first in a series of Barbie “Pin-Up Girls,” modeled after the now-kitschy images that embodied the idea of sex and romance in the 1950s, when many of today’s baby-boomer buyers were growing up.

What I found interesting, though, was the similarities between what’s being done with Barbie and what’s been done with superhero comics over the past few years. More sex to jazz up a declining product line? I’ve heard this before:

Longtime collector Shantel Ballard of Thornton, whose 1,000 Barbies brand her as a serious customer, says it would be smart of Mattel to aggressively pursue the adult market. “For every 5-, 6- or 7-year-old who gets a Barbie that costs under $10, you’ve got a woman my age (41) who has income and can pay $50, $75 or even $250 for a doll,” says Ballard

Older comic fans say the same thing, which is why we now have $50 hardcover collections of stories that weren’t that good the first time around. Selling fewer, more expensive products to a shrinking group of older collectors is the strategy comics adopted as well, which led us into years of debating whether kids should be reading comics. With Barbies, kids have moved on as well — Bratz dolls are the manga of toys.

6 Responses to “Barbie Goes Sexier to Target Older Audience”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Hmm… adult targeted Barbie toys? So should we expect news of anatomically correct Ken dolls soon?:)

  2. Lyle Says:

    Adult-oriented Barbies have been around for a while, though, haven’t they? I know I’ve seen Barbies aimed strictly at the collectors market for a while — dolls designed by big fashion names (Bob Mackie is the one I recall, but I think he wasn’t the only one) and dolls based on poplular properties (Star Trek, X-Files).

    I think the real problem is if Mattel ever abandons it’s core market, girls, which is what comics have done. Then again, this part:

    “She has gone from being a vaguely scurrilous revolutionary toy to being an authority figure,” says Lord. “Which is why she’s not as popular with kids as she is with many adults.”

    Leaves me wondering if they’re already being abandoned by their core market.

    Thanks for pointing to this, I always find different areas of fandom interesting.

  3. Johanna Says:

    True, Lyle, this line seems to be different because of the hint of sex… which brings Barbie back to her origins, since she was a copy of a German sex doll aimed at adult men.

    That quote’s another good one, because it reminded me of what happened to Superman — from vigilante to supercop in a generation.

  4. Rachel Says:

    Bratz dolls the manga of toys… you took the words out of my head.

  5. Rachel Says:

    Oh, and upon inspecting that picture of the pinup doll: Come on. My Hollywood Hair Barbie came in sexier, more revealing clothes. How do hot pants and some cowboy boots turn a chunk of plastic into a sex object any more than the high heels and miniskirts Barbie already wears?

    Mattel has been making far sexier (and more expensive) dolls for many years. This is the first time they have out-and-out related their product to pinups, though (to my knowledge, that is). I think this is just a marketing gimmick, probably created to catch the attention of news shows and sites to remind us all that Barbies still exist (hey, it’s working already!) and now we too can own one of these “adult” dolls! They are probably feeling the heat from Fashion Royalty and Gene dolls and trying to recapture the attention of their more older customers.

  6. Belinda Says:





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