Mattel “Redefines” The Barbie & Ken Look With More Diverse Millennial Makeover

In the mist of the social media driven world of beauty that encourages unrealistic #bodygoals, flawless contoured make-up, 22- inch lace front wigs,  and a morning cup of the ever so popular “flat tummy tea”, one of America’s most beloved toy makers, Mattel Inc, is attempting to provide some sort of balance to the youth by offering a new line of trendy-yet-realistic “fashionista” Barbie and Ken dolls that are more diverse and offer a selection of more curvier, taller and petite Barbies with a wider range of skin tones, hair textures and hair colors.

“We are redefining what Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation”, said Lisa McKnight, senior vice-president and general manager for Barbie (Lisi, 2017). Barbie’s new makeover is apart of Mattel’s new marketing campaign #TheDollEvolves, which launched in January of 2016 (Kirkpatrick, 2016). The release includes three new body shapes that are aimed to encourage body positivity amongst young girls and to also help shift Barbie’s long standing history of promoting unrealistic body standards (Kirkpatrick, 2016).

Of course, it would be foolish to believe that Barbie and Ken’s new makeover is solely motivated by Mattel’s new found understanding of the importance of body positivity amongst young girls, and not heavily influenced by their declining sales. According to Time, “in 2012, Barbie global sales dropped 3%. They dropped another 6% in 2013 and 16% in 2014.” (Kirkpatrick, 2016). However, since introducing their new #TheDollEvolves marketing campaign, Barbie has seen a spike in sales and “sales rose 7% from the previous year, to $972 million. That accounted for 18% of Mattel’s total worldwide net sales of $5.46 billion.” (Tschorn, 2017).

Earlier this week, Mattel introduced 15 new diverse Ken dolls which include two body types and six skin tones and hairstyles (Frey, 2017). It appears that Barbie’s new marketing campaign is working really well for them and is contributing to their their spike in sales. What do you think of Barbie and Ken’s new look? Do you think Mattel will continue to see a rise in sales with their #TheDollEvolves marketing campaign? Is it too gimicky? Let me know in the comments below! 


Frey, K. (2017, June 20). Barbie Launches 15 New Diverse Ken Dolls. Retrieved from

Kirkpatrick, E. (2016, January 28). Barbie Just Got A Very Body Positive Makeover. Retrieved from

Lisi, B. (2017, June 21). Mattel introduces new looks for Barbie’s boyfriend Ken – NY Daily News. Retrieved from

Tschorn, A. (2017, June 20). Barbie, are you ready for man-bun or Dad-bod Ken? – LA Times. Retrieved from

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3 Responses to Mattel “Redefines” The Barbie & Ken Look With More Diverse Millennial Makeover

  1. Mark says:

    Great post, Keanna. My wife, who works in Advertising, actually shared this article with me the other day. It jumped right out at me when I saw that you posted about it. I thought your post was great! Not only did you comment on the fact that this new line would be introduced, but your financial explanation as to likely why made your post that much more interesting to me. Nice work.

  2. Stacy Miros says:

    Hi, Keanna,
    I am glad you wrote about this. My friends and I had a great laugh this week about “man-bun Ken.” That, we thought, is a gimmick. I have seen several social media posts poking fun of Mattel’s attempt to be relevant and it seems like most people understand that this is not out of the goodness of their heart – it is about the bottom line.
    I do appreciate the new varieties of the dolls, though (besides “man-bun”) and I think it can only help make kids see how diverse the world is and embrace that.

  3. Faith says:

    Social media has truly changed the game in knocking down the threshold of barriers to viewing diversity. More than ever companies are feeling the pressure to reflect that in their products. I saw this trending on Twitter and was intrigued by it since I grew up with my own Barbies. Like Stacy mentioned, most of it was making fun of the dolls and turning them in to memes. The ‘man bun’ and cornrow Ken doll seem to be the ones getting the most roasting. I applaud Mattel’s initiative to be more inclusive of different races, background, and body types. It is evident it is working in their favor because their sales have been on the rise. Mattel will continue to rise in sales with the campaign if they continue to create dialogue with the consumer. They must learn to listen and evolve the dolls as culture and diversity evolves. It is refreshing to see and hopefully will continue to be a successful campaign.