As the Netflix documentary shows The toys that made us and as any fan knows little to be proud, Barbie was born to inspire the girls, so that, playing, they would find a model of a woman to aspire to, beyond that of a caregiver mother, and leave that role, which they condemned the baby dolls that predominated in their games. Barbie was president of the United States, astronaut or racing driver long before a woman aspired to the White House or to navigate the space or circuits. She has also been a model, of course, executive, frivolous Malibú inhabitant, police officer, hostess, television presenter, beekeeper ... Now, just when celebrates its 60th anniversary, assumes a new role, that of rescuer. He is called to rescue his company, Mattel, who lives low hours and is entrusted to his most iconic product to lift the flight.
Although its president and CEO, Ynon Kreiz, celebrated that Mattel had recovered in 2018 the scepter of "global number one toy, according to the NPD consultant", the statement is not so sharp. Mattel reached 2018 global sales of 4,510.9 million dollars (3,956 million euros), while its great competitor, the also American Hasbro reached 4,579.5 million just one more pinch. Mattel outperformed it in gross sales (a metric that leaves out, for example, discounts). But if the mother house of Barbie approached so much to the owner of the Monopoly it was, simply, because this one suffered a skid of 12% in the income with respect to 2017.
Mattel did not fare much better. Penalized both by the Bankruptcy of Toys R 'Us in a sector that contracted 2% in the US, its revenues fell by 8% compared to the previous year, chaining the fifth year of decline, from the 6,485 million dollars (5,689 million euros) in 2013. However, Kreiz was satisfied with the results because the drop in sales was lower than in 2017 and because the losses of more than 1,000 million dollars that year had been reduced by half.
In addition to a cost saving plan, the company owes much of the improved profitability to the 11.5-inch (29.2-centimeter) wrist that Ruth Handler, wife of one of Mattl's founders, created in 1959 and baptized with the name of his daughter. Last year about 60 million Barbie dolls were sold, and they are already more than 1,000 million since its inception. The division of the blonde of impossible measures -although it is not only long ago blonde and not only slender- reported in 2018 to the company 955.9 million euros gross -Mattel does not specify the net-, 14% more than the previous year. Along with the Hot Wheels cars (732.1 million, 7% more), it was the only line that showed a favorable evolution, compared to the crashes of the Fischer-Price preschool line (-13%, up to 1,040.8 million) , American Girl dolls (-28%, up to 300.5 million), or other brands, what they call Toy Box (-16%, up to 1,425.9 million).
Mattel hopes that, with the momentum of the 60th anniversary and the Dream Gap campaign, aimed at the girls do not stop pursuing their dreams ahead of time, the sales of the doll continue to rise, to finish lifting the flight. "It's not the first time that Barbie comes to the rescue of the company," explains Michelle Chidoni, Mattel's vice president in charge of public relations. One of them was when, in 2016, with Chidoni in the responsible team, the line was launched Fashionistas that, for the first time, included new bodies, including a more plump one (curvy), which reduced the exaggerated gap between the thighs.
Some of those ups and downs have been lived by the Mexican Carmen Arredondo. Sitting before an aging green sewing machine, she has been sewing manes for the past 22 years on the small rubber heads of the Barbie prototypes that are created at the design center that Mattel has in its headquarters in El Segundo, a suburb of Los Angeles, that the company invited EL PAÍS and other media. It begins crossing the temple with some of the threads / hairs that it has at hand and it continues in spiral, until covering the crown. The heads come from a nearby table, where Sacha, equipped with precision glasses, paints by hand with tiny brushes and an enviable pulse eyes (makeup included), lips and teeth. She follows the sketches that come from the department led by Carlyle Nuera, chief designer, many of them by her own hand. His table, like a good part of the building, is full of small supports that show, impaled, a couple of dozen heads of Barbie, as if it were the war trophy room of a jíbara tribe. Another department designs, patrons and cuts tiny dresses size 29 centimeters. From here come the designs of the dolls that will be manufactured later in any of the plants of the company in the whole world.
But Barbie's role in helping Mattel is not just selling dolls. A few meters from the design center is the studio of @barbiestyle, the Instagram account in which the figure poses as a fashion icon. With two million followers, "she is an influencer and we treat her as such", explains Zlatan Kusnoor, the person in charge. It does not reveal, however, the budget of a profile that includes trips to take pictures in real scenarios. "If the photo is in Paris, we go to Paris," he says.
And a few kilometers away, on the way to Santa Monica, in an industrial estate, actress America Young wears pajamas with sensors and, before a table, becomes Barbie for her video blog. Almost six million people subscribe to adventures, advice, adventures or even recipes Barbie vlog. Young, who is the opposite of blonde and rather athletic, gives her voice and movements to bring the animated character to life, which aims to reflect the experiences of a 17-year-old girl. "Try to be inclusive, it's not [la presentadora afroamericana] Oprah [Winfrey]"Says Nathan Baynard, global marketing director of Mattel. "We hope that the vlog and the instagram account continue to get followers and help the brand and sales," he explains, trusting in the power of these new tools to engage new generations in the universe of the sexagenary doll.