Mattel Inc. is creating a new series of Barbie dolls specifically tailored for the Chinese market, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal. While the revamped doll will still don the same characteristic blond hair, blue eyes and grossly unrealistic body proportions, she will now showcase a style that parents of Chinese children want, including new accessories like a violin, bow and sheet music.
Meet: Violin Soloist Barbie. The new doll was created to target China’s Tiger parents who might see playing with dolls as a waste of their children’s time.
“[My daughter] loves those dolls, but … they distract her from her studies,” Beijing mother Luo Chongzong was quoted as saying in the report about her nine-year-old daughter who yearned for a “Fashion Design” Barbie set. “She’ll spend hours braiding her hair, dressing and undressing her,” she said.
While Mattel acknowledges that throwing in a tiny violin won’t necessarily make the doll more educational, the company is hoping to help promote within China the educational benefits of playtime.
Mattel even had education experts present these educational benefits to leaders within the central government’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture.
“If they allow for more play [in schools], half our marketing is done,” Peter Broegger, Mattel’s Asia Pacific senior vice president, was quoted as saying in WSJ.
The company is hoping to break the current trend wherein “joy and learning are like oil and water in China”.
But is China ready? In 2011, Barbie’s six-story flagship store in Shanghai
was shut down “ceased to operate” after it had “completed its mission of developing the brand in the Chinese market,” which Shanghaiist writer Christine Tan more plausibly attributed to a bad location, a “terrible storefront”, “general creepy atmosphere” and “no great love for the Barbie doll in China”.
However, Broegger said in the report that the company has learned from its mistakes, including the extravagant pricing of the previous Barbie dolls, which is why China’s Violin Soloist Barbie will only cost a cool 79 yuan (13 USD).
[Image Credit: Deborah is Lola]