Monthly Archives: February 2016

Barbie Changes Her Shape


The classic Barbie doll was born in 1959, has always been 11 and 1/2 inches tall, and has had the same hour-glass shape for more than 60 years. But the times are a’ changing, and so is Barbie. Mattel has launched a new look for the iconic doll – Barbie now can be bought in different shapes such as tall, petite, and curvy body types. Barbie also can be found with seven different skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 24 different hairstyles, including blue and purple hair.

The changes come at a time when Barbie faces her relevancy to today’s girls. The evolution of her looks is part of mirroring the changes in American society. No longer is there a narrow viewpoint of what a beautiful girl looks like – beauty is different to different girls and the changes to Barbie are meant to reflect those varying viewpoints. The first dolls will make their debut at the New York Toy Fair and will cost $9.99 each.

Approximately nine out of 10 people worldwide know the Barbie brand, but sales have decreased 20% in the past few years, and there is increasing competition for dolls. Time for a make-over.

Barbie – we’re glad to see you embrace change!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: How many know of Barbie? How many have bought Barbie dolls? What do they see as one of the main problems with the doll?
  2. Show the video of the new Barbie:
  3. View the doll’s Web site:

  1. What are other toys that have fallen behind the times?
  2. Divide students into teams. Have each team choose an old toy or game, then revamp it for today’s youth.

Source: Time, New York Times, other news sources


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Who Pays More? Women or Men?


Do companies price products differently depending on whether the target consumer is male vs. female? Most people would say that the same product should be priced the same, no matter who the intended buyer is for the product. And, as consumers, we expect fair pricing for all. Yet, in reality, prices often vary depending on the targeted consumer.

Research done by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs examined gender-based pricing of goods in NYC for nearly 800 products and 90 brands at 24 online and in-store retailers. The categories examined included toys and accessories, children’s clothing, adult clothing, personal care products, and more. The findings were surprising: on average women’s products were 7% higher than similar products for men. And, in nearly all categories, women’s products cost more 42% of the time, while men’s products cost more only 18% of the time.

The study also referenced a similar one done by the State of California in 1994. That study estimated that women paid an annual “gender tax” of approximately $1,351 for the same services compared to men.

Next time you are at a store, do your own comparison and see what you find.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Should prices be the same for all buyers, regardless of gender and ethnicity?
  2. Discuss the laws that protect consumers from discriminatory pricing.
  3. Show the New York City research report on gender pricing and have students review it:
  4. Give the students a weekend assignment. Divide students into teams and have each select two categories of products to examine (ex: shampoo, jeans, shirts, etc.). Have them take photos, or screen clips, of the products and the prices.
  5. Tally the results. Are the students’ findings consistent with those of NYC and California?

Source: Washington Post

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The Minivan Goes Hybrid


It’s been more than 30 years since the invention of one of the world’s biggest transportation adventures. Can you guess what it is? No, it’s not space travel, or hoverboards, or autonomous cars. It’s the 33rd anniversary of the classic minivan!

No matter whether you loved or hated them, the minivan was a game-changer for the world. It was useful, roomy, family-friendly, and (usually) not very attractive, but it changed how families travelled around the world. The minivan quickly replaced station wagons in American households, selling a peak level of 1.37 million vehicles in 2000. However, once crossover vehicles such as SUVs came onto the market, minivan sales took a big hit and several companies ceased manufacturing them.

In 2017, the new Chrysler Pacifica will be unveiled as the first plug-in hybrid minivan. It aims to challenge SUVs with a sleeker body, sitting lower to the ground, with bigger wheels, and looks more luxurious than your parent’s old minivan.

Will it take sales from SUVs? Are we there yet?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Who had minivans? What did they like and dislike about the vehicles?
  2. Show the video:
  3. Divide students into teams. Have each team research a minivan model online.
  4. Then, challenge each team to develop a marketing campaign for their minivan. Make sure each team develops a clear target market and value proposition.
  5. How can their programs increase sales and switch consumers from SUV models?

Source: CNN Money, Manufacturing Business Technology


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