The Power of Play – Innovation in Toys

Innovation comes in many forms. It can range from very complex high technology products such as robots and self-driving cars, to relatively simple toys and dolls. Nonetheless, even when simple, innovation and imagination are powerful forces. They help to fuel learning and expand thinking.

Consider a somewhat humble product – the Barbie doll. Barbie is getting up there in years and is approaching 60 years on the toy market. Yet, instead of being seen as old-fashioned, the doll has changed greatly over the years. Barbie has changed in shape, size, color, and profession. In past years, Barbie has had careers including nurse, teacher, fashion model, and princess. But now she is much more. Barbie is now an engineer, an Olympic athlete, a legendary pilot, mathematician, chef, and artist.

In its latest incarnation, Barbie follows the lead of other female trailblazers and has a new personas as the first female actor to portray Doctor Who, the time-traveler lead of the popular BBC TV series, and the alien-hunting FBI Agent Dana Scully of the X-Files. This takes her far beyond her fashion and beach days and brings her into the current era of strong female leaders.

Who should Barbie become next?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the stages in the product life cycle. What are the marketing objectives in each stage?
  2. Divide students into teams. Have each team draw a product life cycle and place various products and services into each stage. Make sure to include various toys and Barbie dolls.
  3. Discuss Mattel’s new additions to the Barbie product line. How does Mattel maintain its position on the PLC using Barbie products?
  4. Show the Web site: https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/new-barbies
  5. Show the Dr. Who doll: https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/doctor-who-barbie-doll-fxc83?sf93512412=1
  6. Next, have students brainstorm on how to reposition or revise products/services to move into an earlier stage of the life cycle.

Source: Miller, S. (9 October 2018). Barbie adds Doctor Who, Dana Scully and more to its growing roster of modern icons. Advertising Age.

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