How Barbie is evolving its storytelling for the digital age

Barbie-maker Mattel is evolving its content strategy and storytelling for the 21st century

In the latest issue of The Drum, we interview Mattel's chief content officer Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, to find out how the toymaker is evolving its approach to storytelling.

Balsam-Schwaber leads Mattel’s outreach to consumers through storytelling, with franchises that extend beyond Barbie. These include other family mainstays Thomas the Tank Engine and Hot Wheels, along with new concepts such as Dreamtopia and Monster High.

The methods of promoting content have come a long way, with even direct-to-DVD stories consigned to history as TV and digital streaming have come to the fore over the past five years. And while it may seem, cynically perhaps, that this content is only there to sell toys (there would be no content unless that was an effective marketing strategy, such is the cost of creating these series), Mattel has learned to recognize its responsibility to families as well.

“We are now working within an ecosystem where we are connecting directly with kids, and with parents who are making the decisions. Millennial parents are more involved with their children than any previous generation – they are really aware of the content experiences their kids are having.

“While there is still kid-driven demand, parents are more involved. They are making decisions jointly. Many children have a voice in adult decisions about the houses they move to and about their own room, which historically have been of a family decision-making matrix. Now they are jointly deciding as they go to the store which doll is the favorite. So we ensure parents are involved in that experience.”

Over the years, the company has developed partnerships for its shows with traditional cable broadcasters such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, but more recently it has also built relationships with Netflix and YouTube. In the longer-term, the most significant partnership may prove to be with Amazon which has the infrastructure in place to host Mattel shows on its streaming service and then directly sell and deliver associated toys that are coveted by kids.

To read the full interview by The Drum's Stephen Lepitak, subscribe to The Drum+.

Staff Writer

The Drum is a global media platform and the biggest marketing website in Europe. We produce The Drum magazine, 30 awards and events and manage The Drum Network which aims to make independently minded agencies more successful. We also help brands find the right agencies to work with through the Recommended Agency Register (RAR).

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