Barbie’s marketing makeover fails to reap rewards as sales continue downward spiral

A management shuffle, increased advertising investment and a revamped Barbie brand image have failed to save Mattel from reporting its eigth consecutive quarterly sales drop for the iconic brand.

The 56-year old doll maker bore the weight of a 14 per cent drop to $302m (down from $352m in 2014) amid increased competition from other toy brands and increasing popularity of technology with young girls.

Mattel, which is in the middle of a turnaround plan, has struggled to revive the doll and is now pinning its hopes on a new advertising campaign which aims to reinforce Barbie’s positive image. The dolls have long been criticised for their unrealistic portrayal of women and the upcoming adverts will look to eradicate such concern.

But despite the sharp drop Mattel remains convinced in the strength of the brand and the business reported positive uptick in technology driven Barbie products.

“On the digital front, we saw significant increase in app use this past quarter and our YouTube video views nearly doubled,” said Richard Dickson, Mattel’s president and chief operating officer on a conference call with investors last night (15 October).

“Just last week we launched a ground breaking new advertising campaign titled 'Imagine the Possibilities' that reinforces and goes to the heart of Barbie's message… Going forward, in addition to benefiting from some timing shifts, we will be supported by increased advertising and stronger trade promotion and merchandising support.”

Elsewhere Mattel is readying itself for battle to offset the gap it will experience when rival toy maker Hasbro launches dolls from the Walt Disney Princess portfolio in January 2016. Mattel lost out on the license deal last year. The company will instead lean hard on partnerships with the likes of Warner Brothers and will push its fashion doll line Monster High, the so-called ‘goth’ Barbie.

Christopher Sinclair, Mattel chief executive, said the company was “aggressively” developing plans to offset the Disney Princess revenue gap.

“It’s clear we will continue to have significant challenges with the loss of Disney Princess and the current trend of Monster High. We have been aggressively developing plans to offset the Disney Princess revenue gap and we have confidence in the new team managing Monster High. We’re focusing our efforts to build core brand momentum and building on new partnerships.”

Overall the company’s net income fell over a third to $223.8m in the third quarter ended 30 September down from $331.8m at the same time last year.

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