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Barbie faces Islamic dolls

Case Study: International Marketing Management

1. Explore the secret of Barbies success that made it the dream-toy for girls across the world. The Barbie dolls have been a huge success from the day of its launch. Every second two Barbie dolls are being sold in over 150 nations around the world. It is currently a billion dollar industry, with not limited to toys but to computers, television and movies. Barbie was both a child of her time and yet completely cutting edge. But what is it about the Barbie doll that made it click. Even at its debut in 1959 with the now famous black and white striped bathing suit-clad doll, it sold about 351,000 units. It did not take long for the craze to transform to a mania. Everyone just loves Barbie, from little girls to grownups who do collecting; from girls to men. In fact, Barbie is second to stamps as the most collected item in the whole world. Let us look into some reasons for the unprecedented growth Barbie has witnessed1. Female Representation Barbie represents woman in the childs imaginative world wherein woman stands in as an object for and elicits propositional claims about women that are not true of real women. Barbie dolls represent self-sustaining human beings, and, therefore, they generate fictional truths about real women. These fictional truths are both general and distinctive; i.e., they refer to individual girls or women, individuals who are identified as members of the class of females, but who are also individuals with distinct identities. Barbie with so many avatars helped every individual girl to connect with it and draw its own identity reference. Once Barbies identity has been assigned to her by the imaginer her representation and the fictional truths she generatesthe truths about the particular woman with a name and real-world identity that Barbie representsmay be strongly shaped by cultural representations. 2. Mirror of the times Barbies have been around for centuries and it defined the style, fashion and look of the year it was made. Like people and culture, it is also evolving, showing the current fad and the current way of thinking of that generation. Barbies dolls tell history in its own right, even having dolls that commemorate special events in history like the end of the US-Soviet Union Cold War and the Olympic Games. There is a Barbie that will define the 70s flower power era and the millennium that came. In a piece of doll is also a piece of history. Let us scan the evolution of the Barbie to understand the fact stated.In 1958 or thereabouts, Ruth Handler took a look at a popular German fashion model doll, Bild Lilli, and realized this was something that had

not been seen in the U.S.--most dolls were baby dolls or variations of them. (Keep that in mind as the story progresses.) So Handler invented Barbie, named after her daughter. 3. Memories of childhood Having been introduced in the 1950s, Barbies dolls have been around for centuries that most women in the United Stated have probably played with one or two. Seeing Barbie dolls remind people of their childhood days, which they would most likely want to pass on to their own kids. In fact, some collectors do not only collect the items because of their price value but because of the memories that the dolls evoke. After all, buying a piece that is exactly the same as the one they have played with when they were little kids can be really exciting.

4. Inspirational Identity whom child can interact on a personal level Since Barbie's introduction in 1959, the doll has been portrayed with many different careers. Different dolls are sold with sets of clothes and accessories that fit the career being portrayed. For example, the Lifeguard Barbie play set includes a Barbie, an outfit with shoes, a lifeguard chair, a dolphin, and a life preserver, while the Spanish Teacher Barbie includes a Barbie, an outfit with shoes flash cards, a Spanish quiz, an easel, a notebook, a key chain, and a hairbrush.

2.) Sensitivity to culture is crucial to success in international markets. Evaluate Barbies product adaptation for different markets. International marketing is the performance of a company's product and services to consumers in more than one nation to produce profit. The case examines the evolution of Barbie over the years and also how Mattel customized it as per the geographic regions it entered. For example black Barbie was one example of it. When it entered the European market and it could be seen directly that, US children and European ones had quietly same expectations, attitudes to like Barbies. But the situation was a bit more complex in other countries. Because cultural and social differences were clearly affect to buyer behavior. For example for Iran or Brazilian or Japan market, Mattel could have to make something change in Barbie and it did. There were different barbies launched in Japan, China, Africa, Germany, India and many more. The Chinese Barbie evokes the exotic Far East with a costume inspired by those of the Qing Dynasty. The Egyptian Barbie wears a serpent ornament with a stunning golden crown inspired by the royalty of ancient Egypt. The Moja Barbie perfectly reflects the grandeur of the African continent. In India too Barbie was customized and launched clad in Sari with traditional jewelry to appeal to masses. Barbie dolls not only being customized with the traditional outfits but also the festivals of the region were taken into consideration. It was designed to symbolize these festivals. Indian Barbie symbolizes Diwali; Kwanzaa Barbie, the African-American celebrations kwanza, means the first fruit of the harvest; Carnival Barbie, the week-long joyous Brazilian celebrations of music, dance, sequins and feathers at Rio de Janeiro; Chinese New-year Barbie, the ancient festival of Chinese New year beginning with the new moon on the first day of the year that ends the evening of the full moon on the 15thday, called the Lantern festival, etc. Barbie has very successfully adapted to the cultures of varied geography it spreads across and has maintained its popularity among the girl children.

3.) Barbie has been criticized for its curvaceous, unrealistic body and materialism, leading to controversies and its ban in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia. On the other hand, Islamic dolls are criticized for promoting gender stereotypes and restrictive roles. In your opinion, to what extent are such criticisms and bans justified? Criticisms in case of Barbie: Barbies un-proportionate body: In terms of real size, considering 1/6 scale, the statistics of a Barbie doll corresponds to 36 inches (chest), 18 inches (waist) and 33 inches (hips) which, according to critics, cause to develop an inferiority complex in girls, as they grow up, since they themselves dont look exactly like Barbie. There exists a desire among pre-teen girls to attain the physical appearance and lifestyle similar to Barbie. Barbies curvaceous body a promotion to sexuality: This is another reason why Barbie is criticized in some of the conservative nations. The body structure, according to the critics, promotes sexuality and promiscuity. The doll was thought to awaken sexual impulses among children. The revealing clothes, shameful postures caused the doll to be banned in Saudi Arabia. Promotion to materialism: Barbie has also been criticized in Islamic countries for promoting materialism associated with amassing cars, houses and clothes. In Russia, it was banned because it was thought to encourage consumerism among children.

Criticisms in case of Islamic dolls: Unrealistic: Islamic dolls are generally criticized for presenting the same unrealistic idea of beauty, image for women to conform to. Restrictive role: Unlike Barbie, who has been a job-hopper, i.e., who has been everything from an astronaut to the US president, the Islamic doll represents a traditional Arab woman, whose life revolves around the family, serving as a role model for Muslim girls.

Our Opinion regarding bans/criticisms: The criticisms of Barbie in few of the Islamic countries are justified upto a certain extent. The revealing clothes, shameful postures, curvaceous body etc. are the features totally inverse to the prevalent culture in Islamic states. It is highly justified for the non-liberal, conservative states to protest in this regard. However, criticizing the dolls just because they have an unrealistic or a disproportionate body is something that cannot be warranted. The very basic objective of such dolls, to help the young girls to enjoy playing their dreams in adult roles, will then not be served.

In our Opinion, the so called promotion to materialism is something that cannot be justified anywhere in the world. It is the materialistic things that help constituting the aspirations in children. Though in the socialist country like Russia it is expected to draw criticism for consumerism, however banning the dolls altogether because of this reason is highly unjustified. Restrictive roles of women in Muslim countries is highly prevalent hence criticizing the Islamic dolls is expected

4.)Despite adaptation to represent vast ethnic groups, nationalities, and occasions, Barbie dolls have been jostled out from Islamic markets. The worlds best selling doll, Barbie, is being elbowed off the toy shelves in Islamic markets by Islamic playmates. The new dolls aimed at Islamic markets strive to create character that parents and teachers want children to relate to. Mattel came up with Leyla, however, Middle Eastern Barbie as the stereotype of a belly dancer or a concubine hardly appealed to present day Muslim customers. A number of dolls were launched to better suit Islamic markets like Fulla (Syria), Saghira (Morocco), Salma (Indonesia) and Sara (Iran). All these dolls are prefers by Muslim parents because they represent Islamic way of life. Islamic dolls have been conceptualised as role model for children in Islamic cultures, representing how Muslim parents like their daughters to behave and dress. Brand Image: Barbies curvaceous body and revealing garments were considered to promote sexuality and promiscuity. Barbies unrealistic body proportion tends to create inferiority complex among girls, if they cant look exactly like Barbie. Here Islamic dolls have put in lot of efforts to get rid of this Barbie syndrome. For example, Fulla face was designed in 18 months just to match the customer its going to cater, minute things like skin tone, color and thickness, color of eyes and hairs were taken into the account. Brand Identity: Islmaic dolls were successful in portraying them as modest and conservative against Barbie outgoing and flashy attribute. Mass appeal: Islamic dolls combine feminity with religion and also the out fits women and girls in these country sports like Arab girls use close fitting and brightly colored tops at home. Brand Personality: Islamic dolls have been portrayed as loving, caring, honest, and respectful to her parents. Doll has relatives who take care of her and are protective against Barbie who has a boy-friend which is frowned in Islam. Marketing Strategy: Islamic dolls have scarf, pastel coat, cloaks, prayer out fits and even prayer mats. Advertisements showing dolls in a light conforming to Islam like offering prayers in morning, reading book at night, baking cake to surprise her friend, etc.

Advertising on internet platforms as given below: Muslim Barbie Doll

Wardrobe : Barbie has wide range of jewellery, furniture, costumes and accessories, outdoors clothes of Islamic doll does not include swimwear or anything revealing. Adoption: names of Islamic dolls are those which are commonly used in day to day communication like Amira, Aya, Shada, Nada, Lima, etc. Reciting of commonly used Arabic and English phrases example, welcome alaikum, lets begin in the name of God, Bismillah, etc.

So, all together it was the mass appeal which Islamic dolls could generate but Barbie couldnt do was the reason for it being elbowed out. Women in these countries including Iran and Egypt have very strict dress code. They are not allowed to expose any part of their hair and due to Islamic law they have to completely cover their body and only their eyes are shown. But the appearance of these female dolls highly affected their culture values because Barbie female doll illustrate the opposite side of their dress code. This causes parents and religious leaders to more strange reactions with the culture values represent by Barbie and Ken and they believe Barbie is seen in the Middle East where modesty matters as something of a tramp.

5.)In the view of the fast growing popularity of Islamic dolls among Muslim customers across

the world, suggest a marketing plan to address the specific needs of the Islamic markets. Also evaluate the impact of suggested plan on brand image of Barbie in other markets. Going by the rapid growth of Islamic Dolls in the Islamic markets, most notably Fulla, Mattel needs to think quickly if it wants to extend the Barbie brand to Islamic markets. Thus, it is first important to learn the need of customers in the Islamic countries: Religious alignment: The religious rules of the Islamic world differ greatly from what Barbie has experienced in other markets. The customers here want the dolls to comply with the rules and regulations of their religion very strictly right from the clothes to the family story surrounding the doll Socio-Cultural fit: The society of the Islamic countries is also very different in its treatment of women than the western world. As a result, what might be the norm for women in USA might be too outrageous and unsocial in an Islamic country. Thus, the customers need a product which fits into their society and culture, especially with respect to the roles and status of women. Inspirational value for growing kids: All over the world, parents look towards dolls being an inspirational figure for their kids during the formative years. The parents in the Islamic markets also want to derive the same inspirational value, in-keeping with their culture. Thus, a doll would be accepted if she is shown to have good moral and family values and chooses a career that is respected in the Islamic society

To address these specific needs of Islamic markets, Barbie needs to go for the given marketing strategy: Customize but NOT as per Stereotypes: Though Barbie has been into customized products for different markets, most of them have been based on broad stereotypes that exist among the American public about the women at those places. Introducing a belly-dancer Barbie for Islamic markets was a glaring example of the same. There is no doubt that to succeed in Islamic countries, Barbies dresses and habits must confirm to the rules of Islam. Choose new and emerging careers for Barbie as per the country of sale: The level of social liberalization is different for different countries. Once the physical attributes of Barbie dolls have been customized as per Islamic world, the careers also need to be changed. Which career to sell in which country should be determined by a detailed market survey to judge the major professions viewed as respectable for women apart

from teaching and medicines. This may give different answers for different countries like Lebanon( more liberal) and Saudi Arabia( more conservative) Choose a different storyline to sell: If Barbie is to sell in Islamic markets, it will have to do away with the existing storyline of Barbies family background and love interest (Ken). The parents of kids in target markets would never approve of a highly materialistic doll with no family but a boyfriend. Instead, they would like to hear references to the Barbies family and her values in the promotion and the communications of the product. Create a different identity from existing Islamic dolls (especially Fulla) by leveraging its quality and brand name: While carrying out the above mentioned changes to the product, it is imperative for Mattel to keep it sufficiently differentiated from Fulla and other Islamic dolls. This can mainly be achieved by providing a wider range of acceptable careers for dolls and also stressing upon the quality aspect in promotions Target the more premium markets of liberal Islamic countries in the first phase: Since Barbies products are priced much higher than that of local competitors, it should first target the premium segment in the relatively liberal Islamic countries like Syria or Lebanon. Here, they can be more innovations with respect to dressing of Barbie dolls and also the career roles they are depicted in. Once a footing is created in some Islamic countries, Barbie can look forward to other, more conservative countries like Dubai where there is high wealth but currently, Barbie is banned.

Impact on existing markets of Barbie Even in the past, Mattel has been in the practice of producing and promoting customized Barbie dolls for different regions of the world, be it China, India or Africa. All these have only boosted its global presence. The customization required for Islamic markets is somewhat more and the competition is also strong, but once done, it can throw open a high potential market for the company. As long as the existing markets receive their share of customized and improved Barbie models, there should not be much effect of the Islamic market strategy on them. There is only one point to remember for Mattel while planning out the above given strategy for Barbie, there should not be any product based on stereotyping that shows the cultures as women-oppressive cultures or regressive ones. If this is taken care of, Barbie could well find its way onto shelves in Islamic countries without affecting other markets.