Barbie’s “Imagine the possibilities” is the brand’s new commercial inspiring young girls to start small in unlocking their big dreams. While the ad is a refreshing direction for the the iconic fashion doll, it is important to remember that brands fighting for social purpose need to be more than just a pretty face. An inspiring ad? Sure. A step in the right direction for Barbie? Most definitely. However, the encouragement of girls to free their dreams from gender stereotypes comes to lose its impact when they are encouraged to do so within the confines of unrealistic beauty and body standards.
The message is great: through role playing with Barbie, young girls can imagine themselves to be anyone they want to be. However, the Barbies young girls are using to enact their dreams represent beauty standards harder to obtain than your average PhD. In the finer details, the intended message starts to lose its validity. These dolls are not just toys but rather cultural symbols on which young girls build upon their understanding of their place in the world. As it is girls are bombarded with the media’s celebration of unrealistic beauty archetypes. Playtime for these young girls should be a time where they can escape to a place where, beyond the imagination, they can always be themselves.
In the same way an advert of a beautiful model in an expensive suit attempts to advocate the independent woman, Barbie’s ad falls short for girl power by, albeit unintentionally, saying: you can be whoever you want to be… so long as you are beautiful and skinny.
And it’s not like there isn’t much room for depth in the fashion doll market. Lammily creates fashion dolls of realistic beauty and body standards. The fashion doll also teaches young girls about their growing and changing bodies so to make them feel comfortable and prepared for life – even as it ventures past the stage of doll playing. What makes the brand even more unique is that is was created by a man who used his own personal battles with body insecurities to pick a fight with beauty conventions. After staging his battle, Lamm attracted enough attention to crowd source the development of the Lammily doll, raising half a million dollars, five times more than the initial goal. From its inception, the brand has shattered stereotypes and inspired. Here profit was not a driver, but a consequence of purpose-driven business. This brand not only used their purpose as a social force for good, but purpose as a means of inspiring collaboration with people and organisations who shared Lamm’s views of a better world.
Are Barbie’s efforts enough? Or should the brand be trying to repurpose their influence on young girls to be more relevant and let the girls feel more remarkable. After all, their products are not just toys. Their ads are not just entertainment. And their target market won’t just be children forever.