Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age
How Barbie has evolved over the yearsBarbie
It reminds caregivers how doll play can change the world by helping kids develop more empathy and generosity
brands

Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

It reminds caregivers how doll play can change the world by helping kids develop more empathy and generosity
  • The campaign is conceptualised by BBH LA.
  • It highlights how children playing with dolls can help develop more empathy and generosity in them at an early age.
  • We also look at how Barbie’s dolls have evolved over the years.
Barbie has taken a step forward towards building an inclusive brand and creating a more equal world for young kids. It has launched a new ad that represents influential women of colour and women with disabilities.


A neuroscience study conducted by Cardiff University in October 2020 showed that when kids play with dolls it activates the part of the brain related to empathy. It also said that doll play can impact how kids will interact with others in the future. After all, it is only in childhood when you live in your own world and build castles of imagination. If this castle has diverse humans of all body sizes, shapes and colours, you would grow up to be more empathetic towards them in the future.

Taking a cue from this study, Mattel’s Barbie has launched a campaign titled, ‘A doll can change the world.’ It is conceptualised by BBH LA. It aims to remind caregivers how empathy is so important to building a better world.

“If playing with dolls can help a child develop empathy, then a doll can help change the world,” read the campaign’s caption.

Here’s how Barbie dolls have become more inclusive over the years: A few key milestones


The first Barbie that hit the shelves in 1959 wore a striped swimsuit, had a blonde ponytail and petite figure, and wore perfect make-up.
Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

Barbie got a job in 1960 and also had dark hair.
Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

In 1969 came Mattel’s first African-American barbie.
Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

She landed on the moon in 1986.
Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

Barbie stepped out of America in 2003 and donned a Kimono.
Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

It introduced its first curvy Barbie in 2016.
Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

In 2017, came the first doll with a hijab.
Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

While Barbie has launched dolls of different ethnicities and cultures over the years, its B2C communication largely featured its blonde dolls. This is what a lot of its products looked like:
Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

For a long time, Barbie was a blonde doll that met ideal beauty standards and sold white supremacy. According to media reports, Barbie’s sales plunged between 2011 and 2015. So, in 2015, Mattel conducted a consumer study to understand the market's perception of the brand and the reason behind this dip in sales. Consumers called the brand ‘vapid and shallow.’

As per Forbes, Barbie lost its popularity due to promoting a negative body image, perceived sexism, and lack of Barbie diversity.

So, the brand decided it was time for a makeover. It launched a new range of products called Barbie Fashionista dolls in 2015, which included two dozen dolls with eight different skin tones and some curly hair options. Since then, the brand has made a conscious effort to build more inclusive products and empathetic communication.

Barbie’s global campaign reminds us how kids playing with dolls can aid in developing empathy and generosity at an early age

According to Statista, in 2019, total revenue of the world toy market was 90.7 billion U.S. dollars. Its latest report from March 2021 says that Hasbro, Mattel, and Jakks Pacific are the top five global toy players. The toy industry is poised to grow at a CAGR of over 4% during 2019-2025, adding $30 billion in revenue.

Over the years, the 60-year-old brand Barbie adapted to changing times with expanded career options, broader representation across race, nationality, and body type, and the latest styles. Now, it has started making its marketing communication more inclusive. As a result, Barbie hit $1.5 billion in revenue in 2020. The doll, which has stood the test of time shone in the year despite the massive disruptions that the global pandemic brought along.

*All the images used in this article were downloaded from Mattel Barbie website*