On the one hand, there was Barbie. Every Christmas season, Barbie and Barbie-related accessories (hello Pink Corvette) are the top selling toys marketed to girls. Year in and year out. Barbie has long been criticized for a variety of reasons about the bad image she denotes to young women. In that regard, last year was an epic shift for Barbie. This time the makers of Barbie along with Random House published the cringe-worthy Barbie book, “I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” and the response was swift and unforgiving.
Much of the book was focused around how Barbie’s “successful” career as a computer programmer, but she is so inept at coding that she needs the help of two guys to do the real programming work because she was just, “creating design ideas.” She also infects her friend’s computer with a virus.
Needless to say this spurred a fairly big backlash. One female engineer, Kathleen Tuite, created an app that allowed end users to create their own #FeministHackerBarbie story using pages from the original book. The hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie was soon trending. Mattel apologized for the book and immediately pulled it from Amazon.
Barbie has definitely lost a bit of her luster lately, with sales dropping 21 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and for the first time in 11 years, Barbie wasn’t the top toy for girls. More parents of girls were skewing toward Disney “Frozen” toys which became a juggernaut in the toy aisle last holiday season and dethroned Barbie.
In contrast, GoldieBlox, the startup that makes girl focused engineering toys, introduced a new doll “action figure” and launched a campaign against ‘Big Sister’ in early November last year. Here was the announcement video:
It’s an Orwellian / Apple inspired ‘Big Sister’ telling a line of young girls dressed in pink dresses and heels, “You are beauty, and beauty is perfection.” It’s a direct shot over the bow by GoldieBlox at Barbie. The doll, “Goldie” comes complete with a tool belt, wild hair and sneakers. She’s bendable and pose-able like an action figure. Best of all she helps kids learn basic problem solving and engineering skills by “helping” Goldie with the construction of the things she interacts with. I specifically say “kids” because I can totally see my 5 year old son really liking this as well as other young boys. It’s girl focused without all the frilly pinkness. GoldieBlox toys are available this holiday season at thousands of retailers including Toys “R” Us.
With the global population split roughly 50/50, it’s shameful that only 14% of engineers are women. I believe the “re-engineering” of this needs to start early with developmental toys, but unfortunately girls are brainwashed by the “pink” aisle to be admired more for their looks than their brains. That is crap. I think GoldieBlox has a very smart, empowering brand focus and I think this video was a brilliant way for them to introduce the Goldie action figure. Their holiday sales in 2014 weren’t up to what they were hoping but even LEGO is positioning itself with girl focused educational toy lines to bounce Barbie out of the top spot. As Barbie continues to dwindle in importance as kid’s yearn for the toys from Frozen, LEGO and GoldieBlox on this year’s Christmas lists, what kind of toy trends do you see emerging, shifting and changing?