Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Diversity - Mattel-Style

Mattel’s Ken Doll Follows Barbie With a Full Makeover

Slim, broad or chiseled and now in seven skin tones
   
Mattel's new lineup of dolls Photo: Mattel. 
 

Barbie is getting a chubbier boyfriend.

A year after Mattel Inc. MAT -1.57% added new body types of its iconic Barbie doll, her longtime male companion Ken is getting his own makeover. Her beau will now come in slim and “broad” body types, as well as his normally chiseled physique. The doll will also come in seven skin tones, nine hairstyles, including man buns and corn rows, and modern looks, from hip hoodie to preppy check.

“We are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation,” Lisa McKnight, who oversees Mattel’s Barbie brand, said on Tuesday.

Mattel will try to recreate some positive buzz that translated into a sales boost for its struggling Barbie doll after it introduced slim, tall and curvy versions a year ago. Retailers placed big orders for the revamped Fashionista line of Barbie, with double-digit sales increases in the quarters following the release.

Barbie accounted for 16% of Mattel’s roughly $6 billion in gross sales last year and has become increasingly important since the company lost the rights to produce Walt Disney Co.’s Princess dolls.

The doll’s sales have remained strong at retail, even as Mattel’s performance tumbled in the holiday quarter and beyond as retailers paused orders to work through an inventory glut. Mattel shortly thereafter replaced its chief executive with Margo Georgiadis, a former Google executive who became the second female CEO in the company’s history.

Ken Carson has long been part of Barbie’s life. He was released in 1961, two years after Ruth Handler introduced Barbie to the world at the New York Toy Fair. The male doll shares his name with Ms. Handler’s son.

Mattel will now have 15 new Ken dolls available. It is also adding another 25 diverse Barbie dolls to its line up. 

Mattel doesn’t break out sales of Ken dolls, but says that on average girls have one Ken for every seven Barbies they own. 

Write to Paul Ziobro at Paul.Ziobro@wsj.com

 

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