Growing up as a kid, I was definitely a “girly girl”. I had fake makeup, toy hair blow dryers, and every doll under the sun, all neatly arranged in my and my sister’s shared bright-pink-everything, ballet slipper themed bedroom. My dolls were my most prized possessions; Among my favorites were my Samantha American Girl Doll, my MyTwinn, Dani, and of course, Barbie and Skipper.
Recently, I was watching repeat episodes of Saturday Night Live and saw the sketch of interns brainstorming captions for the Barbie and Ken Instagram posts.
This prompted me to grab my phone and check Instagram to see if these accounts actually existed (spoiler: they do, and they are amazing). My immediate reaction was skeptical confusion. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why does Barbie, a toy doll targeted at young girls and whoever in their families make the purchasing decisions, need an Instagram account”? Considering that Barbie’s target market is girls ages 3 to 12 years old, I felt like Mattel had missed the mark and just had a social channel for the sake of having a social channel.
However, after perusing the aesthetically pleasing page for more time than I’m comfortable admitting, my opinion had completely changed. Barbie’s Instagram account wasn’t off base at all, it was genius. Mattel took its core product and brought it to life through culturally-relevant posts such as acknowledging World Mental Health Day and encouraging fans to register to vote.
Barbie isn’t just a doll, she is a brand personality and a social media influencer. She has always been a symbol for girls that they can do whatever they put their minds to in life and can pursue any career of their dreams.
Barbie has received a lot of backlash over the years for creating unrealistic beauty standards for girls and failing to represent all sizes, races, gender, and disabilities. However, I do think that there is much to applaud the brand for, specifically its digital strategy. Barbie’s Vice president of design Kim Culmone describes the Barbie brand as “dedicated to refining digital strategies because that’s where it’s at.”
The brand has two verified Instagram pages, @Barbie, and @BarbieStyle each with over 1,500 posts and 2 million followers per account.
The Barbie Style posts look exactly like posts you would find on a human influencer’s page such as #OOTD or showing the behind the scenes of standing on top of a chair to get the perfect angle and lighting for a plated meal.
The Barbie pages appeal to Instagram users by playing off of nostalgia and creating brilliant content that adds value to its brand. For these reasons, Barbie has been able to remain relevant since its first launch in 1959. “We have to make sure there’s a narrative that continues to feel strong and also that what we’re delivering is appropriate,” says Barbie’s director of design Robert Best. “There are certainly opportunities to go in many different directions, but you also have a responsibility because Barbie is still a toy. Kids play with her. I don’t think anyone takes that lightly at all.”