Barbie and The White House Can Encourage Girls in Tech

Michelle Obama receives the White House 2012 Christmas tree

It wasn’t too long ago I saw the news about Mattel making a line of dolls in the likeness of Mad Men characters. I gawked at the idea, thinking it was rather silly. But then I realized the significance of Mattel’s brand and it’s ability to leverage Mad Men’s retreat to the 1960s, a peak era for Barbie. So what’s that mean now that we’re a decade into the 21st century?

It means Mattel is finding new ways to bring a modern image to its Barbie brand. Even with the Mad Men dolls, the adventurous female is well represented in the likeness of Joanie and Betty, to a certain extent. When it comes to encouraging girls through the Barbie doll and its brand, there’s more to be done in our current day and age.

A new initiative is being launched by Mattel’s Barbie, in partnership with The White House Project. The goal is to get 1 million declaration signatures for the “Ignite a National Movement to Inspire Girls.” The idea behind this is to gain support for the partnership to help get girls into hands-on work experiences through Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day. Once 1 million signatures have been gathered, the declaration will be presented to First Lady Michelle Obama.

Brand responsibility is something that can be easy to recognize, but hard to judge. Regardless, it’s still an important thing for brands to do. In this way, marketing can be used as a powerful conveyor of messages, which can trickle down and affect a pre-teen girl.

On a personal note, I would hope that such an initiative from Mattel and The White House Project would help towards the encouragement of girls entering tech-related fields and the sciences. I don’t feel as though I missed out on such encouragement as a young girl, but the effects of branding and my role in society were marked in a different manner.

The lack of African-American representation in Mattel’s Barbie line was an important way in which my mother taught me about corporate brands and their cultural appeal. Until Mattel came out with a more ethnically diverse selection, I missed out on a Barbie doll party or two. So I can appreciate, to some degree, the level of consciousness a brand decides to put into the message it sends to consumers. Implementing that message, however, is what matters even more than those good intentions.

Mattel’s partnership with The White House Project is an opportunity for both brands to send the right message, and send it the right way. The needs of girls have changed in the past two decades, and brands’ awareness of this is key as they look to continue their relationship with consumers.

Ketchum PR is the longstanding PR Agency for Mattel’s Barbie dolls.

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