Home Doll industry Lessons from Leaders: Ruth Handler of Mattel

Lessons from Leaders: Ruth Handler of Mattel


Welcome to Thomas Insights – every day we post the latest news and analysis to keep our readers up to date with what’s happening in the industry. Sign up here to receive the best stories of the day straight to your inbox.

The Barbie doll first went on sale for $ 3 in 1959 and quickly became an icon. Standing 11.5 inches tall and wearing trendy clothes and high heels, this was the first adult-looking doll ever produced in the United States – and an instant hit with young girls. Toy maker Mattel sold 351,000 dolls in the first year of release and struggled to keep up with customer demand.

The Barbie franchise quickly expanded to include additional family members, accessories, clothing, fan clubs, and new iterations of the original doll. In 1965, a Barbie with bendable legs and eyes that opened and closed was released. Two years later, Mattel introduced the Turn and turn Barbie, who had a movable body that twisted at the waist. By 2002, over a billion Barbie dolls had been sold worldwide.

While the popularity of Barbie dolls has declined somewhat among today’s youth, its iconic status remains. A first vintage Barbie doll in good condition can still sell for up to $ 27,000.

The success of the Barbie doll can be attributed to the creativity and drive of Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler.

Who was Ruth Handler?

Ruth Marianna Mosko was born in 1916 in Denver, Colorado, the youngest of ten children. She married her high school boyfriend, Elliot Handler, in 1938, and encouraged him to found Mattel in 1945. The couple began by selling household items such as plastic picture frames, but Handler quickly progressed to design. of dollhouse furniture with plastic scraps. It wasn’t long before the company focused its efforts exclusively on toy design.

The Barbie doll was inspired and named after the Handlers’ daughter Barbara, while the Ken doll, which was released two years after Barbie, was named after their son. Ruth Handler had observed how Barbara enjoyed playing with adult paper dolls and had embarked on a mission to design a toy that would meet her daughter’s interests and imagination.

Whether you love or hate Barbie, there is no doubt that Handler created one of the most popular toys in the world and ultimately led Mattel to huge success. She was named Business Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame by Toymakers of America, and was the United Jewish Appeal’s first Woman of Distinction.

Here are five lessons from Handler on how to develop a best-selling product.

5 lessons on developing a top-selling product from Ruth Handler

1. Find a gap in the market

It is alleged that Handler’s interest in designing a new type of doll for girls was motivated, in part, by a family trip to Europe in 1956 when she spotted a doll designed for children that looked like to an adult woman. In the 1950s, girls’ toys often consisted of dolls or figures that fulfilled the traditional wives role of mom or housewife.

The Barbie doll was a marked change from that – she was different, exciting, and encouraged girls to embrace their autonomy.

“My whole Barbie philosophy was that through the doll, the little girl could be whatever she wanted to be,” Handler said. “Barbie has always stood for the fact that a woman has choices.”

More recently, Barbie dolls have come under fire for promoting unrealistic body image and beauty standards inaccessible to young girls, as well as for reinforcing outdated and compelling gender stereotypes.

Responding to growing skepticism surrounding the Barbie brand, Mattel announced three new body types for its Barbie doll in 2016, each of which was available in a range of skin tones, eye colors, and hairstyles. The company has also pivoted its marketing strategy to focus more on Barbie’s career ambitions, positioning the dolls as astronauts, doctors, and chefs.

2. Tell a story

Storytelling is a fundamental part of building brand awareness, attracting and retaining customers, and selling your product. Handler was well aware of this when she created a detailed story for her very first Barbie doll. The doll was called Barbie Millicent Roberts, she was from Willow, Wisconsin, and she was a teenage model.

Over the years, Barbie’s style, appearance, and career have evolved and diversified, but there is an inspiring and compelling story behind every doll.

3. Getting your hands dirty

“Even now, at 77, I can say that everything that has motivated me over all these years is still pushing me, albeit at a slower pace. There is still a lot of fighting in me, and maybe combat is the thing, ”said Ruth. Administrator.

Delegation is an important part of leadership, but to achieve your visions and goals you need to roll up your sleeves, do some of the groundwork, and never give up on combat.

“[Ruth] was very convenient. She was on the floor doing quality control, ”said Robin Gerber, author of Barbie and Ruth.

4. Use innovative marketing techniques

You have no chance of developing a best-selling product if you cannot creatively market it to your target audience.

In 1955, Handler completely revolutionized product marketing when she came up with the idea of ​​promoting a Mattel plastic machine gun directly to the company’s end user: children. The toy was first announced on the Mickey Mouse Club, a TV show seen by thousands of children who then asked their parents to buy the product for them. Handler paid $ 500,000 to become the exclusive sponsor of the Mickey Mouse Club and was the first person to successfully market a product directly to children.

Today this particular technique is proven, but there will always be new ways to inject creativity into your marketing strategy.

5. Learn from your personal experiences

Barbie and Ken dolls are a testament to Handler’s ability to be inspired and motivated by personal experiences. But this talent extends far beyond the toys she developed at Mattel.

Handler was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1970 and then underwent a mastectomy. After returning to work, she was not happy with her breast prosthesis and set out on a mission to develop affordable and comfortable prostheses that fit a range of bra sizes.

A new company, Nearly Me, was born. Prosthetics were launched in high-end department stores in 1976 and have subsequently supported thousands of women in the United States. Speaking about Nearly Me, Handler said, “When I first designed Barbie, I thought it was important for a little girl’s self-esteem to play with a doll that has breasts. Now, I find it even more important to give back that self-esteem to women who have lost theirs. “

How to lead like Ruth Handler

If you’re having trouble launching a new product, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What makes my product unique?
  2. Have I established the story behind my product?
  3. What more could I do to advance the development of this product?
  4. Who are my target customers and how can I best get their attention?
  5. How can my experiences to date inspire and motivate me to achieve my goals?

Get more lessons from leaders:

Image Credit: Sean P. Aune / Shutterstock.com

Poultry processor to add 400 jobs to Ohio plant expansionNext story »

More Careers and Workforce

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here