Barbie Suddenly Looks (More) Normal, Right in Line With the Marketing Zeitgeist

Mattel change was a long time coming

After 50 years of sporting an oft-criticized combo of thin waist, thin limbs and large breasts, Barbie finally has a new body. Actually, a few new bodies.

The new Barbie Fashionistas line features different body types—curvy, tall, petite—as well as varied skin tones, face shapes, and hair colors. A far cry from the Barbie of yesteryear. And from a societal standpoint, Mattel's choice to evolve Barbie's figure to include more realistic depictions is a monumental one for a couple of reasons.

It's a smart marketing decision amid the movement toward body acceptance and female empowerment, as successfully implemented time and time again by the likes of Dove, Aerie and Always, to name a few brands.

Also, it is finally an acknowledgement by the company of the criticism Barbie has been getting for a while. In recent years, concerned parents and non-parents alike have been loudly crying foul at Barbie's design flaws; in a society plagued by body dysmorphia, eating disorders and negative body image, aren't these unrealistic dolls irresponsible at best?

When we all thought Mattel was covering its delicate plastic ears, loudly singing and counting dollar signs, perhaps they were actually listening (or at least finally conceding), as evidenced by the copy on the cover of this week's Time magazine: "Now can we stop talking about my body?"

This launch comes after Mattel lost a long-time contract with Disney Princess—a $500 million business—to Hasbro, effective Jan. 1 of this year. It was a huge upset in the toy industry, especially with the Barbie brand waning while the Disney Princess brand has been growing year after year. Mattel needs a big win; could this new line of Barbie be it?

Some are dubious, questioning whether Mattel's iconic doll might lose all of the brand equity built up over the last half century. Or if it's kowtowing to an overly sensitive society. Others are applauding the move, calling it long overdue.

And some are just wondering when a Ken with #DadBod is going to make an appearance.

UPDATE: Also check out this mini-documentary from BBDO about Barbie's evolution, directed by Rory Kennedy in her first-ever commercial. 

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Roo Powell is freelance contributor to Adweek.