Mattel: “I’m a Barbie girl, in the hightech world…”

By Linh PMP

Mattel, founded in 1945, has been growing to become the largest manufacturer of the traditional toy industry in the world. Barbie is one of their famous brands and was my favorite childhood memory.

But the world is changing… Mattel’s revenue contracted by 2% in the 1st quarter of 2015 compared to the same period of 2014. The sales of Barbie brand products declined 8.7%. Its second biggest competitor, Hasbro, has taken over Mattel’s licensing rights for Frozen and Disney Princess. Another big competitor, LEGO, has been winning the market as “the most powerful brand” (Brand Finance, 2015) and the leader in construction toy category. At the same time, “the journey from womb to web is getting shorter” (The Economist). Children nowadays are spending an increasing amount of time on smart-phones, tablets, video games and other digital entertainment, which slows down the sales of traditional toys seriously.

The mission of Mattel is “creating the future of play”. So it is the critical time for time to do that mission and shift themselves from being the largest manufacturer of traditional toys to leading the new wave of technology in childhood’s fantasy. If they don’t create the future, they would become the past.

Take this as an example. Let’s say ten years from now my kid would ask me: “How’s it like to be a businesswoman like you?”. It is a great question but would be difficult for me to explain for the kid in a… “kiddie” way. But maybe an Artificial Intelligence Barbie and a Virtual Reality Glass can help. “Honey, just wear your VR glass, choose Play with Careers then choose Business”.

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There my kids would see a virtual office where it can talk to a beautiful AI business women Barbie and try working in a Barbie’s office. It’s a fun educational experience.

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Furthermore, my kid can connect with friends from other cities who are also playing in that virtual office. Another way of being social in a high-tech world!

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Mattel is on their way to that point. They partnered with ToyTalk to produce Hello Barbie (priced at 74.99USD), powered by an Artificial Intelligence platform that allowed the doll to have conversation with kids. Their Virtual Reality Starter Pack is also on Amazon at 17USD.

And who knows, the Future of Play may not be only for kids. It is for adults too. Because playing is growing. And no one should stop growing, ever…

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