Case Study: BARBIE: AMERICAN GIRL GOES GLOBAL
International marketing is the performance of a company's product and services to consumers in more than one nation to produce profit. It is one of the most vital elements of marketing functions to trade their company's products or services internationally rather than locally. This brings more advantages and benefits the organization itself as well as the country.
However, trying to trade internationally influences by many factors and cause difficulties. And it is the task of these companies to study these factors prior in order to initiate business or trade with other countries effectively. These factors include the culture, economic and political factors.
This essay's discussion base on the case study, "Barbie: The American Girl Goes Global."
"Barbie is worldwide brand name invented by Ruth Handler defining as a small scale anatomically improbable modelled plastic figure of a human being especially a child's plaything and collectable dolls." It is the brand name for Mattel Inc., the organization for producing these toys and dolls. Barbie effectively starts its operation and selling out of its products at the American Toy Fair in New York City in 1959. Since then, Barbie become popular and operate effectively due to its increasing sales and revenues thus earning high profit compare to other American toy markets. Therefore, Mattel Inc expands its marketing situation and trade internationally where Barbie is currently selling out in more than 150 countries. These include European countries, Middle East, India and Japan.
Therefore, this writing will discuss how Mattel Inc. deals with different culture issues, economic environment and political factors in these different countries in trying to market its products, the American Barbie doll.
Throughout the given case study, it was basically talk about how different culture affects Mattel in trying to sell Barbie in the above mentioned countries. "Culture is the acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and generate social behaviour" (Keegan & Green 2003). Each country has its own culture values and different from one another. And because Barbie trade worldwide, Mattel tend to carefully study the culture environment in those countries and analyze culture issues arise. The cultural issues of these countries affected the selling of Barbie can be reflected from different things. These include the language use, the religion involves, the social behaviour and the traditional dress code of each country. However, some economic issues and political factors appear to influence its international trading.
Barbie is a worldwide brand and they first entered the US market for selling their products because it was the place of founder. Since then, Ruth Handler realizes the importance of children then decides to produce Barbie to motivate her daughter's dream of her future. These products were three dimensional adult female dolls using by children to play with and it was popular in America because they initiate with high amount of sales of total 351,000 dolls at $3 each for the first year on the market. This occurs because Mattel identify its target market such as the group of children up of 1 to 11 years old and they fully satisfy their needs for toys made of plastic and long lasting rather than the first available dolls were made of paper and cardboard.
However, moving to other countries cause Mattel to create changes on Barbie according to culture issues of each county to make effective. For instance, Mattel was successfully launched in India at 1995 because they make changes of Barbie appearance according to local taste of painted with a head spot and dressed in a sari but still the universally recognize Barbie.
When moving to Middle East, culture factors in these countries are very strict and Barbie face difficulties in trying to sell their products in these countries because they face opposition on religious and social grounds. Women in these countries including Iran and Egypt have very strict dress code. They are not allowed to expose any part of their hair and due to Islamic law they have to completely cover their body and only their eyes are shown. But the appearance of these female dolls highly affected their culture values because Barbie female doll illustrate the opposite side of their dress code. This causes parents and religious leaders to more strange reactions with the culture values represent by Barbie and Ken and they believe Barbie is seen in the Middle East where modesty matters as something of a tramp.
Therefore, Egypt government exist with setting up government agencies for producing local dolls aimed to provide Islamic alternative to Barbie and trying to eliminate the image of Barbie in their nations. These dolls called Laila were making in accordance to the local taste of Egypt people and their culture because local toy producer believe Barbie is more dangerous than an American missile. Laila also produced according to recommendation from the Arab league department for children suggested that there is cultural gap when an Arab girl plays with a doll like Barbie because the average Arab girl's reality is different from Barbie. Thus Mattel face more challenges and more competitive market place due to Laila because they appeared in local taste using Arab costumes for decorating and designing their quite and serious looking doll.
Meantime, Iran has its own local doll producer, Sara and Dara still to compete against Barbie. These dolls apply the same situation as Egypt in producing with the local culture taste by featuring traditional clothing, headscarves and are available with family members thus reinforcing the importance of family for Iranian children. Meantime Sara and Dara are to provide an Islamic alternative to Barbie. However, Mattel did not attempt to stop there though they are forbidden but continue fight against Sara and Dara. And thus still able to operate successfully by gaining high revenues with high profit due to higher price with approximately 7 times the average monthly salary. Though that Mattel faced tough position in Egypt and Iran but still continue to struggle against local competitors.
Facing the challenges of competition, Barbie has been losing market share to Susi the Brazilian local dolls made by local company, Estrela. This company has licensed to distribute Barbie throughout Brazil. Brazil is the best chance of successful marketing for Mattel because they account 37 percent of the country's annual sales earn from toys market. Additionally, Brazil is one of the largest countries in South America in according to its rich economy, population and geographic territory. Unfortunately, the selling of the Susi dolls increase more than the Barbie sales in terms of cultural values. The Susi dolls were designed as an image of the Brazilian girls and reflect values as a true Brazilian girl and every Brazilian is proud of it rather than showing what they want to be. So instead of helping distributing the Barbie doll all over Brazil, the Barbie face a strong competition cause losing of their market share to Estrela the company that produce the Susi doll.
Distributing Barbie throughout the Asian countries, Mattel faces great difficulties overcome the world's second largest toy market, Japan. In terms of economic environment, Japan has high, favourable and competitive economic situation. Japan is a high income country, the second largest economy in the world and has large industrial capacity. And thus, Japan and the United States face strong and big challenges to compete each other because they have similar economic situation.
Therefore, during its first 20 years of operated in Japan, Mattel realised that it is the most difficult situation a company faced because of their complex distribution system. Additionally, Mattel attempt to face strong competition from local brand and local competitor. For example, Mattel enters into marketing without studying the Japanese requirements for foreign investor to sell out their products. And thus, selling out Barbie in Japan has only a limit success because Japanese girl didn't know what the product is and it didn't work, commented by the Chief Executive Officer of mid 1990s, Josh Amerman. With that issue, a problem of low sales rise then Mattel joins with Takara, a Japanese toy specialist in order to make a difference for the Japanese to understand their product. They then join forces with Bandai, the largest toy company in Japan to sell their products legally after terminating relationship with Takara due to license disagreement.
Moreover, a cultural fact appears that the Japanese has valued their dolls seriously because of their strong cultural tradition with a heritage of over 800 years and ceremonial importance. Consequently, Mattel started to cope with the Japanese culture in a view of the fact stated but they then discovered that the Japanese girls has preferred the local American Barbie is the best and the most well known. Mattel then dropped forces with Bandai and operates its own marketing office then introduced the American Barbie to Japan and they experienced a success with Long Hair Star Barbie as one of the top-selling dolls in Japan. These cultural factors helps increase the amount of Mattel global marketing.
Fortunately, Mattel rejoined with Bandai once again and forming marketing, sales and product development to overcome the complex Japanese distribution system thus reducing operating expenses. Efficiently, a rise of 10 percent in the international revenue indicates from the 31 percent of Mattel's total revenue as according to the good performance of Mattel marketing and their share to the international revenues. This effect of International Marketing helps Mattel improves the increasing of revenues and their shares.
In conclusion, Barbie is fun and huge success story. I suggested that every company attempt to trade internationally and marketing their products worldwide must consider the culture issues, the economic situation and political factors of that foreign country in related to chosen products to trade. This led them to make their decisions and reflect the required changes to make on their products in relation with foreign country interest. As we can reflect from the above discussion, Egypt and Iran have very strict culture at how women dress up which not allowing them to expose any part of their body. But Barbie exists with the opposite site of their belief causing high risk in trying to sell out their dolls. Unfortunately, some situation may not affected by the culture issues. As in Europe, Barbie generate success because there was an average of 5 Barbie dolls at the children's toy collections because Mattel adopted pan - European approach to the Western European market. And thus, acting Chief Executive Officer Ronald Leob recommended that "Barbie believes that the company will proactively adapt its products to local tastes, economic conditions and pricing rather than viewing the rest of the world."
* Keegan, W.J., & Green, M.C (2005).Global Marketing (4th ed.).Upper Saddler River, N.J.:Prentice Hall
* Kotab, M., & Helen, K. (2008). Global Marketing Management (4th ed.). Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley
Barbie Doll History - Invention of the Barbie Doll, Retrieved on 14 September 2009
Culture of Iran, Retrieved on 14 September 2009
Culture of Iran, Retrieve on 14 September 2009
Doing business in Brazil, Retrieve 09 September 2009
Doing business in India, retrieve 09 September 2009
Japan Economy, Retrieve 14 September 2009
Japan Government and politics, Retrieve 14 September 2009