Toys And The Web

Barbie celebrates her 57th birthday

Luke Graham | News Assistant

The world's most famous doll celebrates her 57th birthday today, but Barbie is still managing to stay relevant despite strong competition.

Barbie debuted at International American Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. Created by Ruth Handler, the Barbie brand has continued to generate huge amounts of revenue for the owner Mattel.

In February, Mattel reported fourth quarter profits of $215.2 million and said worldwide Barbie sales rose 1 percent.

Source: Mattel

Despite her age, Barbie has managed to keep up with the times. Earlier this year, the iconic line was expanded to introduce new dolls which came in three body shapes, seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles in order reflect of society better.

"Barbie continues to hold appeal as girls will always want to emulate and role play the adults around them," Peter Jenkinson, "Toyologist" and founder of news and reviews site Toyology, told CNBC via email.

"The release of a range of different body shape Barbies recently I suspect is largely to placate mothers who perceive their kids want to look like Barbie in some way; campaigns driven by mums who have time to cause a ruckus; and Mattel, ever eager to maintain sales of Barbie, have created a new line."

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According to Mintel, it is increasingly important for all brands, including Barbie, to respond to demands for diversity from consumers.

"Brands need to embrace this more tolerant, more open, and less prescriptive approach when it comes to marketing to kids and their increasingly diverse and equality-minded parents," said Carli Gernot, manager of trends for North America at Mintel, in a statement.

"Companies and marketers will succeed when they highlight diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, and identity, however that may manifest."

But while Barbie is busy addressing issues of equality, the brand still faces competition from other popular toy lines.

Brands such as Monster High and Bratz, which have an online presence and their own television shows and offer a wider range of entertainment to children, are chipping away at the legacy brand, according to Jenkinson.

"The challenge for Barbie is to remain relevant in the ever shifting world of how kids consume their entertainment," he added. "It isn't an insurmountable task but needs some real light bulb moments at Mattel."

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