Barbie Goes Brainy for Chinese Market

Now with violin, sheet music, and a low price tag

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 8, 2013 11:40 AM CST

(Newser) – Aiming to please education-minded parents, Mattel has given Barbie a fresh new look for the booming Chinese toy market, in a move that, as Quartz reports, highlights China's shift from manufacturer to consumer. New low-price dolls, including "Violin Soloist" Barbie, will help merge joy and learning, which "are like oil and water in China," Mattel's Asia Pacific senior VP tells the Wall Street Journal. Cheaper prices are also key to getting a foothold in the toy market, which, excluding video games, jumped 18% to nearly $8 billion last year, while developed market sales remained flat.

The aforementioned Barbie, complete with violin, sheet music, and a $13 price tag—as opposed to $30 in the US—is only one of Mattel's recent Chinese strategies; the company also opened a Thomas the Tank Engine playland and a traveling Hot Wheels race track there this year. Plus, the company has replaced puppies with pandas in some of its toys, and Fisher Price's "Joy of Learning" tagline has been replaced with "Play IQ." Mattel even got Chinese government leaders together with educational experts to talk about research showing the benefits of having a little fun during school hours. "If they allow for more play, half of our marketing is done," the VP says.

A young Chinese girl looks at the Barbie dolls on display at a Barbie dolls exhibition held in Beijing, China, Thursday, April 30, 2009.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
In this file photo taken Thursday, March 5, 2009, workers arrange Barbie dolls at the display of Barbie's Shanghai flagship store in Shanghai, China.   (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
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