By Published on .

Mattel's Barbie, the fashion doll that's been a perennial hit nearly every year since she burst on the scene in 1959, last year topped her own success.

The anatomically incorrect 111/2-inch wonder reached a new high of $1.5 billion in worldwide sales, helped by several individual product successes such as Teacher Barbie and the fast-growing Barbie Collector Series, plus an ever-surging assortment of doll fashions and accessories, Barbie-themed licensed clothing and related merchandise for girls.

For the first time last year, Mattel also sold out every one of its special holiday-themed Barbie dolls long before Christmas.

"We just couldn't disappoint Barbie's fans, many of whom have been collecting the holiday Barbie since it was introduced in 1988," says Diana Troup, a 20-year Mattel marketing and design veteran named to the top Barbie marketing post in July 1995.

Taking swift action, Mattel raced substitute packages-minus the doll-out to toy stores offering a frameable Barbie poster inside and an IOU for the holiday doll as soon as it became available in early '96. An additional 300,000 units were sold after the shortage hit (Mattel's carefully managed publicity about the shortage drove sales even more).

As exec VP-general manager of Barbie worldwide, Ms. Troup oversees "a couple of hundred people" within Mattel's Barbie marketing department, where everything from doll design to a new database-driven Barbie Collector club is integrated with marketing and advertising, handled by Ogilvy & Mather and Foote, Cone & Belding, both Los Angeles.

Women who played with Barbies as children are still fascinated by her. Mattel has responded by creating a line of well-received nostalgic Barbies replicating 1960s versions.Baby boomers' effect on Mattel's bottom line is obvious.

The same moms who grew up with Barbie buy the dolls for their daughters, and interest continues because each year 85% of the Barbie product line is replaced.

"Barbie is constantly doing something new-she aspires to all kinds of careers and she stays on top of trends and fashions," Ms. Troup says.

Most Popular
In this article: