Mattel gives Barbie a green makeover with recycled plastic

Brand debuts new campaign from BBH New York, ‘The Future of Pink is Green'

Published On
Jun 10, 2021

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Barbie is getting another makeover. The 62-year-old Mattel brand is debuting Barbie Loves the Ocean, its first fashion doll collection made of recycled ocean-bound plastic. To introduce the line, Barbie is running a marketing campaign playing on its decades-old association with pink called ‘The Future of Pink is Green.’

“We’ve made great strides with representation, showcasing diversity in our product line. Barbie has also stood for empowerment and equal opportunity, so sustainability is the next big pillar,” says Lisa McKnight, senior VP and global head of Barbie and dolls at Mattel. She says the line has been in the works for about 18 months.

Indeed, Barbie has changed its image in recent years from one of unrealistic female tropes to a brand that pushes imaginative play and female empowerment. Sales have soared as a result. Worldwide gross billings of the Barbie brand were up 87% to $276.2 million for the most recent quarter at Mattel. Last month, the brand released a new marketing campaign designed to help kids improve their social skills following pandemic-related lockdowns.

The new Ocean collection will include accessories and playsets as well as three dolls of varying ethnicities and body types that are made from 90% recycled plastic parts. Barbie has said it is aiming to achieve 95% recycled content, or content that is created responsibly from forests, in its paper and wood fiber packaging by the end of the year. Overall, Mattel has committed to using 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials in products and packaging by 2030.

As part of the new marketing push, Barbie is releasing a 50-second video that shows all the different ways that kids fashion their dolls—including chopped-off hair, homemade tattoos and permanent eye patches. “Barbie has seen a lot of makeovers,” text reads. “This is her next big makeover,” the text continues, showing a Barbie doll replacing a plastic jug before closing with “The future of pink is green.”

“Our approach is leveraging the iconic association of pink alongside the iconic association of green and protecting the planet,” says McKnight. “The idea is to communicate our commitment to a greener future in an easy, approach way for fans of all ages.”

The campaign will include a digital buy running for five weeks, consistent with other Barbie campaigns; the work will also appear on Barbie’s owned channels. In addition, the brand will use its YouTube channel and vlog to offer tips from Barbie about how to protect the planet.

Barbie worked with BBH on the new campaign. The agency also handled the recent “A Doll Can Help Change the World” work in May, its first time working with the brand.