How Mattel botched the call for Beautiful and Bald Barbie

The toymaker offers a primer on how to boot an opportunity to build community, bolster its brand, raise awareness, and—yes—make a few bucks in the process.

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In a matter of weeks, the page—”Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let’s see if we can get it made“—grew from a couple of friends with a cause to a movement of more than 100,000 people worldwide.

The call for the special-edition doll was issued to help girls with self-esteem issues stemming from hair loss due to cancer treatments, alopecia, or trichotillomania, as well as to help girls who have trouble coping with their mother’s hair loss as a result of chemotherapy.

Mainstream media picked up on the story, and by Jan. 13 a Google News search for “Bald Barbie” would generate more than 450 stories from news outlets around the world. This was amazing news for the cause.

Far less amazing (at least not amazing in a good way) was Mattel’s response; it remained completely silent—no statement whatsoever. The company’s tight lips forced the media to use the company’s most recent response to people proposing new Barbie dolls: “Mattel doesn’t accept ideas from outside sources.”

The toymaker was so absent from the social conversation that it seemed the brand was doing zero monitoring of the Barbie community.

You snooze, you lose

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