Meet Barbie’s haute couture friend, Stardoll
Gannett News Service November 14, 2011 5:24PM
The Stardoll by Barbie line includes Bonjour Bizou 1.
Updated: December 21, 2011 10:25PM
Barbie has a new fashionista friend: Stardoll. Mattel, the world’s biggest toymaker, is announcing plans to wed the worlds of online and offline doll play by rolling out an extensive line of “Stardoll by Barbie” fashion dolls.
The dolls are mini-fashionistas right down to their eyelashes, which aren’t painted on but are rooted and protrude like those on more expensive dolls.
Mattel, which has been very hesitant to link its nearly $4 billion Barbie brand with other licensed brands, is jumping in big-time with eight Stardoll dolls that will sell for a rather hefty $20.99 each. Stardolls go by names such as Fallen Angel (Goth); Bonjour Bizou (sassy) and Doll Space (sparkly). Fashion-themed dolls are on fire, with U.S. sales up 15 percent the past year, reports NPD Group.
The move, timed to roll out over the lucrative holiday season, further tears down the virtual walls in Toyland. Until this industry-changing licensing deal, Stardoll had been an online-only play phenomenon, ranking as one of the world’s biggest girl-oriented sites, with 200 million girls globally using it to digitally dress up dolls.
“Think of it as the marriage of the toy world’s No. 1 fashion doll with the online world’s No. 1 fashion doll,” says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief at TimetoPlayMag.com, a website that advises families on toys. Silver says it’s a savvy bid by Mattel to keep hard-to-please girls up to 10 years old still playing with dolls. The key: a virtual link-up.
“We’re hitting on a cultural current that shows no signs of slowing: girls engaging in the digital space,” says Stephanie Cota, senior VP of worldwide marketing for Barbie and girls.
The new Stardolls may appear to be a step above Barbie. And not just in price. Besides the long eyelashes, Stardolls also have a different face paint that makes it look as though they’re wearing more makeup and are sculpted to be more model-like than conventional Barbie dolls. Because the dolls are not Barbies, the Barbie brand name on the packaging is tiny.
While Mattel is not the first toymaker to try to link the virtual and real worlds, it may be the biggest. Webkinz has been wildly successful linking stuffed animals with online games. But the Stardolls linkup may set a new standard.
The guy who started Stardolls in 1996 thought there would be a physical Stardoll. “I dreamed about it and planned for it,” says CEO Mattias Miksche, who was savvy enough to register a trademark in the toy category when he trademarked Stardoll.
“Today’s kids are always on computers,” says Silver. “If you want to keep girls interested in dolls, this is the way to do it.”