What Black Barbie Teaches Us About Inclusive Marketing

2 beautiful Black girls eyeing a Shani doll from Mattel in an inclusive marketing campaign

The Netflix documentary “Black Barbie” reveals the transformative power of representation and the importance of inclusive marketing. Learn how brands like Mattel have successfully integrated inclusivity into their strategies and discover actionable tips your brand can implement to find similar success. 

In a hurry? Here are the key details:

  • Understand Your Audience: Conduct research to tailor your marketing campaigns to diverse backgrounds and needs.
  • Feature Diverse Representation: Ensure your marketing materials reflect the diversity of your audience in terms of race, gender, and age.
  • Share Authentic Stories: Highlight real-life experiences from diverse communities to create a strong emotional connection.
  • Develop Inclusive Products: Following Mattel’s Barbie example, adapt your product line to cater to your customers’ diverse needs. 

The Netflix documentary “Black Barbie” offers a compelling look into the origin and impact of the first Black Barbie doll, tracing the journey of representation and inclusivity in the toy industry from the beginning. 

Among its many takeaways, the film highlights the potential of underserved markets when they are authentically represented in a company’s products and marketing. Mattel’s Barbie brand exemplifies expanding product offerings to reflect an increasingly diverse customer base. In an ever-diversifying society, prioritizing inclusive marketing and authentic representation is no longer just a good idea—it’s a necessity.

The 2020 Census reveals that non-Hispanic white people will no longer be the majority in the U.S. by 2045, leading to a more racially and ethnically pluralistic society. By 2060, one in three Americans will belong to a race other than white, with the fastest-growing group being those of two or more races. This demographic shift underscores that inclusive marketing is beneficial and essential for sustained success.

The Birth of Black Barbie and the Quest for Representation

In 1980, Mattel introduced the first-ever Black Barbie, a move driven by the efforts of Black employees and designers like Kitty Black Perkins. The documentary reveals how the quest for a Barbie that looked like the African American community began with the filmmaker’s aunt, who asked a simple yet profound question: “Why can’t Barbie look like me?” This question ignited a movement within Mattel to create a doll that embodied the beauty and diversity of Black women.

By introducing Black Barbie, Mattel opened up a world of possibilities for Black children who longed to see themselves in their toys. These dolls allowed kids to imagine diverse scenarios, fulfilling a longstanding desire for representation and creating a new revenue stream for Mattel.

What does this mean for you? Embracing inclusivity in your product development, execution, and marketing can attract a wider audience. Authentic representation can turn consumers into repeat customers and brand evangelists.

An image of the first-ever Black Barbie wearing her classic red form-fitting dress and low fro captured in a photo for inclusive marketing

Mattel’s Commitment to Inclusive Marketing

Mattel’s decision to produce the first Black Barbie was not just about creating a new toy; it was about making a statement. Mattel effectively engaged its target audience by allocating marketing and advertising dollars to promote this inclusive initiative. 

The campaign surrounding Black Barbie was a testament to the power of inclusive marketing. It showed that when brands take steps to authentically represent their diverse customer base, they drive sales and foster a deeper connection with their audience.

Equally, your brand can achieve similar success by embracing inclusive marketing. Focus on authentically representing the diversity within your customer base to drive sales and build a stronger, more meaningful connection with your audience.

The Impact of Representation in Marketing

The impact of Black Barbie went beyond just the toy aisles. It resonated deeply with the African American community and set a precedent for how brands can leverage representation to create meaningful change. 

Inclusive marketing helps break down stereotypes and provides a platform for underrepresented groups to see themselves reflected in the brands they love. This, in turn, builds brand loyalty and enhances the brand’s reputation.

Mattel's line of Shani dolls standing in front of Shani's gold corvette in an inclusive marketing campaign

Strategies for Implementing Inclusive Marketing

For your brand to master inclusive marketing, consider the following strategies:

  1. Understand Your Audience: Conduct thorough research to learn about your audience’s diverse backgrounds, experiences, and needs. This will help you create marketing campaigns that truly resonate.
  2. Diverse Representation: Ensure your marketing materials feature diverse individuals that reflect your audience. This includes race, gender, age, and other important demographic factors.
  3. Authentic Storytelling: Share stories that are authentic and relatable to your audience. Highlighting real-life experiences and voices from diverse communities can create a powerful connection.
  4. Inclusive Product Development: Like Mattel, ensure your product line caters to diverse customer needs. This could involve creating new products or adapting existing ones to be more inclusive.

To master inclusive marketing, thoroughly understand your audience’s diverse backgrounds and needs. Ensure your marketing materials and product development reflect this diversity and use authentic storytelling to connect on a deeper level. By featuring a wide range of individuals and experiences, your campaigns will resonate more powerfully with your audience.

The Future of Inclusive Marketing

As our society continues to evolve, the importance of inclusive marketing cannot be overstated. Brands that embrace inclusivity contribute to social good and position themselves as leaders in their industry. 

Ultimately, the success of the Black Barbie is a testament to the positive impact that representation can have, both culturally and commercially. By following these strategies, your brand can authentically integrate inclusive marketing and create campaigns that resonate deeply with a diverse audience.

To learn how Blavity Inc. can help your company create an ad campaign that authentically represents the Black community, contact us today.