BarbieImage via Wikipedia

The failure of Barbie in Shanghai, costing toy producer Mattel, has been told very often. Shaun Rein explains in Forbes why the strategy was good, but failed in the execution,.

With its retail sales growing by 15% in China in 2009 Mattel was right to look there for revenue growth for its Barbie brand. It targeted the right age and socioeconomic group. Middle-class Chinese women between the ages of 24 and 32 are especially optimistic. Their incomes kept rising to where they now account for about half of all household income, up from 20% in the 1950s. (See: “China’s New Purchasing Powerhouse: Women.”)

But, the execution was wrong, because Mattel failed to adjust its winning doll Barbie to the local taste:

Chinese women tend to like cutesy, girlish pink clothes (think Hello Kitty), not the sexy and skimpy kind Fields designed. Odd as it sounds, Snoopy-branded clothes, cartoon logos and all, are hot sellers for women entering the white-collar workforce.

Also, setting up a stand-alone store did not appeal to the Shanghainese audience:

… setting up standalone stores rarely works in China, as both Mattel and the British retailer Marks & Spencer( MASPY.PK – news -people ) have found out. It’s usually better to build a large store within a mall or department store, where the foot traffic is. Because of snarling traffic and dizzying pollution, most Chinese prefer to go to one indoor destination rather than walk down the streets.

Shaun2Shaun Rein by Fantake via Flickr

Shaun Rein is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you want to share his insights? Let us know.

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