Barbie has had over 130 different careers that challenge the stereotypes. She's been a doctor, astronaut, teacher, presidential candidate, CEO, athlete and military officer to name a few.
Never has she been a model for a highly sexualized brand as Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
No one can argue that putting Barbie, an American toy icon, inside the Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue is unusual. In fact, the announcement of this bold move has sparked controversy in social media outlets as the Barbie campaign claims to be #unapologetic.
Never has Barbie, a toy doll, been associated with this sports magazine. There seems to be a brand confusion unfolding with this unlikely alliance of misaligned brand values.
Also, let's not forget a huge point. The visual messages being communicated could have negative connotations. Barbie isn't a real person. A woman is substituted for a doll. Dolls are toys. Toys are to be played with. Get the picture? This is a brand collision for Barbie.
This doesn't seem to be the image the Barbie brand considered. Or maybe they did? Because they assert to be "unapologetic."
Whether this is a form of brand manipulation or not, this is definitely an example of a brand campaign that will most likely impact the Barbie brand's value.
In other words, it may deliver short-term rewards by elevating the Barbie brand as a hot topic in the media. However, the long-term results could have serious implications. Not from just the consumers of Barbie, but from the merciless judgment of those on social media networks.
What happens when a brand goes against its core values or down right insults their target audience by this partnership? It confuses the brand image for the present and future consumers.
While the Barbie brand may have begun in 1959 with a single doll wearing a black and white chevron bathing suit in tune with the fashion industry, it has progressed from that image.
Barbie has teamed up with other brands in the past. Yet, none of them seem as far removed or contentious as Sports Illustrated (SI). Some more acceptable partnerships that helped solidify Barbie's brand focus have been Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, MAC cosmetics and Girl Scouts of the USA. The target audience for these brands are primarily women and girls.
Both Barbie and SI brands embody aspects of entertainment, what sets them apart is they do not have the same target audience, messages or core brand values.
Today the Barbie brand values are about empowering girls to pursue their dreams, encouraging creative play and presenting girls with career options not limited by their gender.
Mattel, the creator of Barbie, desires to "make a positive impact on the lives of children and families with unparalleled creativity and innovation" through their core values: Play fair. Play with Passion. Play to Grow. Play Together. Let's not forget they value children and families.
SI touts that they are leading the industry in "any other men's sports, entertainment, news or business magazine." Their audience is 19.9 million strong of which 80 percent are male whose average age is 42 years old.
Their goal is to provide "a deeper, richer understanding of sport -- moderating the national sports conversation through trusted, authentic, agenda-free reporting and emotional storytelling combined with the highest-level photography and design."
The Sports Illustrated swimsuit brand obviously deviates from the ideals of the sports magazine. It seems to embody the sport of objectifying women and the 'storytelling' and 'highest-level photography' of female models in their diminishing uniforms.
Instead of empowering the women athletes as they do in the regular issues, they are being represented for their sexual desirability with teasing headlines.
Only time will tell the outcome for the Barbie brand. For enraged Barbie consumers, this campaign is #notbarbievalues, and they aren't buying it.