“Understanding the Evolution of Barbie,” Alexandra Glinos (2016) — Inquiry 2

        This year Barbie, known as the number one doll brand in the world, has dramatically reconstructed its image as a company through the production of a diverse line of more realistic dolls. The new line of dolls includes a curvy, tall, and petite Barbie, with the curvy doll undoubtedly being the most different from the original design. In order to promote their new project, they created a video ad titled the “Evolution of Barbie,” which is featured on their website and YouTube, with the purpose of attracting potential customers and encouraging them to purchase the new dolls. The ad effectively targets an adult audience, particularly drawing the attention of parents with young daughters. Interestingly, unlike a typical ad, the new Barbie commercial takes more of a public service approach in addressing the growing present-day issue of girls’ distorted views of their own body image.

        Today Barbie emphasizes the importance of providing young girls with dolls that are more reflective of real girls’ body proportions. Ironically, this company was previously considered one of the leading causes for the existing negative body image of many young girls due to its dolls with body fat percentages that were impossible to achieve in a healthy body. A scientific study of the doll suggested that a hypothetical girl with the original Barbie doll proportions would not even have enough body fat to menstruate (Winterman 2009). Therefore, it is difficult to discern whether this reformed image derives from a true desire to transform the mindset of young girls or if it is a desperate attempt to increase sales. Taking into account that the company has endured four years of declining demand, the latter seems to be the most probable exigence for this endeavor to make the dolls more relatable (Kell 2015). Nonetheless, the fact that Barbie has come to terms with the growing acceptance of all body types in the 21st century, and has met these concerns head on with a new and more relevant line of dolls, may be enough to save the company’s image and sales.

        In its essence, the video advertisement is broken into two distinct perspectives: that of the young girls and that of the executive designing team at Barbie, with the former relying heavily on pathos and the latter on logos and ethos to convey their message. The diction of both perspectives consists of colloquial vocabulary, including “fun,” “relatable,” “connect,” “real people,” “friend,” “family,” different,” and “celebrate.” These words contribute to the thoughtful, sincere, and almost lyrical tone in trying to convey the beauty of embracing every girls’ body image. The cheerful yet relaxing background music keeps the viewer engaged and works well with the tone of the advertisement. Both the young girls and the Barbie designers focus on selling the idea of creating a future generation of powerful girls with a high self-esteem and positive body image. The product itself is not the highlight of the ad, but rather a supplementary component of a much larger, ideological movement toward a brighter future. This approach is very effective since it is far easier to rally people in supporting young girls than it is to directly convince them to purchase a product. Furthermore, the syntax throughout the ad consists largely of declarative sentences, including the designers directly asserting that this project is “radical” and that it eliminates the “narrow standard of what a beautiful body looks like.” The girls’ statements about their future goals and their comparisons of the Barbie dolls with their friends and families are also in the form of declarative statements. This manipulation of syntax directs the audience into accepting these assertions as fact, especially since they are coming from innocent young girls and sincere Barbie designers who are seemingly honestly concerned with the future of these children.   

The first perspective illustrates a group of smiling and laughing young girls playing with the new line of Barbie dolls. It provides imagery to characterize the dolls as being just as playful and diverse as the young African American, Latina, Asian, and Caucasian girls playing with them. Furthermore, choosing the setting to be a bright and colorful playroom gives context to the product as the perfect addition to any playroom or toy box. Furthermore, the auditory imagery of hearing the soft and sweet voices of the young girls talk about their future career dreams and the great extent to which they are able to relate to their toys allows the parents who are viewing the ad to draw a connection between these children and their own. This fanciful, colorful, and cheery tone of the children provides a strong appeal to pathos for the parental audience of this advertisement. For example, one of the girls claims that one of the dolls “looks like [her] and [another] one looks like [her] mom,” which is striking because girls used to compare Barbie dolls to models and famous actresses as opposed to ordinary people.

On the other hand, the second perspective additionally incorporates logos in creating an effective argument in which the designers address the importance of creating dolls that are reflective of real world people. They argue that exposing young girls to dolls with healthy body proportions will increase the likelihood that they will have a positive body image which seems logical. Furthermore, by allowing the audience to see how each Barbie is uniquely crafted, as opposed to showing the factory in which the dolls are made in mass production, the ad appeals to pathos because it accentuates the idea that each Barbie is as unique as every person. This imagery, in a way, hyperbolizes the actual uniqueness of each Barbie doll. Therefore, it convinces the audience that the company truly recognizes the minute differences in each person and incorporates them into their dolls.

As far as the ethos of Barbie as the authors of this ad, it is likely that the message of the video loses a certain degree of trust and reputability since its ultimate goal is to sell a product. Nonetheless, the video still manages to convey Barbie as being at the very least somewhat concerned with the way girls view their own body image. Quite frankly consumers today envision in companies exactly what they want to see. The fact that Barbie is producing dolls that appear to be derived from a sincere concern for the young generation of girls is sufficient to renew consumer trust in the company. People today generally have such a negative view of greedy corporations, and for that reason the new advertising approach of selling an idea and closely associating it with a product is far more effective than concentrating on the assets of the product itself. This method of advertising deceives consumers into believing that a company is socially conscious for the right reasons, and that by purchasing their product they are supporting a brighter future and not just buying a material good from a money-hungry company. While the insincerity of companies such as Barbie may seem unlawful or unjust, even detracting from their ethos, it should not be forgotten that corporations have always existed with the intent of increasing their earnings. At least now the selectiveness of more aware and educated consumers has required these companies to market products that meet the high qualifications and standards of today’s conscientious consumer.

Overall, despite the minor detraction from Barbie’s ethos, the argument put forth in the advertisement is very effective. Ranging from their playful tone, careful use of diction and syntax, and incorporation of pathos and logos, the ad appears to work well in convincing parents to purchase this new line of dolls for their daughters. Nonetheless, the true effectiveness of the advertisement will best be measured by tracking the sales of the company in the upcoming months.


Barbie.  “The Evolution of Barbie.”  Online video clip.  YouTube. YouTube, 28 Jan. 2016.  Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

Kell, John. “Mattel Hasn’t Figured Out How to Save Barbie.” Fortune. Fortune, 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

Winterman, Denise. “What Would a Real Life Barbie Look Like?” BBC News. BBC, 06 Jan.

  1. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.