Being 19, I grew up with Barbie. Barbie had no competition back then (in the good ol' days). Barbie was queen of the toys and, as such, had an entire aisle dedicated to her fine products (commonly known as "the pink aisle").
I am a fan of Barbie. I think she is super and should be mandatory for all young girls. Thats why I was thoroughly annoyed when Bratz came on to the scene, all scantily clad and promiscuious and lacking noses, and actually sold quite well. I was disappointed in todays youth. However, before we start throwing around accusations about youth (calling them stupid sluts and so forth), I thought we should do an in-depth comparison of both Barbie and Bratz marketing to see just what it is about Bratz that hooks young girls in and where Barbie is going wrong.
Of course, in todays hectic lifestyle, who has time to conduct an in-depth research report on marketing strategies? Not me. So I went to the quickest and easiest source of marketing for both Bratz and Barbie and compared them. I talk, of course, of the OFFICIAL WEBSITES.
Lets start with Barbie.
While the homepage loads a message screams at me "THINK PINK". I can't see anything negative about this. It's happy and positive and not offensive in any way. Unless you don't like pink and resent being told to think it.
My eyes scan past the games and downloads to a button titled "PARENTS SECTION". The parents section appears to be a weekly helpful advice newsletter, dishing out information on everything under the sun, including topics such as Strong body, strong self; Tips about helping others; Family traditions; Raising a 'can-do' girl; Is she old enough to do that?; dad-daughter adventures; and Supporting your daughter through crisis.
This all seems wonderful. Once again, Barbie not only provides a strong role model for girls, but also helps girls's parents to become the best parents they can be.
Lets now visit the Bratz page.
While the homepage loads I am confronted with the message "PLEASE WAIT... IT TAKES TIME TO LOOK THIS GOOD"
Right. Uh huh. Encouraging a focus on outward beauty rather than building a strong and confident persona. Minus one point for Bratz and the homepage hasn't even loaded yet. It's not looking good.
The homepage, understandably, is advertising the latest instalment in Bratz dollz (every 's' is replaced with 'z' in Bratz-land). It appears to be Bratz dollz dressed as slutty fairie things. Apparently they are the Bratz Pixiez.
The advertisment tells me to pick my favourtie Bratz Pixiez outfit. I am stunned, as they all look the same to me. I settle on Jade, and as I click on her a window pops up with an enlarged image of Jade and a helpful message for young girls.
Keep the eyes and lips frosty and finish the look off with lots of glitter! Maybe add a fake tattoo!
I wonder how the writers of Barbie's parents section would feel about encouraging pre-teens to get tattoos. Obviously, I am intrigued by this "advice" and so I check out a couple other Bratz Pixiez to see what they have to say.
Yasmin tells me It's hard to imagine Lindsay Lohan getting coffee in this look! But celebs might rock this style on the set of a fantasy movie!
So not only do they want young girls drinking coffee (no doubt to stunt their physical and mental growth, thus keeping them in the Bratz target demographic forever) but they're promoting Li-Lo as an appropiate role model. Smooth.
I decide to look around for a parents section and surprise! I don't find one.
They may not have parent advice, but they do have horoscopes!
Here are some of the best ones.
Gemini: Stress much? It’s cool. We all wig-out every now and then. Try a little yoga to quell those worry-wart tendencies. Soon you’ll be stylin’!
Wig-out? Wig-out?!? I didn’t know people said that anymore. I guess I’m getting old.
Anyone wanna make a bet? $5 says this is a set-up for Bratz bringing out a yoga Bratz, who comes with an instructional video and everything.
Taurus: Could you be any busier this month? Between all the awesome activies and your sweet social life, save time to kick back and chill. Even brave bull-girls need beauty rest.
Bull-girls. Uh huh. Way to boost their self confidence.
Aries: Things are lookin’ up on the homefront. Organize a family fun night and celebrate your domestic bliss with a large pizza, rockin’ movie rentals and games!
“domestic bliss”? Stepford wives, anyone?
Pisces: Check it out: Your dating slump is over, fish girl! The 10th, 11th, 28th and 29th are super-special days to connect with your crush, so glam it up and get ready to be in like!
What. The. Fuck. So many things wrong…. Cant handle it…. bad grammar too… *dies*
Capricorn: Yikes! You and a BFF totally disagree! No worries. Things should mellow out mid-month. Celebrate making up with matching makeovers!
For those not in-the-know, BFF stands for Best Friend Forever. And its good to see Bratz dispensing solid, practical advise to help young girls deal with socialization problems.
Sagittarius: Sag is goin’ solo! Write a one-woman show, start a dog-walking service or make your own makeup. Enjoy the time alone and then have a blowout with your buds in honour of your sweet skillz!
This one has to be my favourite, purely for the use of the phrase “sweet skillz”.
THE VERDICT: Well obviously Barbie wins. I mean, it was close for a while there (before I'd seen the Bratz website) but Barbie brought it home in the end. Plus the Barbie online games are so much better than the Bratz ones. Don't ask me how I know that.