Product / ServiceTOYS
CategoryA03. Best Use of Live Events and/or Celebrity Endorsement


Name Company Position
Bridget Hong Fleishmanhillard Sr. Account Executive
Vivien Ling Fleishmanhillard Sr. Account Manager
Grace Lam Fleishmanhillard Svp
Joanne Wong Fleishmanhillard Evp/Sr. Partner

The Campaign

Her blonde hair, blue eyes, waspish waist and ritzy wardrobe have made Mattel’s Barbie a role model doll among millions of young western girls aspiring to grow up with those same attributes. But her image and values were not such a snug fit in the hearts and minds of female youngsters and their mothers in China. The challenge was to find the common thread between young Chinese girls, their mums and Barbie. The first ever “Barbie BIFT Fashion Design Competition,” in partnership with the Beijing Institute of Fashion & Technology, was created. This competition centered on the insight that the appreciation of beauty and fashion is universal. More than 300 BIFT students vied to become one of ten finalists tasked with designing two China-style outfits for Barbie. Meanwhile, 35,000 girls aged six to 11, throughout China, participated in local “Style Your Barbie” competitions. The ten winners teamed up with the ten BIFT finalists to battle it out for bronze, silver and gold. This nine-month campaign reached the target audience via traditional and social networking media. In addition, the competition aired on the number one lifestyle show in China called Pretty Woman, and was broadcast via 56 regional and local TV stations attracting nearly 10 million viewers. The gold winning design has inspired the creation of Barbie’s first Chinese designed wardrobe, and the first Barbie BIFT China doll will be commercially available in Q1 2014. Following the competition, awareness of Barbie was up 39%, while sales exceeded target by 21%.

The Brief

Barbie needed to take a long hard look at herself in the mirror and figure how she could help female youngsters and their mums in China more naturally relate to Barbie’s passion for fashion, style and pursuit of her dreams. A campaign was crafted to bring the media spotlight to bear on the fashion design flair and talent being nurtured in modern China, and dismiss any suggestion that the nation’s people lacked creativity and originality. By connecting China’s burgeoning fashion industry with high fashion Barbie, we sought to create new cultural relevance and ignite sales.


Chinese girls fell in love with Barbie. • Awareness of Barbie increased by 39% following the competition. • 35,000 6-11 year-old-girls competed in local Style Your Barbie competitions. Ten won spots in the Barbie BIFT Fashion Design Competition. • 300+ BIFT design students signed up for the competition. Ten were selected as finalists. • TV coverage of the competition’s grand finale was rerun five times by the national Travel TV channel and picked up by 56 regional stations, reaching 9.85 million unique viewers. Chinese girls purchased Barbie. • Campaign named Mattel’s Campaign of the Year. Chinese girls inspired first Chinese Barbie. • The first China BIFT Barbie doll will go on sale in 2014. The winner of the Barbie BIFT Fashion Design Competition inspired her fashion collection. For the first time, girls throughout the world will be able to collect Barbie – China styled.


Phase One: Ten BIFT teams – one finalist design student plus one finalist little girl -- were selected to design a daytime outfit and evening gown. Finalists were announced at a press conference, which also hosted underpriveleged daughters of migrant workers, arranged through China’s first officially-registered NGO, the largest non-profit organisation focused on child welfare. Phase Two: Mattel’s chief designer lectured at BIFT, and gave press interviews. Other Mattel executives and designers mentored students. Various media cannels carried competition messages. The kick-off press conference was broadcast live on television. Barbie had her own page on China’s widely-popular Weibo microblogging website. She tweeted updates. Students engaged through social networking. Phase Three: Bronze, silver and gold winners were named during 30-minute televised grand finale, on China’s top national fashion and beauty programme “Pretty Women.” Judges included leading Chinese designer, the fashion blogger from Harper’s Bazaar China, plus BIFT’s principal and Barbie’s chief designer.

The Situation

Mattel, a world leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of toys, launched Barbie in March 1959 – and she became the most popular fashion doll ever introduced. But that popularity failed to find a foothold in China, even after eight years of officially being sold in China. The general perception was that Barbie was western, meant for the privileged daughters of wealthy parents, and radiated values not compatible with Chinese girls and their mothers. As a result, Barbie was relegated to the retail shelves and sales were sluggish.

The Strategy

Our strategy was to reinvent Barbie’s appeal in China by showing that she isn’t just a Western icon, but rather a symbol of the new China, inspired by Chinese girls, for Chinese girls. The “Barbie BIFT Fashion Design Competition,” done in partnership with the Beijing Institute of Fashion & Technology, China’s top fashion design college, and the country’s most prominent fashion design faculty, was the centerpiece of an integrated marketing communications campaign. Through the campaign we revealed that the universal language of fashion and beauty was the common thread that connected Barbie and the target audience of primary school-aged girls, their mothers and young adults.