Barbie's decision to launch a doll with Down syndrome is driven by several key objectives. First and foremost, it aims to promote inclusivity and representation in the toy industry. By featuring a doll with Down syndrome, Barbie seeks to create a more diverse and inclusive toy line, allowing children with Down syndrome to see themselves reflected in the world today.
This initiative also serves to raise awareness about Down syndrome, fostering understanding and acceptance among children and caregivers. Through play, children can engage in meaningful conversations about diversity, disabilities, and empathy.
Moreover, Barbie aims to empower children, both with and without disabilities, by encouraging them to interact with dolls that represent a wide range of abilities and backgrounds. This promotes inclusive play and social interactions, reducing stereotypes and nurturing empathy.
Barbie recognizes the growing demand for inclusive toys in the market, aligning this initiative with market expansion and responsiveness goals. Additionally, it fulfills corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments, contributing to a more inclusive society and enhancing its brand image.
Ultimately, Barbie's launch of a doll with Down syndrome aims to create positive social impact, encourage inclusivity, and support advocacy efforts, serving as a starting point for continued diversification of its product offerings.
Barbie conducted extensive market research to assess the demand for a doll with Down syndrome. The brand engaged with parents, caregivers, and advocacy groups to gain insights into the needs and preferences of the target audience.
To ensure the doll accurately represents a person with Down syndrome, Barbie worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). NDSS’s guidance and real-world experiences informed the design process from start to finish, including the doll’s sculpt, clothing, accessories, and packaging. The close partnership ensured the Barbie team celebrated individuals with Down syndrome through a doll that would immediately connect with the community.
Based on the market research findings and guidance from NDSS, Barbie's design team created prototypes that reflected the physical features of individuals with Down syndrome while retaining the iconic Barbie aesthetic. The team aimed for a doll that would promote inclusivity while appealing to a wide range of consumers.
Barbie developed a comprehensive marketing campaign to introduce the Barbie doll with Down syndrome to the public. The campaign emphasized the importance of inclusivity and showcased the doll's unique features, aiming to break down stereotypes and promote acceptance.
The Barbie team did media outreach to gain online coverage including key messaging on Barbie’s commitment to representation. Global media outlets included online placement at top-tier media outlets across parenting, social good, ad trade, entertainment, and lifestyle verticals praised Barbie’s efforts to “counter social stigma through play;” major lifestyle and trade newsletters and national and local broadcast.
To amplify the reach of the campaign, Barbie partnered with influential figures, such as disability rights activists, advocates, and influencers with personal connections to Down syndrome. These partnerships helped generate positive conversations, increase visibility, and promote the doll as a symbol of inclusivity.
Barbie-owned social launched three social posts to showcase the diverse assortment, with a special spotlight on the doll with Down syndrome. The first post reestablished the mission behind the Fashionista line as the most inclusive doll line on the market with a diverse lineup of new and existing dolls. The second post demonstrated families and kids with Down syndrome interacting with the doll, speaking to the meaningful first for the brand and its impact. The third post honed in on the features of the doll, emphasizing the doll design and Barbie’s work with NDSS, furthered with Stories sharing about the giveback element of the partnership.
The reveal was re-pulsed on TikTok with a special behind-the-scenes video from the GMA appearance in the days following the appearance on air.
The launch of the Barbie doll with Down syndrome had a profound impact on individuals with Down syndrome and their families. It provided a sense of representation and empowerment, allowing children with Down syndrome to see themselves in a beloved and iconic toy. This helped challenge societal norms and fostered a more inclusive understanding of beauty and ability.
The brand supported the NDSS’s Flagship Buddy Walk in New York City and donated 2,500 dolls from the 2023 Fashionistas assortment, inclusive of the doll with Down syndrome.
The 2023 Barbie Fashionistas line made a significant impact by introducing the first Barbie doll with Down syndrome in April, with many claiming that Barbie has “made history” with the debut of the doll. Reporters and media outlets overwhelmingly praised this year's diverse additions to the Barbie line while recognizing that it represents just one step in Barbie's ongoing journey towards inclusivity.
The launch generated traction for Barbie’s purpose messaging, with over 94% of online coverage highlighting the brands' commitment to representation. Within one week, the news spread across global markets, resulting in over 6,000 placements and 7.6+ billion media impressions, marking one of Barbie's most significant press moments to date.
On social media, Instagram accounted for 79% of all impressions, with strong support and amplification from NDSS. The doll reveal Reel received over 1.5 million impressions and emerged as the top-performing social asset of the campaign. On TikTok, behind-the-scenes footage of Barbie on Good Morning America outperformed benchmarks.
Barbie gifted the Fashionista doll to influencers within the Down syndrome community, accompanied by a special note highlighting the collaboration with NDSS, the donation of 2,500 Fashionistas dolls to the National Down Syndrome Society, and gratitude for sharing their journeys with the world. Statistics from the campaign included 45 pieces of content, 16.1 million total impressions, 16.7 million total views, a reach of 4.4 million, and an 84.6% posting rate (higher than the industry standard of 33%).
At retail, the doll secured the top spot on the Best Seller list for Dolls on Amazon.com in EMEA and US markets, with four other Fashionistas dolls ranking in the top 15 in the US.