Mattel makes over Ken doll line

Ken dollsImage copyright
Mattel

Toymaker Mattel has launched new versions of Barbie’s “boyfriend” Ken in three body sizes: “slim, broad and original”.

The dolls have different skin tones and hairstyles, including a man bun, and corn rows.

The move comes after Mattel expanded its Barbie range at the beginning of 2016.

Barbie sales slumped 13% in the first quarter, the second consecutive quarter of falling sales for the doll brand.

“By continuing to expand our product line, we are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation,” said Barbie general manager Lisa McKnight.

“Evolving Ken was a natural evolution for the brand and allows girls to further personalise the role they want him to play in Barbie’s world.”

Image copyright
Mattel

Image caption

The 1978 version of Ken and Barbie

Mattel, which is one of the world’s biggest toy companies, said the Barbie brand “has always reflected the times, so modernising Ken is the next step in the brand’s evolution to offer more diverse products”.

Barbie sales increased for the first nine months of 2016, aided by new marketing efforts and the launch of the dolls.

The new Ken dolls will be sold through various UK national retailers.

Plastic love

Mattel launched Ken, full name Ken Carson, as Barbie’s boyfriend in 1961.

According to the fictional back story of Ken and Barbie, they met on the set of their first television commercial in 1961. He has always stood half an inch taller than her.

The two original versions had him with moulded plastic hair in either blond or brown, and wearing red swimming trunks and cork sandals.

Ken has been marketed as having some 40 occupations and modelling a range of the decades’ fashions, including 1993’s Magic Earring Ken.

As part of Mattel marketing efforts, Ken and Barbie “broke up” with each other on Valentine’s Day in 2004, and then got back together on Valentine’s Day 2011.

The two have never officially been married, a Mattel spokeswoman said, although they have been sold in “dream wedding” sets.

The marketing hasn’t been overly romantic as it is aimed at children, she said.

The spokeswoman declined to say how much Mattel had spent on market research and manufacturing to launch the new Ken dolls.

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