This Feature Story appeared in the Keeping Ken Ken News! on March 2, 2003.
Keeping Ken Ken News Feature Archive
UPDATE: My Scene™ Hudson™ is now appearing in Wal-Mart stores. It recently became clearer the names of the dolls will be Bryant, Sutton, River and Hudson. http://www.dollgallery.com in Canada is listing the My Scene™ male dolls as Sutton, River, Bryant and Hudson (with no mention of Aidan). They have a collage of pictures of the four guys, but no individual pictures. Thanks to Stephan in South Africa for this info!
Look at the My Scene Fashion Dolls page now added to Keeping Ken!
Check out new Keeping Ken pages My Scene Bryant and My Scene™ Hudson™. And a newly reformatted The Bratz Boyz page with listings.
Those Troublin' Tweens
Sources: Lisa Bannon, The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2002. Anne D'Innocenzio, Associated Press.
|In what seems to be turning out to be the
biggest rival market battle in Barbie® doll's history, Mattel's toughest
challenge last holiday season came from the Bratz™ doll line, an upstart
line of sassy fashion dolls from MGA Entertainment aimed at so-called
"tweens", girls who are eight to 12-year-old. While no doll brand has ever succeeded in toppling the toy
world's most profitable franchise, Bratz™ achieved something Mattel has
been trying to do for years: get tweens to play with dolls. "At first we thought no one is
going to buy a doll named Bratz™,"
says Isaac Larian, chief executive of MGA, based in North Hills, CA,
"But in focus groups, girls really liked it. It meant everything that
Barbie® is not."
In the year 2000, Toy Industry Association (TIA™) introduced the annual T.O.T.Y. (Toy Of The Year) Awards "To create the most inclusive toy event of the year, with representatives from the entire industry participating to salute the success, creativity and playful spirit of the toy industry. The Awards were conceived to honor the best toys developed by the international toy industry for consumers in the United States; the program
|significantly expands the vision of the long-standing Toy Industry Hall of Fame program to recognize toys, as well as individuals. The 2002 "People's Choice Toy Of The Year" went to a Bratz™ doll, the Bratz™ Stylin’ Salon ‘N Spa with Dana™, the first-ever Bratz™ play set. The five-play sets-in-one features everything needed to achieve the ultimate fashion doll beauty experience. Mattel's Barbie® also received an award for "Marketing Campaign of the Year" for Rupunzel Barbie®. As a follow up to Barbie® doll's incredibly successful movie debut last year, Barbie® as Rapunzel was supported with a creative integrated marketing campaign. With extensive national broadcast and print advertising, a broad line of dolls, plush and licensed merchandise, cross promotions, in-store events and innovative merchandising, the video topped the charts and the doll became a huge seller, proving that smart entertainment and creative marketing are an ideal way to further enhance consumer's relationship with Barbie®. Mattel shared the award with the Madame Alexander McDonald’s Happy Meal Program.|
|Above: T.O.T.Y. (Toy Of The Year) Award winners "People's Choice Toy Of The Year" Bratz Stylin’ Salon ‘N Spa with Dana (left), and "Marketing Campaign of the Year" Rupunzel Barbie (right).|
Mattel's answer to the rivalry is the My Scene™ line, a sort of "anti-Barbie®" Barbie® doll line that Bratz™ dolls created. Priced lower than the Bratz™ dolls at $13.99, the My Scene™ dolls are attempting to tap into the mind-set of these teen-wannabes with more realistically proportioned bodies, exotic looking faces and edgy wardrobe. While not replacing the familiar Barbie®, they feature extra-pouty lips and oversized eyes that were inspired by Japanese-style anime cartoons. In comparison, the Bratz™ dolls (at $14.99 each), are marketed with racier fashions such as platform shoes, hip huggers, tube tops and fur vests. They are multiethnic, with hip names like Yasmin™, Cloe™, Cameron™, Jade™ and Sasha™. And they have cool activity sets, such as a spa with treadmill, bubble-making Jacuzzi and real makeup compartments. Bratz™ dolls are an inch shorter than Barbie®, so the rivals can't share their wardrobes.
Toy collectors usually notice the fierce battle between dolls, while core consumers don't. In the war between Bratz and My Scene™, the rivalry is obvious to everyone from tweens, collector and toy analysts. And if you weren't aware this is really a war, the battle cry was given by Isaac Larian, president and chief executive of Bratz™ doll’s maker, MGA Entertainment, who publicly referred to My Scene Barbie® as “a cheap knockoff” of Bratz™. “I’m flattered and disappointed,” he said. At the same time, Mr. Larian says he is resisting licensing too many products and compromising quality. He is certainly prepared for battle. "It's too late for Mattel now," he says smugly at MGA's cramped headquarters in the San Fernando Valley. "They're not going to stop this train now.""
"The question now is: Does Bratz™ have staying power? Mattel has successfully slapped back challenges from interlopers, such as Hasbro Inc.'s Jem® doll in the 1980s, Galoob Toy's Spice Girls dolls in the 1990s and, more recently, the "Get Real™" dolls, from Get Real Girls Inc. "Good toys will come, and good toys will go. But smart venerable brands like Barbie® will endure," a Mattel spokeswoman says".
Toy analysts say it will take a number of years to see whether MGA can manage the Bratz™ brand through the inevitable ups and downs of the fickle toy business. Next year, the company is launching a barrage of new products, including two new dolls for boys, right as Mattel discontinues the Max Steel line. A direct-to-video Bratz™ movie is in the works. In mid-December, MGA is launching a line of 4-inch Lil' Bratz™ dolls for younger kids, in direct competition with Mattel's Polly Pocket™ line.
"Mattel has struggled in recent years to target the older girl while retaining its core customers. An attempt several years ago called "Generation Girls™" didn't succeed. Mattel denies it's trying to emulate the formula for Bratz™, whose multiethnic assortment has supplanted Barbie® as the nation's No. 1 best-selling fashion doll for six months in a row, according to NPD Inc., whose most recent data is from September 2002. The company says it's just capitalizing on the lucrative business for the age group known as tweens, who represent 20 percent of the $25 billion traditional toy industry".
Mattel must realize there is trouble in tween town. Can they topple the Bratz™ from an underdog status? Can they find a winner as they try to tap into this market again? Could the dollar price point make the difference? "Bratz™ dolls have scored upsets over Barbie® in a closely watched toy index according to retail data service NPD Funworld. Last year, a Bratz™ doll set was the top-selling fashion-doll item in the January through October period, according to NPD; it beat out the Barbie® "Stroll and Play" doll set, at No. 2". During the "holiday-sales barometer" period, the four-doll Bratz™ assortment came in at No. 4 among all toy items for October 2002, compared with Barbie® Rapunzel at No. 8. Later it reported that by November 2002, the Bratz™ assortment came in at No. 2 among all toy items, compared with Barbie® Rapunzel at No. 6.
Mattel is busy taking the right steps by launching an aggressive ad campaign on network and cable TV, including MTV for the My Scene™ line. Waves of new merchandise this year will continually freshen the line as Mattel heads full throttle into the tween market war. Public Relations at Mattel describes My Scene™ as the "new tween-targeted brand from the makers of Barbie®". It "captures the spirit of today’s informed, independent and fiercely individualistic urban girl like never before. Inspired by the fashion-forward, high-energy, chic attitude of the big city, My Scene™ features three “it” girls – Barbie®, Madison™ and Chelsea™. These girls each express their individuality though personal style that’s defined by a slice of metropolitan living. Each doll comes with two complete on-trend fashions and their own funky accessories". There are five waves of this line planned so far.
Wave One - Barbie®, Chelsea™ & Madison™ (available since November 2002).
Wave Two - Available NOW. Includes Barbie®, Chelsea™ & Madison™ wearing different fashions and the introduction of Nolee™ and Bryant™.
Wave Three - Available this June. Includes all of the dolls from Wave Two in new fashions plus the addition of a new doll called Hudson™ (Hudson™ is available now).
Wave Four - Available September 2003 and includes all 6 dolls from Wave Three in new fashions (no new additions).
Bratz Boyz picture courtesy of http://www.a-passion-for-fashion.com
|It would seem that male
fashion doll collector's prayers were answered in the form of competition from the Bratz™ male
dolls (known as the Bratz™ Boyz). Last year, Dylan™ and
Cameron™, were added into the line and instantly became a
huge success. (More info at Keeping Ken on The Bratz
page). By Holiday 2002, two new versions of Dylan™
and Cameron™ were again available to the eager tween
market. Following their success, MGA is introducing two more
male dolls this year, Koby™ and Eitan™ bringing the
total to four.
Not to be outdone, Mattel will match MGA's male doll output by actually planning four different male dolls for the My Scene™ line. My Scene™ Bryant™, part of "wave two" of the My Scene™ line, is appearing now at most Wal-Mart stores across the country. My Scene™ Bryant™ (stock #B4871 BD: 2002), is the first version of Bryant™, who is joined by another new doll in the line, Nolee™. Existing characters Chelsea™, Madison™ and Barbie® are back again as well.
My Scene™ Bryant™
Above and Below: My Scene™ Bryant™.
Most people have noticed that My Scene™ Bryant™ resembles Justin Guarini from TV's "American Idol". No one really knows if My Scene™ line designer Lilly Martinez drew her inspiration for My Scene™ Bryant™ from Guarini's likeness, but the likeness is dead-on.
Above: Justin Guarini from TV's "American Idol".
My Scene™ Bryant™ may fall into a well-scripted image from Mattel. Most collector's like to "know" their doll's character, simply because it makes the doll more interesting. Believe me, I want to know everything! But My Scene™ doesn't need it. My biggest fear is that Mattel might actually use well-scripted tween images for the new male dolls in the line. We already know that My Scene™ Bryant™ is the "fashion-forward" character, a character trait new to a Mattel male doll, but not new to female Mattel dolls (which unfortunately is the most typical tween stereo-type). I'm hearing that the next three male dolls may fall into "sports-minded", "intellectual" and/or "rebel" character traits (rebel being the most interesting). I hoping that we won't need to know everything about each doll, simply because of what the name My Scene™ implies. All tween scenes are different, and not all of us hang with the same kind of people.
multi-cultural My Scene™ Bryant™ likes Vintage clothing, and
from the box text: "whether you're catching rays at the
beach or glances at school, looking good is always in
style". Bryant™ is already being tied
romantically with My Scene™ Chelsea™ (who is the
"fashionista" of the girls).
|Compared to a
standard Ken® doll, you will notice that Bryant™ uses the modified Hot Skatin' Ken
body mold, including the torso and legs. But the head mold is,
of course, larger as well as the specially made arm molds which are
longer in length and have much longer and larger hands (so no head
I'm not that impressed with the clothing or the plastic accessories on the doll. I'm hoping that that improves with the next wave, or within the fashion separates. I tried the fashion on a standard Ken® doll and it fits, but the waist was tight, which is understandable considering the smaller waist size of the body mold. The fashion consists of carpenter style knee-length denim shorts, ribbed baseball t-shirt with an anime cartoon growling dog appliqué that cat lovers won't appreciate. (Actually, I'm a cat lover and I thought it was a cool looking appliqué). Plastic accessories include watch, wrist band, dog tag necklace, sunglasses and slip-on socks with attached sandal. You also get swim trunks, a plastic visor, boom box and a stand for the doll.
It is unclear when the separate male fashions shown at Toy Fair titled "Boys Night Out on the Town" will be available, but the place card in front of the dolls says "Wave 4", so these may be available in September 2003.
Only time will tell if Mattel has what it takes to slip into the tween market with the My Scene™ line. I still believe that Mattel's biggest hurdle will be to capture the fashion first, which will in turn create the excitement that will begin the trend. If the dolls don't have interesting fashion-forward design, they are not going to capture tween attention.
While My Scene™ Bryant's™ look is certainly there in doll form (I really like this doll), his fashion didn't capture my attention. Granted, I'm not a tween, but his fashion is too much like a standard play line Barbie® doll (including the swimsuit).
I'm hoping the "Boys Night Out on the Town" fashions will elevate the male dolls in this line. Let's see complex denim washes, nicer fabrics with detail and better accessories. Where are the messenger bags, the detailed "pooka" shell bracelets and the real belts? Where is the full outfit extra fashion detailed with fashion fabric treatments and the extra pair of shoes? My Scene™ has to be different than the general formula of "provide a doll in a basic outfit and then sell cooler outfits separately". It isn't going to work for this line like it does for the play line. The funky, fashion-forward fashions are going to have to be already available on the dolls so they have shelf appeal.
Below: Bryant™ on music. His page in the My Scene™booklet.
When we use the words "fashion dolls" to describe our dolls, the successful winning formula for My Scene™ can be as simple as examining each word "fashion" and "dolls" separately. Think of the words "base" and "ball". Singularly, you have two objects. When you put them together you have a game. I'm betting that My Scene™ will be successful if the words come together.