If you’re a girl between the ages of 8 and 10, no doubt you understand
the above sentence. For that reason, Mattel is betting
you’ll be down for their new Flavas dolls, which just
landed on store shelves in July.
In an attempt to counter MGA’s highly successful Bratz
dolls, Mattel has done the unthinkable and created a competitor to its
enduring Barbie line. The six hip-hop-styled dolls have varied heights
(10 to 11.5 inches), each with a unique facial sculpt, skin tone, hair,
makeup and even eye color. Each doll comes with two authentic outfits,
letting girls create their own Flavas look.
Mattel will have to hit the ground running to catch up with Bratz, which
currently has 130 licensees worldwide and projected sales of $520 million
for 2003. According to NPD, Bratz Assortment was the top selling doll
in 2002 and the number three best-selling toy the same year.
“The reaction was instant,” said Dave Malacrida, director of public relations
for MGA since 1999. “We premiered them during the Licensing Show of 2001.
The following week, we sold 4,000 pieces in Spain alone. It’s only gone
up from there.” In Japan, the dolls now have their own TV show, and the
Bratz Pack will soon star in a direct-to-video animated feature for North
American audiences in 2004.
Asked about competition from Mattel’s Flavas, Malacrida questions whether
the company may have gone too far in creating the dolls’ urban hip-hop
look. "I can only think that Mattel is hoping to drive sales with
controversy,” said Malacrida.
Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment, has similar concerns. “Bratz are
fashionable and fantasy and trendy. They don't portray the ‘bad girl’
image that, in my opinion, Flavas does. I don't think the majority of
kids ages 6 to 12 aspire to be what Flavas are portraying, nor would this
sit well with the majority of parents.”
Regarding the possibility of the Flavas eroding Bratz’ market share, Larian
is equally confident. “Mattel first tried to attack Bratz with My Scene
[Barbie] which is truly a not-well-made imitation. But despite a ‘buy
one, get one free [promotion],’ free CD and heavy TV [advertising], there
was little or no effect.”
But Mattel is hardly on the ropes. Barbie still dominates the age 3-7
doll market, with last year’s sales totaling $1.7 billion. However, overall
sales were down 2 percent in 2002 and 14 percent in the first quarter
of 2003, a trend that Mattel CEO Robert A. Eckert has moved swiftly to
Eckert’s focus on shorter development schedules drove the new Flavas
dolls from drawing board to store shelves in only three months, hopefully
giving the Flavas time to catch on with Tween girls before they start
on their Christmas lists.
For a more recent report on this trend, check out the following update.