When Facebook Marketing Gets Weird
By Becky Lang
I thought I followed absurd events happening in pop culture pretty closely, but apparently I was wrong. How did I miss this apparently 7-year-long campaign of Ken the doll using social media to “win back” Barbie after she left him for Blaine®, “the Aussie surfer who charmed his way into her heart?”
(I hope in ten years Blaine will try to get Barbie back by trapping her in a Bermuda Triangle of philosophy and bank robbing on the 27th season of “Lost.”)
This campaign transcends Facebook, using many channels such as Twitter, where Barbie’s handle is “BarbieStyle” and Ken’s is “OfficialKen,” Match.com, Foursquare and even a TV show called “Genuine Ken” on Hulu. But Facebook is its central locus, on Facebook.com/Barbie, where almost 2 million fans hang out for updates like these:
+ the occasional release of free MP3s that suddenly you’ve downloaded before you know what you’re clicking on, which sound like Ke$ha and The Black Eyed Peas teaming up to incept the minds of 4-year-olds the world over.
A couple more glimpses of this nightmare:
Does it included being a fake-boobed, underweight half of a white, plastic couple that never ages?
See that girl in the middle? That’s Whitney Port, the person too boring to be distinguished from the other boring people from “The Hills.”
There are two ways to look at this campaign:
A) It’s ingenious. It brings old toys to life in a connected, grown-up world, using several elements of social media to tell a story.
But … eh. I’ll go for the next option.
B) It’s an eery, superficial glamorization of upper middle-class white lifestyle to market a kid’s product to adults. I mean, why talk about Match.com when you’re selling toys? Do kids playing Barbie’s Dreamhouse need to know about the service? Are these kids actually on Twitter? Or is it for their lonely single parents, or possibly twentysomethings who want to see their nostalgia for Barbie turned into a freakish parody of their own media habits?
So, how could you use social media to market Barbie in a less creepy way?
Why not focus on the kids? Give parents creative ways to play with their kids, thinking of fun imaginary scenarios for them to act out. Design backgrounds to paste into cardboard boxes for constructing makeshift dollhouses. Design print-out patterns for moms with sewing machines to make their own Barbie outfits.
To really provide a service, they should make it easier for moms and kids to connect over playtime. Let parents show off actual stories about their kids playing Barbies. Make it about the customers, not the “savviness” of the brand.
Barbie is a pop culture phenomenon on her own, and drenching her in the media of today just makes her look oddly insecure for a doll with bright purple eyes and hair that grows when you twist her arm.
NOTE: Apparently The Hairpin has been covering this adamantly.