40 Under 40 2016: Michelle Chidoni

VP, global brand communications, Mattel, 33

There are few toys more synonymous with girlhood than Barbie. Michelle Chidoni is tasked with keeping that 50-year-old brand relevant, top of mind, and selling.

Chidoni’s role at Mattel has shifted over the years. When she first started at the toymaker, she ironically enough worked on its "boys brands." She took a brief detour to Disney and, prior to it all kicked off her passion for marcomms with a strong story arc and branded experiences at GCI Group (now part of Cohn & Wolfe) where she worked on the firm’s Starbucks and RadioShack accounts.

Her early days at Mattel included working on the devastating 2007 recall in which the toy company pulled millions of potentially dangerous items off the shelves just prior to the holiday buying season and the global launch of its Monster High series. But it’s on Barbie where she has raked in the awards for savvy comms and smart executions, including the doll’s 50th anniversary campaign in 2009.

As Barbie morphed to meet the modern world, new ethnicities were recently introduced, as well as a new foot that would allow her to wear flat shoes. Through it all, Chidoni was there to respond and shape the conversation, because no change to the iconic doll goes unnoticed.

In 2011, the team, in partnership with Ketchum, won the PRWeek Campaign of the Year for After 125 Careers, Barbie Gets Her Geek On. And last year, Chidoni was a key player in the brand’s Imagine the Possibilities girl-power campaign that garnered over 20 million views on YouTube.

She lands cover story after cover story for the brand. But it may be this year’s new Barbie launch that she’ll be most proud of. In what is likely its most significant launch for the brand since Barbie’s introduction in 1959, Chidoni helped lead the introduction of "curvy" Barbie, along with two other new body types for the doll: tall and petite. It was covered by myriad news outlets and blog sites, and Chidoni was quoted by many of them, including the likes of CNN and Glamour magazine.

Earlier this year, the business press began trumpeting a turnaround as Mattel and Barbie posted surprising sales growth over the holidays. "Mattel’s Quarterly Sales Grow as Barbie Doll Choices Expand" read one.

- A mentor to her team, colleagues describe Chidoni as someone who pushes boundaries, but is a breeze to work with.

- She is active in the Mattel Women’s Club, Women in Toys, Toy of the Year board, and the Toy Industry Association (TIA).

- The Los Angeles mom is passionate about supporting local women businesses and mentoring young PR pros, including at nearby USC Annenberg School of Communications.

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