Here's what people really think about Mattel's new Ken dolls

Despite some snarky reaction to Ken's new hairstyle, the sentiment of social chatter was largely positive.

EL SEGUNDO, CA: Unveiling a new line of Ken dolls, including one rocking a man bun, could have turned into a hairy problem for Mattel. But the move has paid off for the toymaker, according to a social media sentiment analysis by Brandwatch.

Discussion of Ken’s makeover—Mattel released a diverse line of 15 Ken dolls featuring slim, broad, and original body types and various skin tones, eye colors, hairstyles, and modern fashion looks—was mostly positive (57%) on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, according to the Brandwatch analysis.

Positive mentions focused on users’ favorite makeover of Ken and the diversity of the models. One prominent hashtag included in mentions was #LoveThem, showing the internet’s general approval. #TheDollEvolves was another popular hashtag, with more than 14 million impressions.

Negative commenters mostly couldn’t get over Ken’s new man bun, with #ManBun and #ManBunKen accumulating more than 2.3 and 2.2 million impressions, respectively. Additional negative mentions asked why there wasn’t an Asian Ken doll.

"The sentiment may not be as positive as [Mattel] hoped, but you need to understand the internet, which is a bit trollish," said Brandwatch senior PR data analyst Kellan Terry. "People like to crack jokes, people use a lot of satire, and with the meme culture taking over right now, they would have to expect that this new release would inspire that. But for people to even take notice, that is definitely a big win for Mattel."

And people have definitely noticed. In the past seven days, Ken dolls have been mentioned about 39,000 times on social media, according to Brandwatch’s analysis of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Most have occurred since Tuesday, when Barbie expanded its Fashionistas line. Mentions of the doll soared by more than 5,120% between June 19 and 20, Brandwatch found, with peak hours including nearly 1,500 and 1,600 mentions. The firm also found women discussed the makeover more than men; 60% of all unique authors were women.

"Looking at the results, the volume [of chatter] is a good indicator of where we are socially," noted Terry. "If you look at the headlines and companies in the wake of the presidential election and even beforehand, everyone wants to be more inclusive."

He added that Ken’s makeover was a logical next step for Mattel after the launch of tall, curvy, and petite Barbie dolls last January. And Barbie isn’t the only brand making its products more inclusive; Nike released its Pro Hijab for Muslim women athletes and rolled out plus-sized fitness wear for women this year, Terry said.

"I think a lot of companies are looking at themselves and their brand and they are deciding to take a social stand with their products," he explained. "That is a good step because that is what people are aiming for among all this social media influence and this fast-paced movement of information: a more inclusive and accepting environment."

A Mattel representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

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