Campaign: Consumer PR - Bratz topples Barbie as number one doll

Campaign: Bratz v Barbie

Client: Vivid Imaginations

PR team: Norton & Company Marketing Communications

Timescale: January 2004-ongoing

Budget: Less than £30,000

Norton & Company Marketing Communications has worked on campaigns for Vivid Imaginations, the UK's second largest toy company, for nearly 12 years. When Vivid took over UK distribution for the Bratz range of 'passion for fashion' dolls two years after its launch by US manufacturer MGA, it asked Norton to raise the brand's profile to compete with market leader Barbie.

Objectives

To double the brand's 16 per cent market share and increase sales of Bratz and Lil Bratz products by 40 per cent. To establish Bratz as a lifestyle brand.

Strategy and Plan

The target for the campaign was teenage girls and 'tweens' (seven to 12-year-olds), but the team also wanted to make Bratz a 'cool' household name in the wider consumer market.

Between January and August 2004, Norton formed associations with other brands - from dance mats to confectionery - and ran a series of competitions and promotions in girls' publications, including Girl Talk and Mizz. Editorial sell-ins focused on themes such as 'sun-kissed summer' and 'girls' night out'.

The team helped famous toy store Hamleys launch its Bratz zone in May, and worked closely with BBC2's The Money Programme on a story about the doll industry and how the rise of Bratz had affected Barbie.

Vivid also ran a national design competition in association with children's TV channel Nickelodeon, challenging girls to design Bratz-style outfits and win the chance to have their design produced. This attracted the biggest audience response the channel has ever received - around 10,000 entries.

In September the campaign stepped up in response to data from toy industry analysts showing that Barbie's reign as queen of the doll market was over: after 44 years she had been toppled by Bratz as the best-selling doll.

The story was pitched to national newspapers and the business press as a classic brand being toppled by an entrepreneurial competitor, whose product was more relevant to the contemporary world.

Journalists were told that Bratz were set to hit the Toy Retailers Association's official Top Ten Xmas Toys list, while Barbie had not made the chart.

Measurement and Evaluation

The news that Bratz was bigger than Barbie grabbed the attention of the media, and The Sun ran an exclusive with every national following closely behind. Coverage of Bratz beating Barbie into the Christmas toy chart also appeared in every national newspaper, as well as on Sky News, Newsround and GMTV.

Vivid CEO Nick Austin was interviewed for Panorama, CNN, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, among others, while an exclusive feature appeared in The Guardian.

The stories ran in 23 national newspapers, on 25 TV and radio programmes, in 75 regional papers and on 28 websites.

Results

Bratz's share of the fashion doll market had reached just over 45 per cent by December 2004, and it had doubled sales in less than a year to more than £70m (source: NPD Data).

'Norton, and Vivid's marketing director Emma Sherski, were brilliant - they gave me everything I needed and I've since done a number of other stories with them,' says The Times home news journalist Adam Fresco.

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