Regardless of where you net out on the Barbie movie, this 64-year brand has managed to stay current across generations. How? Its core values of empowerment and self-expression are timeless.
Today’s post is about how employers can create an enduring and authentic brand, taking a page from Barbie history.
Let’s get started with the most obvious question: How can a brand that has “made women feel bad about themselves since it was invented,” also stand for empowerment and self-expression? For this, we need to go back in time to Barbie’s origin story.
In the pre-Barbie days of the 1950s, the only dolls on the market were baby dolls, reinforcing the stereotype that girls were supposed to be mothers and housewives. Barbie’s inventor, Ruth Handler, noticed that her daughter loved playing with paper dolls, making them into various role models she wanted to be: A teacher, a vet, “career girl,” etc. Handler recognized a gap in the market for a doll that would empower girls to dream beyond traditional gender roles and envision themselves in professional and aspirational roles.
Along with self-expression and empowerment, here are 5 core values of the Barbie brand and how we can apply them to stay relevant in today’s talent market.
1. Promote self-expression. We know that diverse teams perform better. To achieve diversity, employees have to feel that self-expression is encouraged; that they can bring their authentic self to work. We have shifted away from “cultural fit:” the idea that we should only hire people that look and act the same.
2. Provide a path to leadership. Barbie inspired its earliest customers to imagine futures bigger than present-day realities. Likewise, employers can empower employees with professional development opportunities and access to role models.
3. Reflect cultural values. In many ways, Barbie has aged more gracefully than companies her age. She’s not afraid to shed outdated values and embrace current trends, reflecting changing attitudes around beauty standards, diversity & inclusion and career choices.
4. Be a good corporate citizen. Take action on things that improve your customers’ lives and world. For Barbie, this has meant using more sustainable materials and packaging to address environmental concerns.
5. Acknowledge missteps. No brand is immune to missteps or negative press. Barbie has been criticized for lack of diversity in early years, perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards and gender stereotypes. It has responded with changes to its product line.
It’s pretty incredible to think that Barbie, born in the 1950s, remains an icon today. Many brands go wrong when they cling to outdated ideals and fail to embrace new ones. By following these 5 values and continuing to adapt, employers can stay relevant and position themselves as top places to work. Thank you, Barbie.
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