A 1992 television commercial for the Barbie brand of fashion doll from American toymaker Mattel first featured the statement “You Can Be Anything.” Mattel has held the trademark for this statement since 1984 but it was only in 2015 that it became the official slogan for Barbie. It has since become one of the most iconic and recognized slogans in the world alongside famous slogans like “Just Do It” from Nike and “Have It Your Way” from Burger King.
Understanding the Meaning Behind the Famous Barbie Slogan and Its Intended Marketing Message and Marketing Objective
History and Evolution of the Barbie Slogans
The slogan for Barbie has evolved through the decades since the brand was introduced in 1959. The first one was the “Teenage Fashion Model” descriptive statement used from 1959 to 1960 that was essentially devoid of deeper meaning. The slogan “You’re Always Dressed Right in Barbie” which was used between 1961 and 1963 was also descriptive.
However, beginning in 1984, the brand became more intentional about improving its brand identity and brand reputation in accordance with its value proposition and target market.
The slogans “We Girls Can Do Anything” which was used from 1984 to 1986 and “Be Who You Wanna Be” which ran from 1987 and 1992 demonstrated a conscious attempt to market Barbie to girls and their parents in a manner that was both empowering and relevant. The current “You Can Be Anything” cemented its aspirational and inspirational branding.
It was specifically in 2015 when the brand used the current slogan as part of the “Imagine the Possibilities” ad campaign that ran on traditional and digital media platforms.
Inspiration and Meaning Behind the Current Slogan
The ad agency BBDO conceptualized and handled the 2015 ad campaign for Barbie. A specific video ad began with the question, “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?” The video then featured girls fitting in the shoes of adults and transforming into professors, museum tour guides, soccer coaches, and business executives.
Several ads were created and distributed over the years based on the core message of enticing girls to dream and believe in the power of their imaginations.
Representatives from Mattel explained that the slogan intends to emphasize why Barbie was created in the first place and reintroduce to parents the essence of the entire brand. It was a homage to its creator, American businesswoman and inventor Ruth Handler, who said she created Barbie to show girls that they had choices.
The first ad video for the 2015 ad campaign ended with the statement: “When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become. You can be anything.”
Reinforcing the Branding and Marketing of Barbie
Mattel has been criticized for setting for promoting unrealistic body images and gender stereotypes through the Barbie brand. However, through the slogan “You Can Be Anything,” the company and its brand have reinforced its intended branding and marketing message centered on empowering little girls and advancing feminist ideologies.
The company has since taken steps to make Barbie more inclusive and diverse. It has released dolls with different body types, skin colors, and hairstyles.
Mattel has also released dolls that represent different careers and professions. This inclusive product strategy adheres to the current slogan of Barbie. The slogan itself reinforces this product strategy while reiterating the intended value proposition and corresponding branding and marketing message for the Barbie brand.
Barbie has been positioned as an inspirational and aspirational brand that inspires girls to pursue their dreams and celebrate the diversity and potential of women.