Mon February 14, 2011
All Tech Considered

Ken And Barbie Update Their Status

Ken is stepping out of Barbie's digital media shadow to gear up for his 50th birthday. He's not just a hunky, plastic beach bum — he's a hunky, plastic beach bum who knows how to navigate the Web.

Ken Carson — his full name — is tweeting, updating his Facebook page and occasionally using Foursquare to check in to places he loves to go with Barbie. This is all a part of Mattel's marketing campaign to beef up sales of Barbie's lesser half.

The toy manufacturer is using the power of the Web and social media to keep Ken "cool" in the digital age.

Retail analyst Howard Davidowitz says it's working: "When you have a top brand, because there's so many private labels, so many knockoffs, the name of the game is to create buzz about your product. Nothing does that better than social media — nothing."

It may be news to you, but Ken and Barbie were "just friends" for seven years. Part of Mattel's marketing campaign involved getting the public to vote online or text whether Barbie should take Ken back in time for Valentine's Day.

In conjunction with the texting, online voting, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, Mattel also launched a reality show on Hulu — the video site — where eight guys compete to be the best real-life Ken.

She Said 'Yes'

Valentine's Day ends two months of Ken's virtual begging and the public's digital voting.

Barbie said "yes" (surprise, surprise).

But, if you shop at Target and were there last week, you would know that Barbie was already going to say yes because – oops! — Target stocked its shelves with the new Barbie and Ken dolls.

Barbie was wearing a wedding dress and Ken was decked out in a tuxedo.

Stephanie Cota, Mattel's senior vice president of marketing, says it's like the Super Bowl.

"You don't necessarily know who is going to win the game, but you create the merchandise in hopes that your team is going to win," she says. "We were rooting for Barbie and Ken from the very beginning and the gift set was created to support that moment."

Barbie went online to seal the deal and updated her relationship status on Facebook. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.