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Picture: Warner Bros. 


Over the past few weeks, the world has been immersed into the world of Barbie. The movie has taken the world by storm - grossing an estimated $155M during its opening 3-day weekend in the US alone, making it the highest opening weekend for a non-sequel, non-remake and non-superhero movie. Amazingly, last weekend the movie’s global box office revenue reached $1bn- the first film solely directed by a woman to join the unicorn club. For Mattel, the toy company and owner of Barbie, the film has also brought a much needed boost of positive branding and renewed popularity to the classic childrens toy. Barbie was first launched in 1959 and whilst it has indeed been hugely popular, it has also faced significant public criticism in recent years. Critics have pointed out the portrayal of unrealistic body standards and limited inclusivity and diversity. So how has Mattel brought Barbie back to being wildly popular? It’s not only about the film - but about Mattel's larger, renewed strategic focus on innovation. In this short blog post, drawing on an exclusive interview our CEO Ed Frank conducted with Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz, we will discuss some key aspects of Mattel’s innovative strategy that has ensured the continued success of Barbie and similar Mattel brands.




The Barbie movie is representative of Mattel’s strategy to expand from the world of toys into other verticals, namely film and television. Notably, Mattel has announced 14 other movies in the works, as well as television shows- they have recognised the potential to captivate audiences by breathing life into their characters and their stories. As Ynon Kreiz described in his interview with Axis Innovation, films have the capacity to have a worldwide impact through storytelling in a much faster way than toys alone- they have a “global impact and very high awareness, especially during the early launch window”. When making the Barbie film (as well as other movies in the works) the focus was not to sell toys, although that of course is a likely positive outcome. Instead, as Ynon Kreiz explained, the focus was to “make great content and attract the best talent”. The creative team involved in the film were given autonomy to reimagine the Barbie brand, and based on their interpretation of the product, transform Barbie into a gripping cinematic experience for international audiences.



As noted above, Barbie has historically been criticized for limiting girls’ aspirations to homemaking roles as well as for perpetuating stereotypes and unrealistic body ideals. However, Mattel recognized the critical requirement for change- Barbie has shifted from being a homemaker to symbolizing limitless possibilities, embracing diversity and inclusion. In Barbie’s world, viewers saw Barbies with different skin tones, body sizes/shapes and professions (e.g. a doctor/ lifeguard/ the President/ a mother). The movie also offered powerful insights about female existence and the gendered expectations placed on women- resonating with female audiences across the world. This is representative of Mattel’s aim to promote diversity, equity, and inclusivity- as noted by Ynon Kreiz: “when Barbie is promoting diversity and inclusivity and empowering girls to reach their unlimited potential, it resonates.”




Mattel, recognizing their responsibility as industry leaders, have and are taking steps towards a greener future- reimagining their products and processes to reduce their environmental footprint. As Ynon Kreiz discussed, “sustainability is a very important part of how we factor our planning, and design products, and manufacture products, whether at our own factories, or even when we outsource manufacturing to third parties.” Reflecting this, Mattel has made various commitments for 2030 (e.g. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve 100% recyclable or bio-based plastic material in products and packaging), which they are already making progress towards. 




Since Ynon Kreiz became Mattel’s CEO, the company has undergone innovative restructuring that has provided them with a substantial competitive advantage. This restructuring started prior to the pandemic, where, for example, Mattel shifted to a more capital light model in order to improve supply chain functions. As Ynon Kreiz explained, this involved “consolidating the number of factories that we own, reducing the number of items that were not productive, so that we can focus on the more successful items”. Additionally, at the start of the pandemic, Mattel had a very flexible platform that could quickly adapt to functioning solely online due to the prior focus on enhancing the company’s online capabilities (retail/e-commerce).




With the rise of blockchain technology, Mattel is ceasing the opportunity to engage with tech-savvy audiences as they step into the world of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Ynon Kreiz, accounting for the sudden and rapid expansion of the metaverse, recognises that the ‘ability to engage with brands in the metaverse and the combination of physical and virtual is the future’. As Mattel owns the underlying rights of their products, they can participate in both physical and virtual domains, and are already taking the opportunity to do this- for example, their launch of an NFT product with Hot Wheels (the first toy company to do this), and their partnership with Balmain in the virtual  space. Whilst they are only in the very early stages of their metaverse journey, Mattel has already established themselves as pioneers in this new digital frontier.




Mattel’s commitment to innovation, for example, by venturing into the entertainment sector, by embracing diversity and breaking boundaries, and by entering the world of NFTs, has driven their enduring success. Regarding Barbie, by deviating from historical norms, and by evolving with cultural changes, Mattel has managed to adapt and remain relevant to audiences around the world today.


The success of Barbie and Mattel is representative of just how critical it is for businesses across all industries to embrace change and make innovation central to all operations. Here at Axis Innovation, as implied in our name, innovation is at the heart of what we do. We not only have expertise in cutting-edge technology and innovation, but also have strong relationships within Israel’s thriving tech ecosystem and others across the world involved in groundbreaking advancements on a global scale. As such, we offer expert guidance and consultancy services to global corporations (e.g. Ford, IKEA) seeking to embrace innovation. To learn more about what we do, please click here.


For our full interview with Ynon Kreiz in 2022, click here.

By Charli Stonefield, Analyst @Axis Innovation


Music: Sunset On Terra by HYBRID V is licensed under a Creative Commons License. 

Support by RFM - NCM: 


Darina Khanina, Business Development Principal @Axis Innovation

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