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This Guy Saved Barbie From Cultural Extinction. He Did It by Asking One Big Question.

Not so long ago, sales of the tall, blonde doll were in a death spiral. Now Barbie is back in a big way.

This story appears in the December 2022 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

How do you save a brand that everyone knows, but not everybody likes?

Paul Bruinooge | Patrick McMullan | Getty Images

Back in 2014, the toy company Mattel needed an answer to that question — fast. It owns popular brands like Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, but one of its consistently top-selling products has long been Barbie. The tall, blonde doll enjoyed ubiquity for over half a century, but her popularity was slipping. To many people, Barbie had come to represent outdated standards of beauty and gender norms, and sales had dropped 20% in the prior two years alone. So the company called Richard Dickson, a former Mattel executive who'd left to run a fashion brand, and asked him to come back and save the famed doll. "We were in a real moment of truth around the brand's continued evolution," Dickson says. But he saw a way forward: They would double down on the brand's deeper mission, and then use that to guide many big changes. As a result, since that critical moment, Barbie sales have more than doubled. The brand had its best year ever in 2021, and was on track for more growth in 2022. Here, Dickson explains how he did it — and why he says that "while evolution makes a brand relevant, purpose makes a brand immortal."

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