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55: Kristina Duncan and the reinvention of a cultural icon

As part of an ongoing series of conversations with 2017 Effie-winning marketers, Alan Hart talks with Kristina Duncan who, as vice president for global marketing communications at Mattel, oversees all global branding, advertising, retail merchandising and digital creative for the Barbie brand.

Duncan and Hart discuss the “Imagine the Possibilities” campaign, an effort that aimed to accomplish two objectives for the Barbie brand: Drive business and change perception. In doing this they had to orchestrate a seismic shift to reintroduce and recommunicate the brand to consumers. The campaign lived into its purpose using this succinct statement as a guide: “The brand exists to inspire and nurture the limitless potential in all girls.” You can witness the delight the campaign delivered here.

Duncan also identifies and discusses the key trait responsible for her success — she’s the ultimate collaborator: “I’ve always seen myself as someone who loves to be a great partner and loves to partner with great creatives and smart people,” said Duncan. “That sort of idea of the ultimate collaboration is when I’ve seen the most success and when I’ve had the most fun in my career.”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today” podcast include:

  • Duncan discusses the perceptions the brand faced: Barbie was not considered a great modern role model. To many, she stood for perfection, materialism, and unrealistic body image. (1:39)
  • The key insight: When girls are playing with the Barbie doll, they are imagining everything they can be in the future. (2:41)
  • Aligning on a purpose: “We just knew it was our moment.” (5:10)
  • A new way of working: Creating a movement versus just an ad. (8:56)
  • This campaign created global relevance — across cultures — for Barbie. (10:40)
  • Duncan identifies brands she admires: She looks at brands that do things she wants to do well and brands that reinvent their categories. (15:47)
  • Duncan: “We want to make sure we are a mirror to the world around us.” (17:07)
  • Marketers face a world of blurred lines when communicating with consumers. (19:23)