Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mattel and FAO Schwarz bring Barbie into the digital age

I can't say I've yet been to the Barbie Boutique in FAO Schwarz (the cool one in New York City, not those lame satellite stores that have popped up in malls from time to time), but after reading this article at VM+SD I think I might have to take a look.

While FAO Schwarz has always been known to set the bar for visual design and in-store theatrics, the latest Barbie installation from Mattel goes above and beyond the current state-of-the-art to deliver an interactive experience that is designed to be both the means (to encourage more Barbie purchases) and an end in itself (an entertaining, interactive and brand-building experience).

Featuring kiosk terminals that let girls (and their moms) design sophisticated custom outfits, and big flat screens that show off the designs on a virtual catwalk, the boutique does everything to empower the shopper, promote high-margin product sales and reinforce the Barbie brand. While the boutique is clad in reserved white laminate, frosted class and sleek metals, the signature pink color can be seen throughout, lest anyone forget they're in Barbie country.

Given how tech-savvy youngsters are, melding the classic Barbie brand with a high-tech in-store experience not only allows Mattel to create a more immersive and interactive environment, but also reinforces Barbie's relevance in an age when kids are spending more and more time in front of computers and video games. Barbie hasn't yet lost her relevance as a top-tier toy, but Mattel doesn't want to take any chances. Unfortunately, given the size of the boutique and the complexity of the layout I'd be surprised to see this experience get transplanted to many other toy stores, but there's always the possibility that it will be a launching pad for a new general merchandising strategy (that might even feature some of the technological components), and a tie-in to the Barbie website (which does have a lot of interactive features).

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