The Failure of the Mattel Expansion in China

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In Mach 2012, the toy maker firm Mattel was forced to close down its expansion goals as it had to reconsider the idea two years after being implemented. The first flagship Barbie store that had been set in Shanghai, China was up for closure after just being opened in 2012. It was a historic moment but due to unavoidable circumstances, the closure seemed inevitable despite the firm having invested over $30 million in the House of Barbie as it aimed to commemorate the American iconic doll in its 50th anniversary (Wang, 2012). The analysis of the case indicates that the closure of Barbie was due to the failure to meet the Chinese demands regarding their culture and pricing of the Barbie dolls.

The primary mistake that was done was that Mattel set up a standalone store rather than focus on creating a brand for Barbie and a strong foundation in China. In America, it is undisputed that the doll is a classic representation of the definition of femininity especially among the young girls. The reasoning is presented to counter the argument where it was thought that the primary reason for the lack of acceptance was the clash of culture that the new firm set to establish in China. A majority of the critics thin that the Barbie Western dolls is typical the culture of the west and it would be perceived to be too sexy for the Chinese girls. It was, however, surprising that the case was different because the Chinese girls ended up being more attracted to the American doll as it was a different brand compared to the localized Chinese one that was popularly known as Ling (Wang, 2012). It thus follows that considering that Barbie was not an iconic image in China compared to the way it is perceived in America, the Chinese-market would not care much about the products that would be released by the brand.

Further, the mistake by the firm was that it failed in its attempt to meet the needs of the market because it failed in understanding the needs of the Chinese girls and young women. It is plausible to underline that what the Americans perceive of feminist is different from the Chinese version. In the Chinese setting, it is contextualized in the perspective of that which is sweet and soft rather strong and smart. It thus means that while the American culture thinks of the Barbie in the form of a dazzling and fashion-formed creation, the China women thought of it as a gentle and loving product brand. Matteo should have factored what the Chinese girls thought and what would appeal to them because they had been accustomed to a different version because the Chinese Barbie Ling was known to have black hair and would wear Chinese attire. It was thus necessary that Matteo would focus on the need to empower the Chinese girls because the idea of “I can be” that is propagated in America is not a welcome in China (Wang, 2012). It would thus have been more benefiting if the focus would have been on ensuring that Barbie was a role model to the Chinese girls by re-inventing herself, which would have increased the chance of the success following the international expansion in China.

The third and last mistake that occurred and that caused the failed expansion was the attempt to establish an old brand in a new market that was just beginning to learn what the product entailed. It is undisputed that the Chinese market was entirely composed of new consumers and had not been exposed as that of the West. It follows that even though China has advanced, it had not undergone the globalization that would allow its six-year olds to define what they wanted as pertains their fashion needs. Many of the Chinese middle-aged women grew up in a society that had just one doll and it is clear that the market was not ready for the transformation just yet (Wang, 2012). Further challenges for the Chinese market were due to the expensive products that had been introduced especially considering that it was the only store. It was difficult to establish a market because there were other competing stores that had less expensive dolls, which meant that Matteo ended up competing with themselves.

In summary, it is underscored that the failed expansion was due to the lack of attention on the need to build a brand in China. The other setback that Matteo failed to acknowledge was that the Chinese market was developing progressively and had not been accustomed to the fashion needs as first as the West had done. Finally, the failed international expansion was also attributed to the fact that there were not many stores selling at the high prices that Matteo had introduced, which meant that Chinese consumers opted for the cheaper alternatives.


Wang, H. (2012). Why Barbie Stumbled in China and How She Could Re-invent Herself. Forbes. Retrieved from

January 19, 2024



Corporations Marketing

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