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It’s a Barbie world

Celebrities not limited to singers and actors, says Mattel brand manager

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Published : 2014-07-24 20:52
Updated : 2014-07-24 20:52

This is the ninth in a series highlighting women and their accomplishments in the various facets of the Korean entertainment industry. ― Ed.


Stacy Oh is the manager for quite possibly one of the best-known celebrities in the world: Barbie.

And while most may not think of Barbie or other Mattel brands such as Monster High as celebrities, Oh says that with the way companies are incorporating entertainment content into their brands and promotions, more characters are reaching celebrity status.

“People think only entertainment people are a kind of celebrity. But what we’re thinking is that Barbie, Tom and Jerry, they’re also celebrities. ... That’s why we think, of course, (they’re part) of the entertainment industry,” she said.

Oh is the manager for all of Mattel’s brands that are geared toward girls, such as Disney Princesses, Monster High, Polly Pocket and, of course, Barbie. She works to create content for the brands in a way that sends the best image to consumers, be it through promotional events, animations, movies, or just coming up with great slogans.

She got her start in marketing and entertainment about seven or eight years ago at another big U.S. company ― Warner Bros. There, she said, she worked in the consumer products division, which focused on creating marketing content for products based off characters from “Looney Tunes” to “Tom and Jerry,” “Batman” and “Scooby Doo.”

By spinning off from movies and creating various products, she said, companies breathe life into these characters ― so that people don’t forget them, even years after being released.

“(A brand that was) created like 50 years ago or 60 years ago, even classic movies, like 100 years ago, we’re still talking about it. I guess it’s because it didn’t end at the end of the movie itself. And Warner Bros. recreated it. They gave it more life ― through the content distribution, through making products or theme parks.”

She said this is something she hopes to recreate with her brands at Mattel. This year is Barbie’s 55th anniversary, and Oh’s main goal is to give Barbie a story to show that she is more than just a pretty doll. It’s the only way that Barbie will last for decades in Korea. 
Mattel brand manager Stacy Oh. (Kim Won-jae/Oppa Sajingwan)

“She cannot survive just as a doll itself. With all the entertainment activity, she can be reborn. And people will remember that image of Barbie,” Oh said.

One challenge facing Oh is gearing Barbie for the Korean market. Barbie is an American brand and a lot of the original content for the animations have very American stories to which kids in Korea cannot relate. Oh’s team is trying to focus on showing other sides to Barbie: she is warmhearted, kind and cares about her family.

Oh said another push for Barbie this year is that she can be anything. The slogan for this year is “With Barbie, anything is possible.” They’ve given her many jobs, from doctor to fashion designer to CEO. The new CEO Barbie will come out this year.

“We’re giving girls dreams ― big dreams. ... It’s very helpful to watch the Barbie animations, it’s very helpful to participate in Barbie promotion. Then kids can dream up big things. That’s why we really focus on exposure of Barbie through animation, all entertainment channels,” she said.

Oh said it’s no longer enough for a character ― be it a toy or cartoon character ― to focus only on one side or the other. It takes a combination of products and entertainment content to etch a name into people’s minds.

And with Korea’s rapidly growing character market, there is a lot of opportunity. Oh said there are few people working in the sector and more are needed, especially those with know-how in the character business. These people, she said, are the ones who will help characters grow.

As one of the few women in Mattel’s brand marketing department ― she said she’s one of three on her floor ― Oh certainly seems to be setting this example, by emphasizing just how important it is to take a dual approach.

“The brand, especially the character itself, has a lot of potential to grow in the market, to make money ― a lot of potential,” she said. “The character can survive a long time through that way.”

It’s among her goals to play a role in that growing character market and hope that people like her, who combine entertainment and branding, will become more important.

She said it is important to know the local market and gear all marketing for that, but also for Korean characters to go global without losing their original color.

“There are a lot of ways to make the brand live longer in every entertainment way,” she said.

By Emma Kalka (ekalka@heraldcorp.com)

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