Barbie Goes Brainy for Chinese Market

(Newser) - Aiming to please education-minded parents, Mattel has given Barbie a fresh new look for the booming Chinese toy market, in a move that, as Quartz reports, highlights China's shift from manufacturer to consumer.

New low-price dolls, including "Violin Soloist" Barbie, will help merge joy and learning, which "are like oil and water in China," Mattel's Asia Pacific senior VP tells the Wall Street Journal. Cheaper prices are also key to getting a foothold in the toy market, which, excluding video games, jumped 18% to nearly $8 billion last year, while developed market sales remained flat.

Barbie Photo Fashion DollThe aforementioned Barbie, complete with violin, sheet music, and a $13 price tag-as opposed to $30 in the US-is only one of Mattel's recent Chinese strategies; the company also opened a Thomas the Tank Engine playland and a traveling Hot Wheels race track there this year.

Plus, the company has replaced puppies with pandas in some of its toys, and Fisher Price's "Joy of Learning" tagline has been replaced with "Play IQ." Mattel even got Chinese government leaders together with educational experts to talk about research showing the benefits of having a little fun during school hours. "If they allow for more play, half of our marketing is done," the VP says.

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