–Debbie Laskey, MBA
Recently, a news report was released announcing the launch of Mattel’s newest addition to the Barbie line : “Interim CEO Barbie.” From a marketing perspective, why would a company launch a professional businesswoman doll and add the word “Interim?”
Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie, said in an interview with The New York Times, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, a girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” Barbie quickly became an icon, with a wardrobe and career options that mirrored women’s changing goals.
So, with all the emphasis on career options and women’s choices, why would Mattel create a new Barbie with the name of INTERIM CEO? How does that title motivate a young girl or teenager who sees the new doll on the Target or Walmart shelf or on Amazon.com? More importantly, how would a parent explain the title to his or her child so that the child understands this individual’s role and value in a business? Above all, why would a young adult want to grow up and become an INTERIM CEO?
But wait a minute! Have you checked your calendar today? Yes, that’s right, it’s April 1st, and that means it’s April Fool’s Day. So, if you had doubts that a story about a new doll from Mattel with the name “Interim CEO” was fake, you would be correct. While Barbie has been a football coach, dentist, yoga teacher, veterinarian, United States Air Force jet pilot, UNICEF summit diplomat, firefighter, police officer, architect, chef, astronaut, architect, film director, and ballerina, she has never been an “Interim CEO.”
However, this story was reported in the Los Angeles media by a well known and very respected business reporter. After learning that this story was fake, I reached out to Mattel, and though I did not receive any response, the story caused me to reflect how businesses respond to crisis communications, and whether that differs in matters of satire. Do most businesses have plans in place? Do they respond in social media? Or do they disappear under a rock with the hope that a story quickly disappears?
What do you think? Should companies have an obligation to respond to incorrect or satirical reports, to protect their brands?