The ‘Barbie’ Movie Has Us Thinking About Logistics (Naturally)

Jul 21, 2023

Barbie is among the most successful brand figureheads in the world.

Introduced in 1959 as an alternative to the common baby doll, Barbie represented a slate of new and exciting careers, opportunities and creative interests available to a rising generation of women beyond the traditional role of homemaker.

Now, more than six decades removed from a simple toy’s initial inception, we sit on the brink of a Margot Robbie-led summer blockbuster aimed to launch Mattel’s global fashion icon back into the forefront of public consciousness.

While the Barbie movie may not be the first to feature a hero’s journey from a toy-based utopia into the perils of the real world to contend with a villainous Will Ferrell, there’s something genuinely remarkable about Barbie’s staying power and near-universal appeal.

Barbie Is Everywhere (But How Does She Get There?)

The Barbie brand was ubiquitous long before its unstoppable marketing machine took over entertainment in preparation for this summer’s feature-length film. Dolls and accessories of every kind can be found in any Walmart or Target toy aisle in the country. The vibrant, bubbly logo is among the most recognizable in the world, underscored by an exclusive shade of pink named after the brand itself.

But just as Barbie received a long-overdue update to her physical appearance in recent years to include a wider range of diverse builds and backgrounds, a number of course corrections within Mattel’s global supply chain strategy have similarly modernized the toy-builder’s ability to perform efficient logistics operations.

First, as a toy manufacturer Mattel’s target demo naturally skews young — but what if it didn’t?

The brand has already made significant strides in marketing Barbie-branded merchandise to adults through strategic partnerships in retail, cosmetics and even travel industries (oh yes, there absolutely is a Barbie boat cruise). These partnerships aim to smooth over Mattel’s wild annual dropoff from its massive holiday earnings to more meager post-holiday dry spells, not to mention relieve the pressure of refreshing as many as 80% of its SKUs every year to keep pace with its notoriously volatile customer base.

Next, as a $7.5 billion-dollar global enterprise Mattel traditionally relies heavily on off-shore manufacturing and container shipping to drive its supply chain. A prime case study for anyone still wondering what all the automation and AI fuss is about, the manufacturing giant also reportedly spends $2.5B just to run its current supply chain each year — what if there was a more efficient alternative?

Even with nearly 34,000 employees on the payroll and amid years of widespread supply chain disruptions, the toy manufacturer has demonstrated an impressive ability to quickly adopt new transportation models (nearshoring key among them) to navigate fluctuations in demand and frustrating port closures. The next step? Using predictive AI to better predict and avoid costly product surpluses on store shelves.

Finally, rather than allowing manufacturing and shipping processes to grow bloated with each new iteration, Mattel leadership took aim at cost-saving measures as recently as 2020 by focusing on simplicity.

Rightly determining consumers didn’t necessarily need 150 different shades of red, the company managed to cut the number of color choices available and number of products manufactured in each of Mattel’s 13 factories by nearly 30%.

Adaptability Is Key to Barbie’s Enduring Success

So many lessons can be learned from watching a company like Mattel maneuver its share of ups and downs.

At First Call Logistics, we often discuss the key differentiators we offer partners in similar terms as seen above — we’re always working to expand our network to include a broader range of industry partnerships, always evaluating the potential of new tech and transportation solutions, and always looking to simplify logistics in ways that move the needle for your business the most.

*P.S. Hey Mattel, we noticed there are currently no trucker, warehouse or Chief Supply Chain Officer Barbies. Just something to consider.

Simplify your Next Shipment with First Call Logistics

Building and managing cost-efficient supply chains is a full-time job. First Call’s rare combination of in-house assets, expert problem-solving and track record of stellar customer service makes us the 3PL of choice for business partners with a wide range of shipping needs.

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