Marketing to Mom
Topic Market Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning
Key Words Segmentation, message strategy
InfoTrac Reference A139767460
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News Story 

Frustrated by the lack of engaging, high-quality dolls for young girls, Pleasant T. Rowland set out to design a doll series of her own. Making a break from the Barbie and Cabbage-Patch-Doll trends prevalent in the 1980s, Rowland settled on a unique toy concept: history-themed dolls that engage and educate. The result is the American Girl Collection, a line of dolls and accessories that takes girls on an imaginative journey back through U.S. history.

Targeted to tweens (children ages 8-12), the American Girl series features 18" dolls that resemble their young owners in many ways-yet, within historic settings. Samantha Parkington, the first doll with her own made-for-TV movie, takes girls on an adventure back to the 1904 Victorian era, with all the difficulties and issues facing girls of that time. Felicity Merriman, a character from the colonial period, finds herself embroiled in Patriot and Loyalist disputes of the American Revolution. Other dolls, like the Native American Kaya, expose children to girlhood as it was lived in other historic periods.

While masterfully designed to spark young imaginations, the American Girl Collection offers more than historical fantasies for grade-school girls; the concept provides an alternative to the overtly sexy and fashion-crazed Bratz and Barbie dolls. Instead of acting out grownup scenarios--like deciding which tattoos and body piercing to show off at the dance party--American Girl fans deal with age-appropriate themes, picking up on the collection's "can do" spirit that urges girls to be self reliant and bold. The differentiation is not lost on today's moms, who see American Girl as a creative way out of the sexy-girl culture personified by Britney and the Bratz.


If you were developing an ad campaign for the American Girl Collection, whom would you designate as your target audience? What messages and themes would you use to attract new customers? Explain your reasoning.


How does pop culture influence the kinds of dolls that manufacturers develop for the marketplace?

Source James B. Arndorfer, "American Girl campaign offers to save childhood; Plays to parental fears of children growing up too fast in over-sexed world," Advertising Age Dec 12, 2005 v76 i50 p12
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