No Messing Around: Girl Power at the Toy Store

January 30 2014

with contributor anniegee

Goldie Blox is a toy brand that is assertively staking their claim to "disrupt the pink aisle" by providing young girls the resources and visual language to engage in the early stages of engineering, which is typically boys’ turf. While many of the stores selling the product are smaller boutique toy stores, Goldie Blox has also infiltrated the system at large. Both Toys R Us and Target sell the toys either online or in store, indicating that the mainstream market for little girls is looking for the brand of girl power that Goldie Blox delivers.


Their motto – “Toys for Future Innovators” – differentiates this brand from the majority of toys targeted to young girls. It's been awhile since we've seen astronaut or doctor Barbie, and even in the old days, professional Barbie seemed more like a costume than a call to a professional identity. The Goldie Blox packaging is "cute", and features Goldie with her big sparkling eyes, but the visuals aren't as saturated in pink glitter, butterflies, and rainbows as typical girls’ toys. Ditto the colors and typography, which are fun and engaging without going overboard. And they know how to use the digital space wisely. Last year, Goldie Blox put out an ad spot that went totally viral. The video showcases three young girls who are totally bored with the frills of their current girly toys. Inspired, they use everything from a pink feather boa to a spinning Barbie to build a multi-layered "Princess Machine" inspired by the Rube Goldberg Machine beloved by who? Boys and men! Take that, guys!


Debbie Sterling, Goldie Blox CEO (and real life mechanical engineer) has definitely seized a market opportunity. Growing up in a small town, Sterling didn’t even realize that engineering was something that existed, let alone something she could do. Since getting her degree, she realized that if she didn’t know her options, lots of other little girls didn’t know theirs, either. Consequently, her brand has been lauded as a feminist brand but also criticized for the same reasons. This is one reason I always say that when you approach brand analysis, you need to come at it from a neutral perspective, and see in a pure way what the brand has to tell you. This is the basis of being a good brand analyst.

No matter what your politics, the whole world should be presented to young girls, so that playtime encourages them to become strong, thinking young women. You can be a princess, dress up, wear pink, and still be an engineer. Goldie Blox encourages girls to be  multi-faceted people; both "girly" and smart. As Sterling said, "We believe that femininity is strong and girls will build the future — literally." Is everything perfect? Have we finally reached the pinnacle of gender equality? Has Goldie Blox totally revolutionized the toy industry? Of course not. However, the conversation has started; moves are being made, and that’s just as important. And from a branding perspective, it’s always good to be first out of the gate in claiming a new space. Education is always required; think of Apple in the early days. And look where they are now!

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Social Media Mishaps and Your Brand: Think Before You Tweet

July 03 2013

                            Images via thinkprogress.org and metrocookinghouston.com

With all the news about Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, being lifted in California, people are bound to share their opinions on the matter. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion of course but shouldn’t certain individuals, such as CEO’s of large companies, be wary of what they say? Especially in today’s world where, with the help of social media, you can post something and millions will see it instantly. Of course you can delete an embarrassing picture or a few harsh words but nothing is ever really erased from the web.

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, turned to social media earlier this week. He tweeted, in light of the Supreme Court’s recent actions in regards to same-sex marriage, “Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen.” The tweet was deleted but as previously stated, once you put something out on the Internet you can never truly get it back.

Chick-fil-A immediately provided their own statement, which read, “Dan recognizes his views do not necessarily represent the views of all Chick-fil-A customers, restaurant owners and employees, so he removed the tweet to eliminate any confusion.” This rebuttal was a smart move on the company’s part; protecting their brand should be top priority. However it is too early to know for sure how much damage Cathy’s statement will end up creating.

This isn’t the first time Chick-fil-A has had to manage their brand image because of their CEO’s public, derogatory statements. About a year ago they dealt with the cover-up of a different but similar issue when Cathy shared his critique of the government’s dealings on same sex marriage laws. At that time, Chick-fil-A issued a follow-up statement that all members of the company do not hold their President’s views.

This past month, in particular, has been full of high-profile folks being careless with what they say. Well-known chef and television star, Paula Deen, was released from her contract with the Food Network due to racial slurs, which she openly admitted using. Her empire is estimated to lose 12.5 million dollars, which is pretty serious dough. Chick-fil-A might want to plan ahead for damage control. Brands have to be managed from the top down, and a CEO who is a loose cannon in public is bad for brand image.

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Pinning for Money and Fun in the USA and abroad

February 21 2013

How many of you are on Pinterest these days? It has become a vital tool for those of us who are highly visual, or in a visual profession, and who want a fluid and easy place to park their online image “scrapbook” for easy reference. Personally, I’m obsessed with it! In a funny way, I find that how I approach collecting images on specific topics and areas on Pinterest has much in common with the way that I edit photography for portfolios, books, websites, etc. I like to begin with a huge pull of images, frequently in the many hundreds, and then I am able to tunnel down into the core visual through-line in a photographer’s work. Now I'm doing the same for myself, and it’s a pleasurable exercise in collecting and editing.

Many American brands and retailers are also very much on board with Pinterest. In interviews, they state again and again that Pinterest is driving sales in a quantifiable way that they don’t necessarily see in other social media. It allows consumers to paste and share products in an appealing way, and to go back to their scrapbook, have a holistic view of the things that they love, and then to easily purchase the products they’ve pinned. Sometimes it’s not so easily quantifiable, as consumers frequently use Pinterest as a research tool which might then indirectly drive a purchase through looking at their own, or other pinners, collection of aspirational fashion or home décor or design images. Pinners are also repinning other images they find on Pinterest, or pinning from all over the online universe. Magazines have a strong roll to play in this environment, as they provide a great source of many aspirational images that then drive a more down-to-earth purchase.

Interestingly enough, in the course of my own time spent in pursuing images for my Pinterest board, I’ve found that it’s really difficult to pin from European home décor magazines. Whereas most American magazines have made a major push into providing ancillary and original content on their websites, most of the European magazines I visited online are far behind. They seem to see the online environment as one in which they should hold back content and force (or frustrate) the consumer into buying the print magazine. I’m curious to know how that’s working for them. Is World of Interiors more successful at retaining their print subscribers with their opaque website than a comparable magazine like Architectural Digest, which is making at least some content of value available? I don’t know, but I can say that in the new Pinterest world, I find myself more interested in interacting with brands that make my pinning most inspirational and easiest. 

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