“Hey guys. So… I woke up this morning feeling a little blue,” says a digitised version of the toy icon Barbie in her vlog series on YouTube. This particular video, published in 2016 called 'Feeling blue? You’re not alone' saw Barbie discussing mental health with her viewers. Last year in lockdown, the video received a revival, with TikTok users marvelling at Barbie’s representation of depression and low mood, and how something seemingly arbitrary created such an important message. A similar scenario has since occurred with another doll line, Bratz, who recently released a collaboration with Puma. With Yasmin, Jade, Cloe, and Sasha modelling the collection, it became clear that Bratz was a marketing force to be reckoned with.
The marketing of the Bratz is reminiscent of digital influencers, which have been appearing over the past few years. The most known of these accounts is Lil Miquela, an Instagram account first created in 2016 by Trevor McFedries and Sara DeCou. Since then, Miquela has released music, modelled for Balmain, and been featured in Vogue. In essence, Miquela has experienced the same fate as many ‘real’ influencers — and yet, the question of ethics should be raised. Tiffany Ferg in her video CGI Influencers raises the issue of these ‘fake’ influencers actively taking money from ‘real’ influencers when they engage in brand deals. “I used to believe that performers and artists, including content creators, were kind of safe from the threat of automation,” she says in her video. “Every time a digital influencer is hired for a campaign, that is directly taking money away from real, human creators.”
However, there is a difference between doll icons becoming digital influencers, and companies creating personas to engage in influencer marketing. With the 20th anniversary being this year, MGA has revived the Bratz brand — and arguably, the best way of this being successful is by keeping up with the changing world. Social media has exploded in the past ten years, and for Bratz to reboot successfully, they must adapt to the new environment. Customers of Bratz collaborations (such as Puma, or the Revolution Beauty line) are not going to be children, but rather, adults that played with the dolls growing up. Therefore, turning Bratz into Instagram superstars is what the brand needs to appeal to its customer base.
The underlying issue, however, is the fact that the success of influencers’ was in their relatability. YouTubers like Emma Chamberlain and Olivia Neill have seen most of their success by seeming like the everyday girl. Influencers, because they are real people, have an automatic level of trustworthiness, regardless if it is justified. If brands are using this trust as a means to create their own influencer to sell products, does this take away the original appeal of influencers?
With Bratz in mind, this is not specifically the case. Bratz are only digitising the dolls to sell their own collaborations, and to interact with their original fanbase. This also divorces them from the problem of taking business away from ‘real, human creators.’
It isn't just influencers that are receiving the digitised treatment. The app Store Lens allows individuals a customised experience whilst in certain stores. The concept is simple: if, for example, it is raining outside, customers within a store can be notified of discounts on umbrellas. Store Lens describes this as ‘[bringing] the smartest of digital to the warm welcome of physical.’ With online shopping being the main factor behind the death of the high street, customised shopping experiences like this could help revive it.
‘Bratz completely disrupted the industry at the time,’ said MGA’s Jasmin Larian. Perhaps in the upcoming years, Bratz’ history of disruption will help change the horizon of social media, and the image of being an influencer.
The re-release of the Bratz Rock Angels collection is available on Amazon UK.
Edited by Lucy Eaton