There are, it is claimed, more than three Barbie dolls sold every
second – contributing to a worldwide haul of around $3.6 billion in
retail sales every year for Mattel's iconic toy.
surprise, then, that toy manufacturers have searched long and hard for
a doll that might take even a small percentage of that business away
from Barbie, when capturing even one percent of her sales would result
in a $36 million dollar windfall.
Since the turn of the
century, a new sector has emerged in the international doll market that
may eventually prove to be Barbie's toughest challenger yet for the
hearts and coins of young girls: Islamic dolls.
HELLO DOLLY. Islamic dolls originated in part from a desire on
the part of authorities in the Arab world to stop Muslim girls from
seeing Barbie and her Western counterparts as aspirational role models.
In Iran, for example, two Islamic dolls – Dara and Sara – were launched
in the hope of providing more culturally suitable toys for Islamic
girls. But it wasn't until 2003, when Syrian-based New Boy Toys created
Fulla, that Islamic dolls were marketed to the masses.
Within 18 months of her launch, Fulla was the biggest-selling doll in
the Middle East – and New Boy one of the region's biggest spenders on
advertising. In 2007, the company spent close to $100 million on
marketing, according to Ipsos Stat. The majority was spent on promoting
Fulla (and the figures don't include the sums spent on the Fulla
animated TV series). The doll is now hailed internationally as the
"Arabic" or "Islamic" Barbie.
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