Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kim Kardashian and the 3Bs: Bild Lilli, Barbie & Bratz

A little history, a German cartoonist by the name of Reinhard Beuthien while working for the tabloid Bild-Zeitung created a character with a baby face. The story goes that his boss didn't like the character so Reinhard added a curvaceous body, a pony tail to the baby face and a saucy tongue and named the cartoon character "Lilli".
From June 1952-January 1961 the Lilli cartoon ran in the tabloid. Here is where it gets really interesting, the Lilli doll had a sassy attitude, side eyes (dolls that looked directly into eyes were considered bad), high eyebrows, pale skin, painted face with red lips, painted red nails and trendy attire. Lilli love to talk about sex and fashion. She was known for her sexy one liners. Due to the success of the cartoon and using Reinhard's original designs, Bild-Zeitung decided to have the Lilli doll made by Max Weissbrodt from the toy company O&M Hausser . The "Bild Lilli" doll was expensive in the German market and was not marketed to girls. It was sold at bars and cigarette shops as an adult toy a "gag gift". Hence a "sex doll".
The doll was sold from 1955 until 1964 when Mattel acquired the rights and the patents. Ruth Handler (co-founder of Mattel) bought 3 dolls while she was in Europe and had the dolls copied and improved upon at Mattel. In 1959 the new doll with removable shoes, earrings and rooted hair was introduced as "Barbie" to the toy market. In essence, Barbie was a clone of Bild Lilli with improvements that increased sales of accessories and continued to improve on the original design.
Another fascinating side note that the German doll Lilli was so popular that a film was made called "Lilli — ein Mädchen aus der Großstadt" (Lilli — a Girl From the Big City). Sound familiar (Sex and the City)?
What can we learn from all this? How did a German doll originally marketed to adults influence several generations to want to be vapid consumers, mostly interested in the latest trends, promiscuous sex and fashion? Blame it on the Barbie improving on Bild Lilli.
Like the Kardashians, Mattel is litigious on any competition or anyone that stands in their way of their brand. Mattel went after the Bratz dolls after the newer dolls gained a substantial market share. The Kardashians go after Kris Humphries after pushing him aside like an unwanted Ken doll. Barbie's target audience is 3 years and up whereas the Bratz dolls are 8 and up. Are the Kardashians a mixture of Bild Lilli, Barbie & the Bratz? .
Like a Saturday morning child's cartoon, each spin off Kardashian show is a half hour commercial for their Kardashian Brand in the guise of entertainment.
Fantasy World
Buying Whatever A Doll Wants
Allure of the perfect body
No real talent
Based on Looks
Identical to the Mattel strategy of Barbie and her predecessor Bild Lilli, The Kardashian brand is a fantasy world of plastic. As a result of the success of the original Reality TV show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Mother Manager Kris has branched out the brand to include accessories: shoes, clothing, purses, perfumes, alcohol and anything else that can bring in money and notoriety. It is also interesting to note that the Bild Lilli doll during its popularity branch out to sell a variety of products as well.

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