There are few intellectual properties that command such instant brand recognition and cultural impact as Mattel’s Barbie franchise. Often cited as not only the most popular but also the most stylish toy in the world, the fashionista doll can still make the hearts of both kids and adults beat faster—despite being on the market for over 60 years.
With such an undying interest, it’s no surprise that Mattel has dedicated a whole reward system to the Barbie franchise—called Barbie Signature—built upon special privileges and access to member-exclusive dolls. So, let’s explore the glamorous world of the Barbie loyalty program!
Feeling inspired to spice up your future or existing loyalty program with VIP rewards? Our ebook lays out the fundamentals for you.
Enrollment – This Barbie Wants to Be a Loyalty Program Member
Just like most important things in the world, becoming a part of the Barbie fan club doesn’t come for free. Fans of the franchise have to pay $9.99 per year to gain entry into the program. Keep in mind that the Barbie loyalty program is an optional add-on to the Mattel profile.
In other words, one can set up an account on Mattel’s site (for free). The enrollment steps are delightfully short and require very little information up front.
With this account, they can visit the general forums and purchase non-exclusive products from all the intellectual properties, including Barbie and Hot Wheels. The Barbie membership needs to be purchased just like any other product. Only then is the exclusive access granted to the Barbie Signature content.
Membership Page – Show the World Where You Belong
One drawback of Mattel’s approach to its loyalty program is the absence of a dedicated membership page. When purchasing the Barbie Signature membership add-on, access is granted to a variety of content and activities that would otherwise be locked or hidden. However, the site lacks a central loyalty program page that would serve as a hub for easy access to all VIP privileges. Furthermore, Mattel does not offer a dedicated smartphone app that would allow Barbie fans to interact with the program while on the go.
Tips to try:
- Design your loyalty program’s membership page with the following in mind: it not only has to summarize what a member can do, but also make day-to-day interactions, such as reward redemption, smooth and engaging.
- Loyalty apps are a worthwhile endeavor because they open up new touchpoints with customers. They are an easy way to identify customers during in-store purchases, and brands can use their apps to send push notifications too.
Program Structure – Live Your Dream
In essence, the Barbie Signature membership is a subscription-based loyalty program. Those who opt-in by paying the membership fee receive instant and unlimited access to all of the available benefits. Because the membership comes as a purchasable “add-on” to the general Mattel account, there are no free or trial versions.
As a reward for their commitment, Barbie fans who opt to join are treated to a truly high-end experience. All the benefits revolve around special privileges and VIP treatment. Belonging to the “Barbie elite” and having early access to special releases before the general public is certainly well worth the initial entry fee for fans and collectors.
Tips to try:
- Although paid or subscription programs tend to generate a higher initial ROI, free loyalty programs attract a wider audience of customers who can be nurtured into high-value customers over time.
- If you want to have the best of both paid and free systems, consider implementing a freemium loyalty program. Members can join for free, but the flashiest rewards are reserved for premium (paid) members.
- When running a paid program, consider giving customers a valuable one-time reward upon joining, like a coupon or gift. Doing so provides instant gratification for members, giving them the immediate feeling that their investment was worth it.
Point Accrual – Get Your Sparkle On
In addition to being a privilege-centric subscription program, Barbie Signature also features a perk structure. This means that the program does not utilize tiers and point-earning systems. Instead, it provides unrestricted access to all available benefits. This aligns seamlessly with the pay-to-enter nature of the membership. Furthermore, the unlimited scope of the reward program serves as a fair trade-off for the membership fee, making it a win-win situation for both Mattel and its customers.
However, the absence of points and tiers poses a potential risk of diminishing interest over time since individuals lack specific goals to aim for. To prevent stagnation and maintain the renewal of Barbie fans’ memberships, it’s essential to consistently refresh the individual rewards. For example, the selection of membership-exclusive dolls should be updated regularly, or there should be other features, such as community content, that justifies coming back time after time.
Tips to try:
- If you are running a freemium program, opt for a hybrid model: Utilize points and tiers to engage members of the free program, while treating premium members to an unrestricted perk-based experience.
- If you want a purely perk-based loyalty program, you can still deploy hidden mechanics to nurture your audience. For example, put members into secret tiers based on their activity. Those who show signs of a higher lifetime value should be subtly rewarded, such as receiving better birthday gifts or more personalized communication.
- Badges, challenges and community elements compliment the tiered structure really well, as they not only spice up interactions with the reward system, but they also excel at shaping customer behavior by building a meaningful relationship.
Rewards – Come on Barbie, Let’s Go Party
The Barbie Signature membership program has a large collection of VIP benefits:
- Member exclusive dolls and merch: On the product page, there are certain Barbie-branded dolls that are available for loyalty program members only
- Priority sales access: Barbie fan club members have priority access to sales periods, meaning they can grab their favorite dolls before they go public
- Voting privileges: The membership provides a say in how certain Barbie dolls are designed through community votes (however, voting opportunities have been rather sparse in recent years)
- Exclusive content and forum access: Being a part of Barbie Signature means that you receive special notifications from the brand before sales begin, and you are able to interact with other esteemed members in the insider forums
Overall, the whole experience focuses on giving special privileges to members, but nothing else. Generally, loyalty program members have different preferences when it comes to rewards. Some seek out privileges like what Mattel offers, while others look for financial incentives, experiential rewards or partner gifts. Standing on more than one leg would help the brand cater to a wider audience.
Running a membership program that focuses on privileges comes with the responsibility of treating your customers well. Frequent communication with members is paramount, and you have to make sure they can properly capitalize on early access opportunities.
Community – Show Your True Colors
As mentioned, one of the perks of being a Barbie Signature member is the access to the VIP Barbie forums. In practice, this means that some posts on the forums are highlighted with black, where highlighted with a black background, and they can be only read (and reply to) by fellow premium members. Additionally, there are some official announcements and sneak peeks by Mattel’s staff that are only visible for paid members.
Though the initiative is commendable, there are definitely ways it could be taken to the next level. Besides the exclusive access, Mattel could have a system to reward community members and influencers for regularly sharing content, posts and ideas to make the forums more alive. Also, having a dedicated staff member frequently interacting with others in the forums would also add to the value of being a premium member. Showing Barbie fans that their voice matters would be especially important in a membership program focussing on community and premium (paid) benefits.
Web 3 & NFT – Barbie Goes to the Moon!
There’s one noteworthy element of the Barbie experience that deserves mention, though it’s not strictly related to the Signature membership. The new initiative features cross-promotional NFTs (called Virtual Collectibles) tied to Mattel’s intellectual properties. The first Barbie related NFT was a collaboration with Boss Beauties, depicting the iconic doll in various professions.
A limited-time deal, the first Barbie NFT release could be bought as packs, each featuring four random-generated cards of varying rarities. As the name Virtual Collectibles implies, these NFTs were to enrich the portfolio of Barbie fans, as the pictures couldn’t be treated or sold — though the community came up with creative ways on how to bring their virtual Barbies to the real world.
NFTs are best to be used as part of a loyalty program, not a separate entity. That’s because NFTs function better as rewards that can be earned in a similar fashion to loyalty badges. Moreover, NFTs should be more than pretty collectibles. They need to have a function, a value. Starbuck’s NFT-infused loyalty program is a great example on how to do it right.
In Conclusion of the Barbie Signature Membership Program
Barbie Signature is an excellent example of a membership club that’s based on VIP treatment and special privileges. On the other hand, there are many aspects where the reward experience is lacking, compared to other loyalty programs.
On the plus side, having a membership program brimming with special privileges like early access and the power to vote on how the dolls are designed is truly fantastic, as these perks are what nurture attachment and foster brand advocacy.
On the downside, the membership program falls short in incorporating many elements of a comprehensive loyalty program that guarantee sustained and extended engagement. The system also lacks several signature features, including a dedicated membership page or a smartphone app. In a nutshell, Barbie Signature leaves numerous opportunities waiting on the (play)table.
Barbara is a Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional - CLMP. She is also a writing expert with several years of experience in marketing and also in the information technology industry. In her free time she likes traveling the world, reading crime stories, and doing crossword puzzles.