Hasbro's Increased Sales Of Girls' Toys Is A Result of 'Girly' Branding, And That's Not A Good Thing
Friendship is magic, and so are Little Pony's sales numbers. Hasbro, one of the largest toymakers in the world, posted impressive first-quarter earnings Monday, driven almost entirely by Hasbro's significant sales growth of girls' toys — or, those traditionally intended for girls. In fact, girls' toys sales rose 21 percent to nearly $140 million, in line with last year's sales, whereas the boys' category only saw an increase of about 2 percent. The massive spike in sales was driven primarily by My Little Pony and Nerf Rebelle.
This is particularly intriguing given the contrasting nature of the two toys: whereas My Little Pony is a line of magical, adventurous ponies that tout the importance of friendship, Nerf Rebelle is heralded by Toys R Us as "THE sports action brand built specifically for girls."
My Little Pony is a surprisingly long-lived franchise, with its history extending back to the 1980s when the first little pony was released. Twenty years ago, the ponies were just that - equestrian animals with brightly colored bodies and manes. But today, the dolls have evolved to take a more humanistic form, and they've also begun to conform increasingly to pop culture's perceptions of beauty.
Following My Little Pony's reemergence and return to popularity following the “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” TV show, Hasbro decided to release a new line of products, entitled Equestria Girls. These new dolls are no longer horses, but rather teenaged girls in high school, though they retain the same features and characteristics. John A. Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief marketing officer, told the New York Times, “We are responding to the desire by our fans to experience the brand in more ways.”
And while the motivation behind Equestria Girls is strategic, it does seem to reinforce the sharp divide between girls' and boys' toys. As per a press release associated with the initial presentation of Equestria Girls, the dolls were described as "stylish," "ultra-chic," and altogether glamorous. While My Little Pony may have begun as a series about friendship, it has undeniably evolved to become more of a Barbie-type fad, with young women are being made more interested in the wardrobe and makeup choices of the characters than their less cosmetic messages.
Equestria Girls was another major driver of the increase in girls' toys sales, which seems to suggest that this glamorization of the dolls is certainly hitting its target audience. But although these toys are generally marketed towards a female audience, there have been continuing reports of a growing male fan contingency for My Little Pony. Bronies, the affectionate name given to male fans of the series, were closely examined in the 2010 documentary “Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.” According to the documentary, the average male adult fan of My Little Pony is in his mid-twenties, and are drawn to the show and its characters because of the valuable life lessons they offer.
And as for Nerf Rebelle? Well, the line explores an entirely different dimension of girls' toys. The line of bows and darts are clearly marketed towards girls, with the entire line colored traditionally feminine shades of pink and purple. And while the product might be trying to show girls that they, too, can be interested in action toys and not just Barbie dolls, the bows are undeniably girly. The name itself, "Rebelle," has been feminized, because apparently, a "Nerf Rebel" simply wouldn't appeal to young ladies.
But according to Hasbro Global Chief Marketing Officer John Frascotti, the design of the bows is exactly what girls wanted. Frascotti told Entertainment Weekly, "[We] talked to young girls, found out what they wanted, and then designed a line of products that addressed that opportunity."
And Hasbro has certainly done an excellent job of finding out what their audience wants, considering these first-quarter earnings. The girls' toys might not be doing much to advance feminism, but they're certainly flying out the stores.