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February 22, 2022

Analysis: The Popularity of Barbie

By Pattern Data Science / Amazon, Data Insights

It’s time to bust out the Dream House, the jet, and the convertible, because March 9th is National Barbie Day! America’s most iconic doll was invented in 1959 by businesswoman Ruth Handler after being inspired by a doll she spotted during a trip to Germany.

From the introduction of her longtime boyfriend Ken in 1961, to the launch of new body types in 2016 in response to decades-long criticisms surrounding the doll’s negative impact on body image, and on to efforts to expand the diversity of the product line– the Barbie brand has evolved a great deal over the past 62 years.

This year, in honor of National Barbie Day, we decided to do a deep dive into our data to learn more about America’s current relationship with Barbie.

Has the doll gotten less popular over the past few years? Which types of dolls and accessories are the most popular? Has the COVID-19 pandemic had any impact on demand for Barbie dolls? And what about National Barbie Day—does the unofficial holiday drive any additional demand?

Keep reading to find out the answer to these questions and more!

When is online demand highest for Barbie?

We started our analysis by examining online demand for Barbie as a general term throughout all of last year. Here’s how the week-to-week trend panned out:

As you probably expected, the holiday shopping season was by far the biggest time of year for Barbie. Online demand ramped up sharply during the last week of October, peaking during the week of December 12th.

It’s unclear what may have driven the surge in demand in mid-July, but it’s clear that Barbie is generally at its most popular in the latter half of the year.

National Barbie Day, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to really move the needle too much. Demand during the week of March 9th picked up slightly when compared to the previous week, but only to levels similar to what we see during the rest of March.

For an even better understanding of online demand for Barbie, we next examined monthly demand over the previous 3 years.

Here we see that last year was actually a fairly strong year for Barbie, with demand remaining consistently higher throughout most of the year than either of the previous two years.

Comparatively, both 2020 and 2019 saw demand drop much more during the spring months, only to experience a slower increase during the summer and fall. But while last year saw the most consistently high demand, the 2020 holiday shopping season represented the high point across all three years.

Of course, the Barbie brand includes far more than the doll itself, so let’s dive even deeper into the data to see if these trends hold true for Barbie accessories, dream mansions, movies, and more

A closer look at online demand for Barbie dolls, accessories, and more

Now that we’ve examined the trends for Barbie as a complete brand, let’s see how some of the most popular items and accessories compare. We’ll start by comparing total demand in 2021 to see which items and accessories are the most popular overall.

As you’d expect, the dolls still drive by far the most demand—a full 64% more than the next most popular item, the Barbie Dream House. Barbie clothes weren’t far behind the Dream House, putting those two items in a tier of their own.

From clothes there’s a significant drop to the fourth most popular item in our analysis, Barbie Movies, a popular series of about 40 animated films. Barbie Car rounds out the top five, edging out boyfriend Ken.

To see if some of these most popular items and accessories experience the same kind of trends as the brand at large, we next compared the change in monthly demand for each.

Once again, the holiday shopping season is absolutely huge for Barbie items and accessories. Only Barbie movies, which see their demand peak in the dog days of August, didn’t experience the bulk of their demand during the months of November and December.

Barbie dolls and the Barbie Dream House both experienced the biggest boosts in demand during the holidays, with the Dream House peaking in November, while dolls continued to surge into December.

Interestingly, Barbie clothes and Ken dolls both started the year with demand up above the annual average, perhaps as kids look to fill out the big Dream House they got on Christmas morning.

Let’s close out by taking a look at the long term trends for some of these top accessories and items.

Interestingly, demand for Barbie dolls as a specific item actually saw demand at its highest in 2020, while 2021 saw demand drop below 2019. It’s important to qualify that queries for “Barbie” were far more common than specific queries for “Barbie Doll” – so it’s possible that 2021 simply saw more people searching for Barbies with a more generic query than in previous years.

Either way, all three years did see very similar trends, with demand slowly increasing and peaking during the holiday months.

It’s a similar story for the Barbie Dream House, with the 2020 Holiday shopping season rising well above both 2019 and 2021. All three years saw November rank as the top month of the year, but November 2020 saw demand up 44% more than either other year.

Barbie movies saw demand pick up when the pandemic hit in March of 2020, no doubt as millions of parents suddenly found themselves needing to help entertain a house full of socially distancing children. That increase in popularity held into 2021, which saw even higher demand throughout most of the year.

A lesson for brands

It’s clear that the holiday shopping season is crucial for Barbie dolls and accessories. The brand sees the majority of its demand fall during the months of November and December, although for some accessories and items we do see demand begin to pick up as early as late summertime.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, get in touch today.

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