Fail: Pussycat Dolls dolls

Posted on July 2, 2009


Melody of the Pussycat Dolls poses at Hasbro HQ.
A few years ago, Bratz dolls were all the rage. From MGA Entertainment, they were a big hit. They offered a fantasy of independence, personal style, and creativity – and yes, they were roundly criticized for overt sexuality.

Hasbro saw a market, and where there’s a market, there’s an opportunity. However, as with launching any brand, they needed a clear, significant difference – something to make their product stand out, to make it more desirable than any existing product. The solution? A licensing deal with the Pussycat Dolls.

Arguably, it’s a good idea. The Pussycat Dolls opened up not just dolls but games and other opportunities. They were a hot property, and clearly both significantly different from Bratz and completely recognizable.

The concern, of course, is that Hasbro is a family company with a wholesome image and the Pussycat Dolls, well, are something different from that.

So what brought that up? I was thinking about the strength of my personality and the work I’ve done to improve my communication skills. I speak much more diffidently now, not because I’m not sure or lack faith in my ideas, but because when I speak otherwise I tend to steamroller over other people. This way I get to solicit opinions and ideas from others, and form much more informed plans.

Then I wondered, why do we hire people who won’t or don’t fight for their ideas and opinions? We obviously do. I mentioned this train of thought to a co-worker, and she immediately knew someone like that. I’m sure you do too. It’s certainly better for me to be more solicitous of others, but if you believe in something you should be clear and emphatic about it.

Getting back to the Pussycat Dolls, I had to wonder if there wasn’t a lone voice howling in the wilderness of Mr. Potato Head, saying that the licensing deal was a bad idea. Then I had another thought. I wondered if, rather than fighting the tide, that lone voice had instead invited the Pussycat Dolls to corporate headquarters. The resulting photos, combined with protests from parent groups, ended the product line. CNN now lists it as one of the 101 dumbest business moves of all time. How much money would they have saved if their corporate culture sought out the lone voices?

Of course, that assumes that the Dolls and their management were passive actors in the whole thing. Clearly, they are extremely conscious of their intentionally crafted image. It’s entirely possible that they loved the idea of having their own “action figures,” and then the minutiae of the process drove them crazy and they purposely acted in ways designed to highlight the differences between their brand image and Hasbro’s brand image.
Like they used to say in the Tootsie-Pop commercials, the world may never know.
Posted in: Marketing