Monster High dolls are currently the second best selling in the world — second only to the queen herself, Barbie. Did we mention that the dolls of Monster High all happen to be goth?
Children have only recently had access to the “alternative” scene. Think about it — the majority of toddlers are cutesy boy, girly girl or one of those kids whose room is painted yellow, an in betweener. Then you have the child set — we don’t know the exact demographics, but let’s say ages 5-12 — they’ve always had a bit more variety as development brings along preferences and personality, but typically that variety would exist within the mainstream. All of the super popular, gotta have ‘em toys of the Clinton era kids were non-confrontational and of course very PC as we were up to our necks in politically correctness at the time — think Furby, Pokemon, Tickle Me Elmo, Tamagotchi and Nano pets, Pogs, those amazing Sky Dancers and of course the iconic Beanie Babies. But now we’re seeing a pretty adult concept being splayed across a child’s toy and not only is it selling, it’s the second best selling in the world.
Tweens have long been a marketing gold mine. The demographic is made up of 20 million 8-12 year olds in the United States alone and that number is projected to hit 23 million by 2020. The categorization is new though — marketing experts formerly clumped all humans under 12 in the child sector but now, with the buying power of these opinionated pre-pubescents, they are getting more aimed at them than ever — and that means more choices, new options and an endless array of ways to express their budding consumer selves. Child and adolescent psychologist Dave Verhaagen of Charlotte explains that tweens have “their own sense of fashion in a way we didn’t have before and their own parts of the popular culture targeted toward them.” Justin Beiber, the Harry Potter franchise, One Direction, Hannah Montana and the rest of the Disney Channel stable — the list goes on and on. At a time in life when fitting in and being cool is of the utmost important the buying pressure gets hiked up to warp speed. This is a time when kids start to realize a world exists outside their parents’ home and they have to figure out how they fit within it.
For girls a lot of the figuring out part comes from aligning with certain role models — which essentially means, now more than ever, pop stars or various other celebrities. They crave inspiration for what their future, teenage self should be. And in pop culture the past few years the overriding message has been BE YOURSELF, BE DIFFERENT — and the Monster High message, according to Cathy Cline head of marketing for Mattel’s girls brands, just happens to be “celebrate your own freaky flaws.” Although tweens are dying to blend it, they also want to be recognized for their personal style and having their own “things” (“That’s SO you!”). So when it comes to the popularity of the alt scene goth barbie dolls, it makes sense. They’re still super skinny and ultra glam like Barbie, just in a totally weird, like unique way. For example, Draculaura, Dracula’s teeny bopper daughter, comes from one of the world’s most infamous vampires, but she’s soo not into blood, I mean, she’s a vegan! The dolls have tattoos, multi-colored hair and are given interests common among teenage girls — rockabilly, snowboarding, environmental activism and the like — and their wardrobe is off the wall…and kind of slutty to be a 6 year olds best friend.
No one expected the line to take off. Especially the experts. Toy analyst Gerrick Johnson was skeptical when he first was introduced to the dolls at their debut in 2010, “I didn’t think it would work. Why does Barbie work? Barbie works because she’s aspirational. Girls want to be like Barbie.” Unfortunately for Barbie her sales have been on a steady decline. And with all of our major pop stars acting out so much recently it really doesn’t come as much of a surprise. If Barbie is Britney Spears, then the Monster High ghoulfriends are Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha — more relevant, more fun. Monster High is emblematic of the shift that going on with youth culture and goes to show that the true childhood years — you know, when Santa just might exist and life’s biggest problem is how annoying your little sister is — are dwindling.