Interview with Matt Brutocao, VP of Barbie Global Brand Marketing at Mattel

By Karim Amadeo

Matt Brutocao is VP of Barbie global brand marketing at Mattel, Inc. He will be a speaker at the 2023 ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference on October 10 to 12 in Las Vegas. ANA Director of multicultural and diversity initiatives, Karim Amadeo, recently sat down with Matt for a pre-conference interview in which they discussed the Barbie Evolution, from social impact to dolls who represent all walks of life to this summer's record-breaking theatrical release.

Below is the interview.

Why is it vital that multicultural marketing goes beyond representation?

Representation is table stakes in today's marketing world, and without an accompanying multicultural strategy you're missing out on so many opportunities to build your brand and grow your business. True multicultural marketing works toward making sure your marketing message both reaches the most diverse audience possible and, crucially, resonates with them.

Barbies represent over 35+ skin tones, 94+ hairstyles, and 9+ body types. How does Mattel re-energize a legacy brand to reflect today's world?

It's a never-ending mission that began with Barbie's inception and will continue as long as the brand exists. Barbie has always reflected culture and has often inspired it as well, and for us that means first and foremost making sure that our product line and content continue to expand representation across not only race and ethnicity but other dimensions as well. We have a year-long approach to diversity and inclusion in our product, content, franchise levers and outbound marketing.

A great example is the first Barbie doll with Down syndrome that we released earlier this year in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). It was incredibly important to us that the doll not only accurately represented a person with Down syndrome but celebrated the Down syndrome community – through Barbie's clothing, accessories and packaging. At every step of the way, we worked closely with a team at NDSS, which included individuals with Down syndrome, siblings, parents and others connected to the Down syndrome community who all provided input into developing this doll.

On top of this strong foundation, we look to partner with individuals and brands across a wide spectrum of culture that align with our values and are additive to our story. Our partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures and Greta Gerwig on Barbie is an obvious example, but some other recent initiatives include showcasing the legacies of inspiring historical women like Bessie Colman, the first Black and Native American female aviator, celebrating role model athletes like Naomi Osaka, the first Japanese tennis player to win a major title in a singles match and even commemorating iconic fictional characters like Supergirl.

What are the key action steps and/or practices that have helped your company improve the diversity within your marketing department?

Barbie is the most diverse doll line in the world and bringing that line to market absolutely requires a diverse marketing department. We've found great success making sure that our recruiting efforts reach a wide variety of potential applicants, partnering with organizations such as NCRF, Hamilton Scholars and STEM Advantage. We are also an E-Verify company which helps us to recruit and sponsor international students for our corporate internship programs, which along with international rotations within the company contribute to more globally diverse brand teams.

One of my favorite initiatives is Mattel's Future Leaders in Play (FLIP) program, which provides historically underrepresented students with a multi-day immersive experience in which they are introduced to life at Mattel through exposure to multiple business groups, technical and soft skills training, an alumni speaker series, career development workshops and a group project in which they develop a new toy or marketing plan. When we are representing an identity in the product line for which we do not have as much representation on the team, we work closely with our incredible Mattel Employee Resource Groups that span an array of identities, communities and allies. These groups partner together to host cultural events, forge connections and influence our product development.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity for multicultural marketers? And what are the missed opportunities?

It's a time of great change and that means great opportunity. Keep listening and keep trying new things. It's a missed opportunity not to test and learn multiple ideas on a small scale before putting significant investment behind the ones with the best ROI and impact.

What one thing can multicultural marketers do to increase the impact of their marketing?

This may sound simple, but remaining utterly true to your brand multiplies the effectiveness of your marketing and, by the same token, straying from your brand dilutes it significantly. Consumers can tell (consciously or subconsciously) when marketing is inauthentic to a brand and some multicultural marketing initiatives can fall into this trap. Find the strategy that aligns with your brand values vs. emulating what another brand has done successfully.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

This piece was originally published at MediaVillage.