|Slogan||What’s Your Flava?|
Flavas is an American line of fashion dolls created by Mattel in 2003. They are multi-ethnic and have an urban, hip hop style with "bling-bling" jewellery and stick-on tattoos, described as "ghetto-fabulous" by Newsweek. They were designed to appeal to tweens (8- to 12-year-olds) and compete with the widely successful Bratz dolls. They were marketed as "reality-based" and "authentic" and have more points of articulation than traditional fashion dolls for more expressive posing. Flavas were criticized for being stereotypical, bad role models, and a misrepresentation of hip hop culture. Their multiculturalism was described as positive, and British analysts expected their "risqué nature" to translate to high sales. But following sales that were described as "disastrous" they were discontinued within a year.
The six Flavas dolls, Kiyoni Brown, Happy D, Tika, Liam, P. Bo, and Tre, are ethnically diverse and portray Hispanic, black and white people. They have an urban sensibility and are dressed in hip hop fashions. Their accessories include ghetto blasters, cell phones, "bling-bling" jewellery and stick-on tattoos. The packaging, which doubles as a doll stand, is designed as a wall painted with graffiti. Instructions on the box say: "Pull my street stand from the box, so I have a spot to hang out." Newsweek described them as "edgy" and "ghetto-fabulous". Marketed with a focus on self-expression and individuality, the Flavas dolls have more points of articulation than traditional fashion dolls. This allows for a wider range of posing and, according to Mattel, to express more "attitude". Each doll has a unique face sculpt and a different height, ranging from 10.5 inches to 11 inches. They were each released in two different styles and each style was packaged with two different outfits. The complex jointing and individual molds made the Flavas dolls more difficult to manufacture than most other fashion dolls.
Background and launch
By the late 1990s Mattel had dominated the fashion doll market since the 1959 release of their Barbie doll. At the 1997 peak they held more than 90% of the market. MGA Entertainment released Bratz in 2001. With big heads and pouty lips they appealed to the 8- to 12-year-old tween market group. Bratz achieved great success and gradually took over some of the more wholesome Barbie doll's market share. Meanwhile the market for Barbie grew younger. By 2003 the main market was 3- to 6-year-olds and Barbie's share of the fashion doll market had dropped to about 70%. In fall 2002 Mattel released My Scene, a line of redesigned Barbie dolls, in a bid to appeal to tweens and compete with Bratz. But they failed to reverse the company's faltering sales. Less than a year after the My Scene release, Flavas were launched in summer 2003 in a second attempt to appeal to the tween market and offer competition to Bratz. Production began only three months after Flavas were designed, and The New York Times described their launch as being rushed. The New York Times said that Flavas "appeared to be heavily inspired" by Bratz while Newsweek described Bratz as the "anti-Barbie" and Flavas as Mattel's "anti-Barbie of its own." Wall Street Journal commented that the Bratz success pushed Mattel to release Flavas in direct competition with its own Barbie dolls.
Flavas, which per Mattel should be pronounced FLAY-vuhz, were marketed with the slogan "What’s Your Flava?" Mattel described them as "the first reality-based fashion doll brand" with "authentic style, attitude and values." Jerry Bossick, a Mattel senior vice president said: "Older girls want a doll that represents realistic aspirations." Mattel representative Julia Jensen said: "Our research told us that a lot of young girls are now aspiring to the world of rap and hip-hop music." The song "What's Your Flava?" from R&B artist Craig David was used in Flavas television commercials, which aired during teen-targeted programming. Jensen said that "by aligning with a real song by an incredible artist like Craig David" they strengthened their position of "authenticity and reality." Coinciding with the US release, the Flavas brand sponsored Christina Aguilera's 2003 summer tour. In the UK Flavas were launched by the British hip hop group Mis-Teeq.
Reception and discontinuation
Kyra Kyles from the Chicago Tribune described the Flavas dolls as out of touch and questionable role models for children, calling them "unimaginative stereotypes" and saying that one of the dolls looks like a "drug-dealing pimp." Toy industry analyst Sean McGowan said that they look like "hip-hop as designed by committee." Raquel Wilson, editor in chief of hip-hop e-zine Verbalisms said: "They completely misrepresent the culture." Dr John Richer, a clinical child psychologist in Oxford, England said: "This has the same sort of flavour as beauty contests in America where little kids get dolled up as teenagers." Miriam Arond, the editor in chief of Child described the dolls' multiculturalism as positive: "a very nice way of helping children all over the country realize that people look many different ways." Several British toy industry analysts expected the Flavas dolls to sell well, one of them saying that "the risqué nature of these dolls would guarantee their success." But they sold poorly—Wall Street Journal described their results as "disastrous". According to AP some analysts believed Flavas were just "too edgy." Businessweek said that the "clunky jewelry and graffiti on the packaging ... scared away mothers and left kids cold." They ended up being taken off the market after less than a year. Several Mattel executives were let go following the discontinuation. Moe Tkacik of Slate described Flavas as "ridiculous, but in a cute way" and questioned if their hasty withdrawal had been premature, suggesting they could have found a niche market.
- "New Flava In Dolls: Barbies With Hip-hop Attitude". Sun Sentinel. July 30, 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "A Makeover of a Romance". The New York Times. February 9, 2006. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "Toys: Flavas Of The Week". Newsweek. August 4, 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "Meet the all-blinging, all-dancing hip-hop doll for hip six-year-olds". The Independent. 14 September 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "Flavas". Mattel. Archived from the original on July 24, 2003.
- "Volley of the Dolls". Wall Street Journal via Reading Eagle. July 19, 2003. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- "Barbie gets hipper, trendier to fight the competition". USA Today. November 22, 2002. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "Ads crank up the volume with tunes". USA Today. August 10, 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "Mattel's hip-hop Flava dolls flop". Chicago Tribune. August 14, 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "Bratz Maker Has the Holidays Wrapped Up". Los Angeles Times. December 25, 2003. Retrieved November 16, 2010.
- "Underdressed and Hot: Dolls Moms Don’t Love". The New York Times. October 26, 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "Mattel Hopes Barbie Facelift Will Show Up Younger Rivals". Wall Street Journal. October 21, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "Toy Companies And Stores Try To Win Back Tween Girls". Associated Press via Star-News. October 18, 2003. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
- "Not Much Fun and Games at Mattel". Businessweek. October 12, 2005. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
- "Five Ways Barbie Can Learn To Play With the Bratz". Slate. December 5, 2008. Archived from the original on November 10, 2010. Retrieved September 17, 2010.