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Kai Ryssdal:Time and business opportunities wait for no one. That’s the lesson to take out of this next story. I can’t actually remember this myself, but I am reliably told that back in the early 80s, there was a doll that was especially big. Strawberry Shortcake she was called. To celebrate her 30th anniversary, Hasbro has gone and given her a makeover and sent her off to Comic-Con to win some new fans, and in the process, totally messing with Sally Herships’ memories of her childhood.
Sally Herships:This is the Strawberry Shortcake I remember:
Strawberry Shortcake: Wow, my shortcake recipe won, I’ve been selected as one of two finalists in the big bake-off!
In case you don’t know her, Strawberry Shortcake the doll, wears a pinafore with green-and white-striped tights. She looks sweet, like Raggedy Anne. I’m a big fan. So when I found out about her makeover, I was excited — until I saw the new doll. She has super-long hair, a pink miniskirt and plays a strawberry-shaped guitar.
New Strawberry Shortcake singing
Not who I think of as Strawberry Shortcake. I went to talk to Cassie Mogilner. She’s a marketing professor at Wharton now, but when she was little, she had Strawberry Shortcake sheets. I asked her what she thought of Strawberry’s new look.
Cassie Mogilner: She is fashionable, which is definitely not what I remember Strawberry Shortcake being.
Herships: What do you think the 1980s Strawberry would say if she saw the Comi-Con special, limited edition Strawberry Shortcake?
Mogilner: I think she’d be intimidated by her and probably wouldn’t even approach her in the playground, ’cause she’s too cool. I wouldn’t say hot, ’cause she still looks young, but she’s definitely grown up a bit.
I asked Hasbro, which makes Strawberry Shortcake, why they were going with this new look. They said they wanted to appeal to contemporary kids. So I decided to talk to some. I checked in with kids at Comic-Con where the new doll made her debut. Charlotte and Abigail and Christina, who’s a bit older, are fans.
Charlotte: I want the new one, because I like it.
Abigail: I think the new look is a lot cuter than the old look, ’cause it has more accessories and it’s just overall cuter. And the head’s a lot smaller.
Christina: It still has that essence of Strawberry Shortcake — it smells, it still has the pink and the red. She looks like the traditional doll, just grown up into the modern age.
So maybe Strawberry’s new look is working for her. Cassie Mogilner says it’s all about making sure the essence of her brand stays intact.
Mogilner: All the thoughts and feelings, all the associations that come to mind when you hear the brand’s name or you see the brand’s logo.
But successfully changing a brand while keeping old customers loyal isn’t easy. Tim Calkins is a professor of branding at Kellogg School of Business. He told me about a classic example of a brand change gone wrong, Oldsmobile.
Oldsmobile ad: This is how. This not your father’s Oldsmobile.
“This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” This was a new slogan meant to attract new customers. I’ll let Calkins tell you why this campaign bombed.
Tim Calkins: The problem, of course, was that the cars didn’t change dramatically. So people looked at them, the young people did, and they said, “Well that actually is my father’s Oldsmobile.”
And then the older customers said, well, I guess it’s not my brand anymore.
Calkins: And then all of a sudden, now you’ve lost everything. Because you’ve lost the old folks, you didn’t resonate with the young people and you basically just killed it.
I wouldn’t want that to happen to Strawberry Shortcake, so I asked Calkins if he had any advice for her re-branding.
Calkins: Strawberry Shortcake is who she is. But, by the same token, I think she can get out every once in a while. I guess it’s OK to get out from under your strawberry on occasion. Just don’t go too far from home.
Has Strawberry gone too far from home for me? When I look at the new doll I have mixed feelings. Part of me wants her to stay who she was, but, I guess if she’s going to make it in the modern world, she has to change with the times.
I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.
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