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Should Mattel create a bald Barbie?

More than 100,000 people on who have 'liked' the Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Facebook Page think it should, presenting Mattel with both a challenge and opportunity.

As detailed by Marketing Magazine, the Page's creators, Rebecca Sypin and Jane Bingham, had contacted Mattel with their idea (a bald Barbie) over the holidays, suggesting that it would be a great way to help and show respect for girls who are suffering from hair loss due to illness. Not surprisingly, Mattel responded with a standard response about not accepting unsolicited product ideas.

So Sypin and Bingham turned to Facebook, where their Page now has nearly 138,000 likes. That has forced Mattel to respond with a little more thought. According to a company spokesman, "We are honoured that Jane Bingham and Beckie Sypin believe that Barbie could be the face of such an important cause. Mattel appreciates and respects the passion that has been built up for the request for a bald Barbie doll."

The toymaker, however, is still mum on whether it's going to take Sypin and Bingham's suggestion and turn it into a real product.

On one hand, it's obvious that companies can't follow through on every product suggestion. Mattel probably receives thousands of Barbie-related idea submissions every year, some of which are at least decent on the surface. On the other hand, in this case, a bald Barbie seems like a no-brainer. The Barbie brand is iconic, and for many girls, a customary part of the childhood experience. It's hard to see a downside for Mattel to show support for girls who are fighting through illness, particularly when so many individuals have taken to Facebook to support the idea.

That point may be the most important for brands grappling with the impact of social media and product development. When a significant number of customers (and prospective customers) indicate that they're interested in a product idea, it's not just worth listening to it -- it's worth seriously considering it. And showing that you're seriously considering it.

Patricio Robles

Published 23 January, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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