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Good and Bad PR: Why we love Barbie

Good PR

Toy manufacturer Mattel has received high praise for its latest doll designs in its Barbie Fashionistas line, which celebrate diversity and “reflect the world girls see today”.

The line now includes a doll with vitiligo, a condition which causes patches of skin to lose pigment, and a doll with no hair, to represent those suffering from hair loss for any reason and the freedom to make personal choices about their appearance and style.

The two new designs have generated a plethora of positive media coverage for Mattel and the days of Barbie being all blonde hair, miniscule waist and highly unrealistic beauty expectations are finally passing.

Barbie dolls can now be found in five different body types, 22 skin tones, 94 hair colours, 76 hair styles and 13 eye colours; and the latest update also sees the doll with a prosthetic limb available in a darker skin tone.

In recent years, Mattel has released the hijab-wearing Barbie, a hearing-impaired doll and a wheel-chair using doll, which is all fantastic progress in promoting diversity and inclusivity.

The most recent Ken doll has long hair and the Creatable World line of dolls launched last year featured six dolls of varying skin tones that were gender-neutral and free of labels, furthering the message of acceptance. Mattel has been applauded for these important developments and it’s a big feat for a brand that has previously been slated for such unrealistic beauty standards and stereotypes.

Bahamas National Trust
In other news, the Bahamas National Trust has teamed up with Airbnb to find people to go on a two-month sabbatical, where they will spend time on various islands that were hit by the devastating Hurricane Dorian. The successful applicants will spend time between Andros, Exumas, and Eleuthera, helping to restore the areas and will need to be willing to get stuck in to tasks like helping to restore coral reefs, ethical fishing and traditional agriculture.

Bad PR

OVO Energy
OVO energy has had an absolute ‘mare in the media of late, although entirely self-inflicted by the sounds of things. Despite its potential to become the second largest energy company after buying SSE’s retail business, it’s not all hunky dory for the supplier.

Ofgem, the energy watchdog, launched an investigation surrounding mistakes which saw OVO send inaccurate statements to more than half a million customers; with the incorrect bills leading to overcharging. OVO allegedly knew about these issues, but did not inform Ofgem.

The energy provider is now being forced to pay a £8.9m settlement package which will be paid to vulnerable customers, in order to dodge a fine.

Incorrect billing and, in some cases, bills not being sent at all, has meant that OVO has a lot to put right in order to recover its reputation and not impact consumer trust in the future. The investigation went back to failures since the summer of 2015, but thousands of customers were charged too much when OVO underestimated fuel usage of winter 2017.

At the extreme end of the scale, one customer was overcharged upwards of £4,500, but OVO took the decision to not refund customers if they’d only overpaid by £10 or less. The media coverage of this investigation and failures by OVO has been vast, which will no doubt lead to people questioning whether or not to use the energy provider in future. It will be interesting to see how this impacts customer retention and new customer numbers in the long-term, as 10-year-old OVO now has 5 million customers since the purchase of SSE.

Utility Warehouse also got caught up in the Ofgem investigation after overcharging customers because of a systems error, but their pay out was significantly less at £650,000.

Written by Shannon Peerless, managing director of 10 Yetis Digital. Seen any good or bad PR lately? You know what to do @10Yetis on Twitter or on email

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