In a move advancing the long-promised concept of mass-customization on the Internet, El Segundo-based Mattel Inc. last week unveiled a custom-made doll, a "friend of Barbie" that consumers can order on the Internet.
With the "My Design" doll, customers can pick the doll's eye color, hair color, hairstyle and skin tone. The body style is uniform. Customers also choose an outfit and a set of accessories, which are available only online.
Finally, the customer selects the "personality" of the doll, including her name, birthday, hobbies and interests.
"The girls who are getting this doll now are very much going to be the consumers of the 21st century," said Nancie S. Martin, director of online content for Barbie. "This is a peek at how products will be sold in the future."
The move is being watched by other toy companies as well.
"The customizing is really clever, but I'm not sure how appealing it is to the mass market," said Gina Beebe, senior vice president of girls marketing for Costa Mesa-based Playmates Toys.
While Mattel is using technology to sell traditional toys, Playmates is selling high-tech toys in traditional methods. Last week, it unveiled its Amazing Amy doll, which has a vocabulary of more than 10,000 phrases. Because the doll has an internal clock, she can engage in time-appropriate activities, such as brushing teeth before bedtime, and decline inappropriate ones, such as eating pizza for breakfast.
As a side note, the personality options on Mattel's new customizable doll include one that specifies with whom the doll enjoys spending time, including best friend, boyfriend and siblings. Notably absent, however, is an option for "husband," a decision that had been discussed at Mattel.
"We felt that parents would be creating the dolls for girls or the girls would be creating it for themselves as perhaps a manifestation for who they were," Martin said. "And we weren't sure if a husband belonged in that list or not."
Jonathan Gaw covers technology and electronic commerce for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7818 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.