Photo of Mattell's barbie doll posed on a bench in a like green shirt and navy blue pants. Mattel and Bratz were in a heated lawsuit over copyright infringement. BARBIE WENT TO WAR

The WSJ published an excellent book review called “When Barbie Went to War.” It provides a comical overview of Mattell’s battle with MGA over copyright infringement after MGA released its Bratz dolls.

Since the WSJ requires a subscription, please email me if you’d like to read a copy of “When Barbie Went to War”.

Interesting thing #1: Barbie was a rip-off of a German doll that was modeled after a comic strip prostitute, explaining much about Barbie’s proportions.

More interesting is how MGA really just beat Mattell at its own game of pushing less than child-friendly dolls.

Mattel’s CEO was actually heard to say: “How dare they make a doll even sluttier than ours!”

OK – I made that up :). But I suspect he probably thought that.

Anyway, the best part, at least to me, was this statement near the end of article: “[It] is a cautionary tale for dominant companies at the top of the food chain: Don’t lean too heavily on lawsuits to deter smaller rivals rather than investing in original, fresh ideas.”

MGA Made the Better Taco

I loved the above statement about fresh ideas b/c Seth Godin (yes, Seth Godin again) just blogged about the need to keep improving, rather than building moats to protect yourself. MGA’s doll refreshed the decades-old Barbie look, while Mattel focused on preserving what had once worked for sales. Mr. Godin’s short blog is below.

In a competitive business like the local taco shop, here’s how it’s supposed to work:

Keep the place clean

Hire friendly staff

Make better tacos

Offer a fun, connected, even memorable experience

What often happens instead is that you coin some clever trademarks, worry about coupons, cut corners on ingredients and expand as fast as you can. What happens is that you build a moat around your business, get defensive about the status quo and race to the bottom. You’re generic now, and you fight the battles that being generic forces you to fight.

And it’s not just a business that makes tacos. It’s monopolistic internet access, freelance graphic design and everything in between.

When in doubt, make better tacos.


Jay Voorhees
Founder/Broker | JVM Lending
(855) 855-4491 | DRE# 1197176, NMLS# 310167

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