As moviegoers flocked to “The Barbie Movie” this summer, Nadia Effendi B’09 — as senior manager of Barbie Global Marketing at Mattel, Inc., — had a special seat.
Paying homage to the iconic queen of pink, Effendi even donned a wig and a colorful signature Barbie-esque outfit.
Mattel rented a theatre so many of its employees were able to get together and celebrate what quickly grew into a more than billion dollar-grossing movie and cultural phenomenon.
“That was really special,” she said. “There were so many jokes targeting Mattel, so it was fun to be in a theatre with all Mattel employees.”
Barbie has, since her inception, been working to close the gap that comes between girls and their full potential, and Effendi is proud to be associated with the 65-year-old beloved brand.
Although she isn’t directly involved in products related to the movie, she works with the fantasy line of Barbies (mermaids, unicorn girls, fairies, butterflies, etc.), so she knows the blood, sweat, and tears that, for example, go into launching the new “Weird Barbie.” And she is loving the resurgence of all things Barbie.
“It’s been incredible to see the response from fans, from consumers,” she said. “I think Barbie has been both beloved but also pretty judged over the years. So it’s fun to be able to poke fun at that but also reintroduce her and remind people of what Barbie was built for and meant to be. Sometimes that negative lens that we put on the doll is exactly the thing the doll was designed to fight against. It’s been cool to see that message resonating.”
Effendi said she loved the movie’s unapologetic message of woman empowerment. (Not so ironically, “The Barbie Movie” set a record for the highest–grossing movie to be solely directed by a woman, Greta Gerwig.)
“From a brand lens, there are so many reasons for boys to get into Barbie. Dolls teach empathy, so children of all genders and ages can learn from doll play, whether it’s Barbie or not,” she said. “But, when Barbie was first conceived, it was about ‘We’re for the girl, we’re here to inspire. We’re here to drive imagination and exploration for girls,’ because that didn’t exist in that way. We don’t all want to play mommy and homemaker all day, there are other stories to tell. I love that the movie shared that sentiment. We have empathy for you, Ken, and understand your perspective, and we want to give you space, but also we’re shutting it down.”
Although this resurgence is great, Effendi said the company must always be thinking long term. “The brand has been around for 65-plus years, and you don’t’ survive that long unless you evolve and continue to grow, and that’s one thing I love so much about the brand.
“With Barbie, we take diversity and representation very seriously. It is a pillar of our brand and what we stand for. We don’t only look at each doll individually, but at the line as a whole to make sure that the stories we are putting out there feel reflective of our communities and the world around us.”
Effendi said that Mattel does a lot of research on how consumers engage with the brand and how products are influencing perceptions, learning, and development. “It’s true that we’re developing toys all day, but when you understand the impact this doll has on the development of a child, that feels really empowering and exciting,” she said.
Prior to her work with Barbie, Effendi, an Electronic Publishing and Public Relations double major, worked in licensing for Disney and Pixar Animation properties at Disney Consumer Products.
At Disney, Effendi worked in various areas, gaining valuable experience in licensing and retail. Around 2018, she was leading Disney stores inside Target Stores, managing the needs of the “shop in shop,” and aligning Disney’s needs and Target’s needs to create a Disney experience inside Target retail stores.
After a few years, she decided it was time to try something new, and she was hired as manager of global brand marketing for Barbie. She began on the customized team, which looks across all the segments of Barbie and partners directly with retailers to develop exclusive products. In March, she was promoted and absorbed more responsibilities with the fantasy line.
She admits, as a Saint Mary’s student, she couldn’t have ever imagined having the career she’s had. “I feel like one thing I’m very proud of is being open to the opportunities and not being afraid of change and doing something that may be a risk or be difficult,” she said.
She credits one of her professors for supporting her and encouraging her to take her first career risk. “I would credit Dean Beckman for so much of my career, honestly.” she said. “I was at a fork in the road, I loved playing soccer but there was an opportunity to do an internship in Washington, D.C., my senior year. Had I stayed and played, I’d have had an amazing season, but going to Washington opened up doors for my future.”
“Because of that experience in D.C, I got a job in D.C. following my senior year, which sent me on this whole trajectory. It’s led to so many amazing moments. Without his encouragement, I don’t think I would be where I am. He had the vision.”
Just like Barbie can be anything, Effendi tells current students to have the confidence that they can too.
“Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know,” she said. “Don’t listen to ‘we’ve done this before’ or ‘this is the way that it’s always been.’ That’s never the right answer. Even if it didn’t work yesterday, today is a new day. Keep trying and putting yourself out there, ask questions, build relationships, and keep learning.”