While in Chicago this weekend I brought my seven-month-old daughter to the American Girl place. I’m pretty against the kind of commercialism that American Girl dolls encourages, so I figured it’d be good to take her there now while she won’t remember it.
I didn’t know a whole lot about the American Girl phenomenon, and I won’t pretend to be an expert after having visited one store. But I will say that I am amazed at how well that brand has perfected content marketing.
If you know anything about American Girl dolls, then you know I’m not saying anything new. You’ll just have to forgive me. As a new dad, this whole franchise was foreign to me.
For those who don’t know, American Girl dolls are, at first glance, simply grossly overpriced toys. But take a second look and suddenly you get it.
It’s not the doll.
It’s the story.
Each American Girl doll comes with a story. Kitt is from New York and wants to be a writer when she grows up. So-and-so grew up during the Great Depression and is working as an actress to help pay the bills. Etc. Etc.
American Girl’s primary value isn’t in the doll. It’s in the story. But because they’ve invested so much in the stories, they’re able to spin off a hundred different products from it.
And once you’ve visited the American Girl Place in Chicago, it all clicks. Books. Videos. Movies. A magazine. You name it.
They probably have an iPhone app.
(UPDATE: They don’t. But they do have an online university where girls can go to play games and different activities online.)