My childhood came roaring back today in the form of a plastic doll.
The vice president of marketing for the American Girl company came to speak at my office today. I was excited, but I didn’t expect to feel giddy. As we walked down to the presentation, all the women under 30 were reminiscing about their own American Girl dolls and all the women over 30 were talking about their daughter’s American Girl dolls.
During the presentation, Shawn Dennis, American’s Girl’s marketing guru, shared videos, letters and stories from girls and women who felt stronger, smarter and better thanks to American Girl’s dolls, books and magazine. Strangely, I found myself tearing up as I listed to their stories. I was dumbstruck by my emotional reaction.
But it was simple really. They reminded me of myself at age 9 when I was in love with American Girl. I was introduced to the company when a glossy, huge catalog showed up at my house with huge photos of the dolls — Kirsten from 1854, Samantha from 1904 and Molly from 1944 — and details of their stories. I spent hours staring at its pages and imagining those girls’ lives. Soon I was checking the American Girl books out of the library and absorbing their tales of smart, spunky girls.
Of course I desperately wanted a doll. But $98 was a steep price. For months I saved money from my first job — cleaning my dad’s engineering office — in a coffee can bank. Finally I was able to order Kirsten, the Swedish immigrant doll with blond hair, blue eyes and accessories like a school bench made of a log and a St. Lucia’s wreath. I adored her. I still have her.
I grew up before the American Girl brand came into its own with magazines, customizable dolls, huge stores and, last year, a cruise. My interaction was limited to their catalogs, dolls and books, but that was enough. I found out today that my passion for the brand never died.
Working for a marketing company, I sometimes doubt that brands really have significant impacts on people’s lives. It was nice to see today that sometimes they do just that.
PS: Don’t see your old American Doll on the Web site? Apparently they retire them. They “remember” the dolls here.