American Girl, I Can’t Keep Up!

Lately I feel like American Girl is moving so fast I can’t keep up.  There’s the MegaBlocks toy sets coming out this summer, ZCrew videos (#AGZcrew) on YouTube and accompanying merchandise, Wellie Wishers dolls, a Melody sneak peek, and let’s not forget Lea!  Maryellen is ancient history by now.

My initial reaction is nostalgia for the days when AG was a few dolls with wonderful historical outfits and accessories. You chose your path… Samantha?  Addy?  That became your special friend. 

All these new items!  Will they hurt the brand identity?  

I go back to a lesson I learned in the posts on DollightfulDolls that feature lots of old catalog pages.  Even “back in the old days” American Girl tried out lots of different merchanise offerings… From a doll from the Amelia books to bath and body products to entire catalogs just for (human) girls’ clothing.  Many items have fallen by the wayside, but my feeling is that new products might bring new customers into the core business.  That’s what I hope, anyway.

In the CBS clip this morning, the American Girl marketing rep stated that ultimately American Girl is a company about stories of girls’ lives.  While I agree that a doll’s story is what motivates me as a consumer, the company’s recent action of removing the special illustrations from the books runs counter to their statement that they are all about the stories.  Maryellen and Melody’s stories both suffer as a result of no illustrations, especially for their target age consumers who won’t bother to look up words like “Afro” or references to Rosemary Clooney. Today’s 1st – 3rd grade readers are drawn to books that are borderline graphic novels, such as Geronimo/Thea Stilton, Dork Diaries, Mercy Watson, and the revamped Babysitters’ Club books.

This past holiday season one of the kids on the playground told me she was getting Grace.  I asked what her favorite AG book was, and she said, “There are books?”  

Keep innovating American Girl, but don’t forget to make the books a “must read” for kids!

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24 thoughts on “American Girl, I Can’t Keep Up!

  1. Flo

    Yeah, poor Maryellen kind of got left behind in the dust in all of this! I just don’t know what to think about all of this, prior history shows that some of their other ventures (Hopscotch Hill, Girls of Many Lands, etc) all fell kind of flat. Whatever happened to “do what you do well”? While they have a good product in the 18 inch line, there is ALWAYS room for improvement, and I would prefer to see that.

    OMG to the book comment. **facepalm**

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    1. Jen Post author

      I’m calling your position the “Chick Fil A” business model, and there is something to be said for that, most definitely.
      I am looking forward to your thoughts on Melody.

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  2. Xyra

    I agree the books should be a must read. I’ve read many articles where moms started reading the books to and with their daughters (nieces, granddaughters) to help decide which doll was the right doll.

    There have been lots of changes over the years. I don’t mind shaking up the lines now and then, my concern is with the growing distribution. Not adding AG stores – that’s cool – I still want one in Philadelphia area – but the non-AG places. I liked the books and mini dolls at book sellers, even the AG items at warehouse stores like Costco or crafts at Michael’s. The stuff that turns up at Home Goods is disconcerting and Mega Blocks are available everywhere. So will that hurt the exclusivity of the brand? What about collectable value of the dolls?

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    1. Jen Post author

      You bring up an important point Xyra about the danger of taking something special/unique and making it ubiquitous. I agree with you on the presence of items at Bookstores and Michaels… I am curious whether they will continue with the Wilmot sale and outlet store or whether they will try to move the merchandise in other ways.

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  3. IrishAG

    The books are so awesome! They are what got me interested in Historical Fiction!
    I definitely like the 18 inch dolls the best. But I don’t mind AG trying out other kinds of dolls, as long as they keep focusing on the 18 inch dolls. πŸ™‚

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    1. Jen Post author

      I totally agree about the books. I think the 6 book format was a lot more approachable for new American Girl customers. I know Brianna and I started reading Josefina and Addy when she was in 1st grade, but a long chapter book would have been overwhelming at that age.

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      1. IrishAG

        That was my favorite too! My mom and sister and I are reading the original Addy books together for fun, and the little illustrations in the margins are cool too. πŸ˜€
        ❀ , IrishAG

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  4. jackylina

    I also believe AG is trying hard to get new customers. Perhaps they are willing to sacrifice their exclusive brand name in order to get more customers? I’m not sure, we’ll just have to wait and see. But I TOTALLY agree about AG leaving the books behind. I was also really sad to find the books with no illustrations. I really like the covers, I wouldn’t have minded if AG had just redone the illustrations with that kind of style.
    Aside from that, I’d love to know your opinion of the actual new products. Do you like Melody? Will she be coming home to you? or part of her collection?
    I’ve heard some people say that even though they don’t really care all that much for Melody herself, they are still going to buy her just to support AG’s choice to have another African American doll.
    What about the wellie wishers? Do you like them too? If the hopscotch hill girls were still around which would you choose?

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    1. Jen Post author

      I think I have to write a whole separate post on Melody, and I am really looking forward to your thoughts as well!
      I was pleased, though, with the way they rolled Melody out and gave us the sneak peeks instead of rogue eBay sellers doing it. Much classier and helps to tell the whole story of Melody.
      Brianna and I are both reading Lanie now! I love the assortment of pictures, both professional and those that are supposed to be kid art.
      Any dolls home from hospital yet? Nothing here.

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      1. jackylina

        Ooh, I can’t wait for that post on Melody. I’m also really happy AG gave us the sneak peeks. I heard yesterday that Melody was one of the top trending stories on facebook! I love the pictures of Lanie’s too, and the factoids.
        Emily and Kit both made it home from the hospital (I might do a post about it, but right now I have so many posts I want to write and just haven’t had time). Kit was also delivered to my cousin who LOVED her! She wears black glasses, so I bought a pair for Kit at the AG store. She came home from the hospital with a pink bow in her hair and as soon as my cousin opened her she ran to her room and got a pink bow for herself so she could look just like Kit! It was so adorable.
        One amazing thing about the hospital – there was a letter in Kit’s box that said what I had paid for at the store for Kit was going to be refunded back to me and that I should expect a check in the mail from AG. And sure enough, I got a pink check from AG refunding me of Kit’s cleaning and limb tightening! Wow! How great is that doll hospital. I sure wasn’t expecting that.

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      2. Jen Post author

        That’s fantastic news about the dolls! Why did they think they should pay for the work? I forgot the back story on Kit. It’s great though, not complaining!!
        I got an email today confirming Nellie’s admission. I think it has been about 4 weeks since I sent her. Hopefully the admission means her turn is up soon. I’d like her back before Easter when my friend comes back from her snowbird time down south. I will definitely post when Nellie returns!

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  5. Sunny

    The girl didn’t know there were books? Wow….just wow. πŸ™‚
    I do miss the “olden days” of AG when the company was much simpler, like before Mattel took over (I also wasn’t even born yet, so I guess I can’t truly miss it….). πŸ˜‰
    *Sunny

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    1. Jen Post author

      Didn’t know about the books… Yes very sad. I think it is a big mistake to turn 6 books into 2, because girls who read chapter books 150+ pages aren’t the bulk of the AG consumers.

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  6. Emily

    I experienced something similar. My husband and I are both teachers at the same school and he asked a girl what she got for Christmas. She replied that she got the American Girl doll Samantha. My husband made me proud by replying, “Oh, cool,she’s a historical! What year is she from again?” The student had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. She did not understand the different lines of dolls and that some have time periods and stories. She clearly has not read the books. This made me so sad.

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    1. Jen Post author

      How old was she? I was with 2nd grade most of the year and they just had no awareness of the books… That has changed a lot because my daughter was at the same school and when she was in 2nd Gr 4 years ago that’s all the girls read… And Magic Tree House! The books as they are currently formatted are way belond a 1st-2nd gr reading level.

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  7. littlehouseofamericangirl

    I agree, they just keep coming out with so much stuff – it’s kind of overwhelming! And it is sad that after Melody comes out, Maryellen will probably long forgotten. “Oh yeah, Maryellen is kind of old. She came out a little less than a year ago.” So sad.
    So far I don’t really care for Melody or her collection. It just isn’t really appealing to me. Her record studio is pretty neat, though. My opinions might change after she’s released.
    That is sad that the girl didn’t even know about the books. They are super good and I read them quickly, but honestly, the main thing I love about AG is the dolls themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a doll because I liked the time period or the story – I buy the dolls because they’re beautiful πŸ™‚ That may be though because I’m not a huge reader and I’m not very big on history either πŸ˜‰
    I wish AG would just slow things down a bit with their releases and also that their outfits for the HC wouldn’t be so modernized.
    ~Jaclynn~

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    1. Sunny

      @Jaclynn-I SO agree about the historical outfits looking too modern! For crying out loud, one of Kaya’s outfits is PINK! And all of her outfits are “_____ of Today”. She’s from 1764, AG!
      *Sunny

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    1. Flo

      Another person here who thinks that the BeForever outfits are too modern as well. I bought Addy’s Christmas dress in January and I just purchased Kit’s School Skirt outfit because they are the older looking styles and I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss out on them. My biggest beef is skirt length, they are not keeping that historically accurate at all. Up until the 1970’s, hem lengths were a BIG deal in fashion and were modest for the most part.

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