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The New Face of Toy Success

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Two new doll lines, debuting just in time for the holidays, are looking to give toy giant Mattel (MAT), which owns Barbie, American Girl and the successful Monster High brands, among others, a bit of a rattle this holiday season.

The Beatrix Girls and Prettie Girls! lines, both launching close to the same time last month, are already seeing success by playing up positive messaging by portraying the dolls as role models and making sure that the characters have a strong backstory.

At roughly $22 billion, the domestic toy industry has remained relatively flat over the past five years, according to NPD, with dolls specifically representing less than 15% of that market.

But as seen with the success of the Monster High doll brand and merchandising, industry participants said there is market opportunity in dolls.

Sherry Gunther Shugeman created The Beatrix Girls to become an entertainment brand not just another doll line.

"There's a lot of healthy competition. That really bodes well for consumers," said Adrienne Appell, a spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association.

She noted that the storytelling component to the doll lines is a key theme of the more successful brands.

"Putting [dolls] in context makes [them] more relatable," she said. "There is still that open-ended free doll play, but they could also read about the dolls, letting them learn more about a world that maybe they don't know that much about. It makes it more relevant."

But gaining market share from well-oiled toy giants like Mattel means more than just storytelling. Successful brands that reach today's digitally savvy kids create channel upon channel of money-making opportunities, including television shows, Webisodes, and most importantly, licensing and merchandise selling, allowing the brand to hopefully extend the lifecycle of dolls from say, 6-to 8-year-old girls to perhaps 10 years or even 12 years of age.

"The big thing is to really develop a niche or segment that is going to be unique in the overall market place," said Miro Copic, principal of Bottom Line marketing and a marketing and branding lecturer at San Diego State University."The path for success is they have be distinctive, they have to offer accessories and play value opportunities, and they have to ultimately have a media connection."

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