Cashing In on the Obama-Industrial Complex

One doll maker takes the craze too far.


J. Crew's website crashed from the multitude of visitors inspired by Malia and Sasha's outfits on Inauguration day. The designer Jason Wu, creator of Michelle Obama's Inaugural gown, is now practically a household name. Pepsi posted "all for one" and "yes you can" posters and Ikea broadcast "embrace change" and "domestic reform" messages on the Washington subway during Inauguration. Starbucks invited customers to watch the swearing-in at their local Starbucks and gave free coffee to anyone who pledged to do five hours of community service.

Is there any company that hasn't tried to latch onto the Obama brand?

There's nothing wrong with tapping into the current cultural zeitgeist. That's smart marketing. But at least one company has, in my opinion, crossed the line. Ty Inc., which also created the Beanie Babies, has just released "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia" dolls. Michelle Obama, through her spokeswoman, has already complained that the use of her daughters' names is "inappropriate."

I agree. The First Daughters can't help but be in the spotlight; the entire country seems eager to know more about them. Cameras followed them on their first day of school and will surely document their life at the White House closely. But for a company to use their names to market dolls exploits the youngest Obamas' popularity. Some columnists and child experts have argued that African-American girls will benefit from having access to more dolls that look like them. But do they really need to be called Malia and Sasha?