The latest Goofus goes to Mattel on how NOT to promote a brand.
For years, Mattel has made missteps. Just look at product development—from the infamous Barbie that claimed "Math is Hard," to the pregnant Barbie that came with a removable baby. Two words of advice: focus groups.
But more recently, the movie Toy Story shows how clueless the company can be. It blew off Pixar's request to participate in the popular film. Clearly they learned the error of their ways as demonstrated by Barbie's role in Toy Story 2.
Now a lawsuit is asking Mattel to pay $1.8 million in court fees. This is based on a lawsuit Mattel filed against an artist using nude Barbie dolls in his artwork. Mattel felt the images might hurt its brand and its spokesperson is quoted as saying "Mattel is still very committed to vigorously protecting our intellectual property."
Mattel lost the case—handily.
And while I agree that you should protect your brand, especially a cultural icon like Barbie, you should also be realistic.
As a personal expression, art equals freedom of speech. Freedom of speech trumps an icon any day of the week. Putting intellectual capital at odds with artwork is silly. Barbie is a toy, not a person. The brand can stand a few negative representations in artwork.