The American Girl Experience


A few weeks ago, I took my two daughters to the American Girl store in Miami. I was so fascinated by the brand and product positioning that I couldn’t help but notice all of the things that they have done well in order to build a brand that uses storytelling and experience in order to captivate their audience.


Prior to our visit, I was told by a friend that we needed to call for reservations at the “Doll Spa” and Cafe to secure our times. I called ahead to schedule our lunch and doll spa appointments, and the process was seamless - they booked it and sent email confirmations and calendar invites as if I were the one headed to a day at the actual spa.


Upon arrival, the staff was immediately welcoming - and I noticed that they conveniently have tote branded shopping bags to the right, and the most compelling in glass case displays for kids you’ve ever seen. We wandered around for about an hour prior to our “Doll Spa” appointment, and discovered different sections of the store that represent the different segments of their market.


The Bitty Baby Collection reaches the youngest demographic, serving as an entry point for the toddler. It starts them off young with the brand, offers a lower price point, and includes all of the accessories you can imagine, mirroring a real baby registry.


The Wellie Wishers Brand, a sub brand under American Girl, produces a slightly smaller doll, TV series, and accessories at a medium price point. The Wellie Wishers brand is a great stepping stone that tells stories that appeal to the young elementary years.


The American Girl Collection targets the mid to late elementary years, at a higher price point. They offer character dolls that represent different parts of history, Truly Me dolls that can be completely customized, and Girl of the Year dolls that represent a bigger message and mirror a real spokesperson for the brand.


All of these dolls and sub-brands have a story associated with them, and that story allows for books, digital content and accessories to match.


The stories incorporated into the branding and the alignment that exists between the doll, accessories, story, and book or media are captivating.


The American Girl brand has a historian on staff to tell all of their stories accurately. Not only are they teaching girls kindness, compassion, courage and honesty through their stories - they’re also capturing parts of history and bringing it to future generations in a way that’s relevant to them.


The messaging is focused on character building, which also resonates with parents, and helps to justify the price a little bit more. If they know they’re supporting something that stands for developing character in their kids, their willingness to pay that higher price point increases.


The in store experiences offer interactive shopping experiences, in store TV’s with American Girl programming, displays with scavenger hunts, an in store doll spa, a birthday party space, and a cafe. The experiences create moments for families and friends, and those moments keep them coming back.


After wandering the store and finding plenty of things we liked, it was time for our doll spa appointments. We walked over to the counter to see 6 doll size pink barber chairs waiting to be filled. The American Girl team changed our dolls into their spa attire, gave them a cleaning, and redid their hair according the hair style selections out of the book that our girls had picked out. They received take home bags with extra goodies in them, including nail polish stickers in case they need a manicure later. During our spa appointments, I happened to notice a team member meticulously cleaning every case, keeping the store in excellent condition.


We then headed over to the cafe, and sat at our table, complete with 2 doll seats that attach to the tables. I noticed that they offered extra dolls to sit in the doll seats if someone doesn't have one (excellent attention to detail).


The cafe lunch included a little bag with a doll sized plate, cup and a placemat with discussion questions. This was such an amazing little detail that added so much delight to our lunch. The questions were fun for all ages and we went around the table, sharing our thoughts.


The overall experience was fun and engaging, creating a special memory for all of us.


Here are 4 takeaways from The American Girl Experience:


Attention to Detail Matters: The attention to detail across the brand is apparent. The meticulous cleaning of the cases, the in store experiences that include goodie bags, reservation systems, discussion questions at lunch, and the alignment between the product and story requires a great attention to detail embedded within an organizational culture. That level of attention to detail creates moments and experiences that customers don't forget.


Storytelling Creates Connection: The use of stories that are connected to their products draw their customers in, and keep them coming. The newness of the girl of the year and story surrounding her keeps customers coming back. The high level brand messaging conveys a growth mindset for kids, and attracts parents to support the brand.


Moments Create Brand Stickiness: The brand not only produces products that have been shared through generations, but offers an in store experience that creates fun, engaging moments for people of all ages. 


A Product that Grows Creates Loyalty: The product that grows with the personas is something that creates long term customers. With the American Girl brand, kids have the opportunity to begin in the toddler stage and “graduate” to the next level as they grow.


Some questions that you can ask to apply this to your brand:


1. What areas do we need to add more attention to detail? 


2. What story does our brand tell and are we communicating it in a way that invites our customers into the story?


3. What memories can we create for people (internal team and customers) that create stickiness within our organization?Is there room to grow with your client as they grow?


4. What products or services might you offer around those areas?


We would love to hear your latest brand experiences - what has recently stuck with you and why?