Hasbro is hoping to hit a bullseye with its next high-profile launch — a new brand of Nerf toys aimed specifically at girls. The line, called Nerf Rebelle, will feature projectiles that have the same power as the top items in the brand’s Nerf Elite line — but come wrapped in a prettier package and designed to encourage the collaborative play Hasbro has found girls prefer. Aspiring Princess Meridas and Katniss Everdeens can own the first Rebelle product — called the Heartbreaker bow — this fall.
Rebelle immediately brings to mind Lego Friends, a new line of female-driven products that helped to increase Lego’s profits by 36 percent last year — even as critics accused the toy company of promoting gender stereotypes. But John Frascotti, Global Chief Marketing Officer of Hasbro, says that his corporation isn’t worried that Rebelle pigeonholes girls or reinforces the ideology of separate spheres.
“I think if anything, we went into this without any stereotypes and instead talked to young girls, found out what they wanted, and then designed a line of products that addressed that opportunity,” he told EW in an interview, saying that Hasbro did research for over three years while creating the line.
What girls wanted, he said, was Nerf toys that boast both high performance and a design made especially for them. “Just to be clear, we could have taken some of our Nerf blasters and just made them pink and put them in pink packages — but that’s not what we did,” Frascotti explained. Trying to encourage girls to buy existing Nerf toys or easing up the gendered overtones of those products was never really on the table: “This is an entirely ground-up effort.”
Thanks to all that research, Rebelle differs from other Nerf lines in several key ways. The Heartbreaker bow comes with collectable darts bearing different colors and designs; there’s a Rebelle app that allows girls to play collaboratively and encourages teamwork; the bow’s size and ergonomics have been tweaked so that girls as young as 6 can activate it easily.
The product’s main philosophy, though, is in line with that of the Nerf toys that came before it. “Nothing is really addressing this big opportunity for girls to be active and play,” Frascotti said. “Parents are concerned about the amount of time kids are spending in sedentary activities, in front of a screen of some sort.” By contrast, Rebelle promotes exercise and socialization in a way that will hopefully appeal to girls who have no interest in sports as well as budding athletes.
But what about that name, “Heartbreaker” — which seems to inject an element of romance that wouldn’t be there if the bow were designed for boys, or even made to be gender neutral? “I think sometimes maybe adults are more concerned with these things than girls are,” Frascotti said. “I think the girls we tested it with just thought it was a cool name.”