Doc McStuffins is sending a message to all kids out there – anyone can be a doctor. Sounds like an easy enough message, but unfortunately kids might not be hearing it enough.

Doc McStuffins, which premiered in March 2012, is a children’s TV show featuring a young girl named Dottie McStuffins who wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps by becoming a doctor. Dottie performs check-ups and uses her stethoscope on her own toys and dolls, helping them to feel better.

The Doc McStuffins toy line generated $500 million in sales in 2013, according to The New York Times. While not quite enough to make The Licensing Letter’s top selling licensed merchandise sales list for 2013, the franchise’s success is significant because it is one of the few that feature a Black character. For comparison, Toy Story licensed merchandise achieved $530 million in sales last year.

Mintel data show that Black consumers, more so than any other race or ethnic group, would like to see more characters that are the same ethnicity as them, with 21% sharing this sentiment.

Doc McStuffins has brought two topics into the spotlight. First is the depiction of multicultural characters in popular media. The widespread success of the show and related merchandise have shown that Black characters can be relatable to a mass audience while also addressing Black consumers’ desire for more characters of their race.

Secondly, industry observers commented on the depiction of a young girl interested in a STEM career. According to the National Science Board, women represent just 28% of science and engineering workers despite compromising roughly half of college-educated workers in the US. As a result, the notable success of Doc McStuffins has raised questions regarding the role of brands in facilitating enthusiasm for STEM fields.

Although the relationship between fictional characters’ professions and the development of childrens’ real-world career goals is unclear, the fact that the debate exists indicates consumer demand for more diverse characters in both media and toys.

This is another example of how consumers are placing more responsibility on brands to create meaningful and diverse characters and products. The success of the Doc McStuffins TV show and toy line showcases that brands can do more than just appeal to a single race or ethnic group by creating characters from different backgrounds – these characters can generate mass appeal.

Bryant Harland brings almost a decade of experience working in the tech arena, most recently as a Senior Technology Writer with Brafton News, where he oversaw the editorial team, wrote as a trade journalist and prepared a range of industry white papers.

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