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Barbie’s Marketing Dream Team

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From on-set photo leaks to a worldwide shortage of fluorescent pink paint, Warner Bros’. Barbie has been generating headlines from the get-go. Audiences have been invited to take a walk in Barbie’s pink faux mink mules and explore her world in anticipation of the upcoming release. Trailer taglines that include, “If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you,” and “If you love Barbie, this movie is for you,” echo Mattel’s goal to break away from Barbie’s controversial image of old and appeal to generations of new. In a spectacular marketing play that has spanned every touchpoint—from physical to digital—the Brand succeeded with flying pink colors, reframing Barbie for the modern consumer while preserving her nostalgic appeal.

Barbie’s New World

Barbie stepped into the world with her arched feet in 1959 when Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler introduced a slim, blonde doll named after her daughter Barbara. Mattel marketed Barbie as an idealized Western woman and the ultimate feminine symbol. This take was not without its controversy, however. Many began rejecting the doll for promoting unrealistic, sexist beauty standards that affected the self-esteem of young girls—so much so that sales plummeted between 2011 and 2015. It was not until 2016 that Mattel’s EVP and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls Lisa McKnight broke the plastic mold by introducing a diverse line of dolls with different body types, hair textures, skin tones, and disabilities.

While Barbie has always strived to inspire girls to be anything they can dream up, Greta Gerwig’s live-action movie sought to turn Barbie into a feminist icon. McKnight reinforced the doll’s latest evolution in her Adweek interview: “This movie will recontextualize the brand for the next decade,” she said. “It’s going to encourage people who have been removed from Barbie to re-engage and think more broadly about the brand.”

 

 

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License to Sell

When Ynon Kreiz became the CEO of Mattel in 2018, he made a groundbreaking move: taking Mattel from a toy manufacturer to an intellectual property powerhouse. During a 2021 webcast interview, he announced, “The biggest change is that we transitioned from being a toy manufacturing company into an IP-driven, high-performing toy company.” Barbie marks the first IP-led franchise for Mattel, with 45 more films slated for release in its expansive toy universe.

Rather than take a tightly controlled, in-house approach to content like competitor Hasbro, Mattel capitalizes on third-party licensing deals. Mattel licensed the Barbie IP to usher in the movie, inking over 100 partnerships with Brands in every sector. These collaborations strategically unfolded ahead of the film’s July 21st release, producing mass hype. Barbie was indeed everywhere, creating a mere-exposure effect that was inescapable.

 

 

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Multigenerational Mania

Barbie was crafted for audiences of all ages. However, much of the marketing was directed at Gen Z and millennial consumers to ensure Barbie stayed culturally relevant beyond the film. While there was a myriad of Barbie-themed products for children, such as the Build-A-Bear Barbie collection, many of the Barbie partnerships catered to older demographics. These collaborations revolved around adult products that popularized the Barbie lifestyle, such as Barbie hot tools from Mermade Hair, Barbie stilettos from Aldo, and a Bloomingdale’s Barbiedale pop-up shop. McKnight aimed for Barbie to be “everywhere,” and she hit her target. Barbie has grown so widespread that hot pink has become the official color of summer 2023.

 

 

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Barbie Pink Collaborations

From a Barbie Google Easter Egg to Burger King’s pink burger, Mattel’s trademarked shade of Barbie pink (Pantone 219C) covered every digital and physical surface it could. Global partnerships took a localized approach that timed with the upcoming release, such as the pink Tardis from Doctor Who and Regal Theatre’s pink popcorn. Licensing the legacy IP extended the Brand’s reach while imbuing lesser-known Brands with Barbie’s powerful pink aura. It was a mutually beneficial undertaking, expanding the profitability and exposure for Barbie and her partners alike. Depending on the Brand deal, Mattel agreed to either a flat licensing fee or a sales cut of 5% to 15%. The collaborations ranged from clothing to beauty to media, marking every participating retailer in the iconic shade of pink.

 

 

 

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A Multidimensional Brand Experience

Brand marketers at Mattel harnessed interactive, experiential, and influencer marketing to promote the film, creating a multidimensional Brand experience. The interactive element was seen heavily on social media courtesy of the Barbie Selfie Generator. The Selfie Generator reinforced the message that anyone can be Barbie and encouraged users to feature their image and a custom catchphrase on a poster template, producing a plethora of memeified moments across social media.

 

This Barbie is an Influencer Marketing Platform

 

Consumers were invited to tour Barbie’s world through the many Brand activations and pop-ups. Most notable was Barbie’s Malibu DreamHouse brought to life (again) through a partnership with Airbnb. Guests could live la vie en pink for a day (or two) if they were lucky enough to secure a date in the booked rental. The immersive dining experience Malibu Barbie Café in New York City and Chicago was a close second, attracting fans of all ages and turning lunch into an event.

 

 

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Mattel also invited influencers from around the world to the Barbie premiere so they could showcase the event to their millions of followers. Alix Earle was one such guest who broadcast her pink-carpet appearance to her 5.6M followers on TikTok. Not to be outdone, Duo from Duolingo made an appearance on the pink carpet dressed as Barbielingo.

 

@alixearle Still cant believe I saw the Barbie movie 🥹👏🏻 #barbie #barbiepremiere ♬ Barbie World (with Aqua) [From Barbie The Album] – Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice & Aqua

 

@duolingo honored Greta asked me to replace Margot #duolingo #languagelearning #barbie #barbiepremiere #barbiechallenge #barbenheimer ♬ original sound – Model Commissions OPEN – Diya

 

Barbie-Generated Content

Social media users organically promoted the feature on every major platform, kickstarting countless viral trends. Barbie user-generated content spread like digital wildfire, with #BarbieMovie gaining 3.5B views on TikTik alone. The trends that took over ranged from Barbiecore outfits to Barbie makeup tutorials to Barbie-themed recipes. Some of the most popular trends included videos overlaid with audio from the movie and songs from its star-studded soundtrack. The #HiBarbieHiKen sound byte gained 9.1M views on TikTok, and #BarbieWorld garnered 472.4M views.

 

@haley__robinson hi barbie💖👚🎀👛 #barbie #barbieoutfits #barbiethemovie2023 #outfits #outfitinspo #outfitideas #fyp ♬ Hi Barbie Hi Ken Barbie Movie Only In Theaters – Barbie Movie

 

@sofiarichiegraingebarbie world♬ original sound – Young Money

 

@katclark Barbie Pasta 💖 #recipe #barbie #barbiepasta #dinner ♬ original sound – Kat Clark

 

@brentriveraHI BARBIE😍♬ Hi Barbie Hi Ken Barbie Movie Only In Theaters – Barbie Movie

 

@claudianeacsumakeup #barbie #barbiegirl #barbiedoll #barbiemakeup #barbiethemovie #barbiemakeuplook #barbiemakeuptutorial ♬ Barbie World (with Aqua) [From Barbie The Album] [Extended] – Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice & Aqua

 

A Campaign for the Cultural Zeitgeist

Barbie is the leading summer tentpole, capturing mass attention well before its July 21st release. Moreover, the prolific publicity concluded days before the SAG-AFTRA Strike, which put a hold on Hollywood productions and promotions. The theatrical marketing behind Barbie has been so contagious that it’s even generated buzz for Oppenheimer, which is set to release the same day. Warner’s Global Marketing President Josh Goldstein commended Barbie’s marketing strategy, saying, “One of the things about theatrical marketing is that it has the opportunity to engage the cultural zeitgeist in an exciting way ( … ) I’ve probably worked on 250 movies over the course of my career, including Spider-Man at Sony way back in the day. I haven’t felt this kind of electricity in a long time.”

 

Adopting Barbie’s Marketing Strategy

The ubiquitous promotion of the film led to the mass success of the movie’s marketing campaigns. As such, any Brand can implement Barbie’s marketing strategy. All that is required is relevant Brand partnerships, UGC, and maintaining a regular presence online. By partnering with the pre-vetted influencers and creating content consistently on Glewee, your Brand gains the exposure it needs across social media. Collaborations can result in organic content, paid ads, or sponsored posts that keep your Brand top of mind and feed. With the right Creators, your Brand can grow its audience and even start a viral trend of its own. Like Barbie, your Brand can be everywhere. From tools to talent, Glewee has everything and everyone you need to catapult your Brand to new heights.

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