August 3rd, 2023

Barbie's marketing success redefines brand awareness

The Barbie movie was set up for success even before it launched in theatres, but how? It all comes down to a little something called creating mob hysteria.

Very few names hold as much power and recognition as Barbie. For decades, the iconic doll has captured the hearts of children and adults alike, establishing a strong emotional connection with its target audience. Mattel, the company behind Barbie, has consistently demonstrated an innovative approach to marketing this household name, and the hype created around the recent Barbie movie is definitely no exception. 

Let’s explore how the Barbie marketing team has redefined brand marketing through strategic techniques that helped the film exceed all projections, grossing an impressive $155 million during its opening weekend in domestic markets and an additional $182 million internationally.

 Strong brand recognition and emotional connection

With an instantly recognisable silhouette and timeless charm, Barbie enjoys unmatched brand recognition across the globe. Generations of individuals have grown up playing with Barbie dolls, and as a result, many parents are now eagerly passing the nostalgia and fond memories associated with the brand on to their children. Capitalising on this emotional connection has proven to be a strategic masterstroke. By evoking childhood memories and incorporating them into their marketing efforts, Mattel succeeded in engaging not only the new generation but also the parents who, in turn, have become active advocates of the newly released movie.

What stands out for brand strategist Moshe Isaacian is how much of the promo around the film has savvily drawn on “what makes Barbie and the movie iconic,” he tells Vox. “It’s been appealing to the gamers, it’s been appealing for people who like collecting stuff for their home, people who love skating, and shoes.

The true allure lies in the hyper-surreal fantasy that surrounds the world of Barbie. In this perfect realm, a doll effortlessly transitions between various careers, surrounded by countless friends, and seemingly defying gravity with her feet never quite touching the ground. Each new piece of Barbie promotion invites us to ponder: What if this extraordinary world were real and attainable? 

Strategic partnerships and collaborations

In the past couple of months, the world as we know it has turned pink. Recognising the potential of strategic partnerships, we’ve seen Mattel joining forces with an endless list of popular brands and media to extend the Barbie movie's reach.

From collaborations with Gap, luggage brand Beis, and a capsule collection with trainer brand Superga, to an extensive collection of makeup and skincare sets, the pink-wave seems never-ending. Furniture brand Joybird offers Barbie Dreamhouse-inspired seating for your home, and even in Brazil, there's a limited-edition Barbie cheeseburger from Burger King with a strikingly pink sauce.

Integrated marketing strategies

To reach the widest audience possible, Mattel employed a multi-channel approach that included TV ads, online ads, and social media campaigns. This synergy between different marketing platforms ensured that the Barbie movie garnered significant exposure, generating buzz and anticipation among the target audience wherever they are online. One key example of this is a Progressive Insurance Commericial set in the Barbieverse. Take a look below. 

In addition to traditional advertising methods, Mattel tapped into the power of influencers and content creators to amplify its marketing efforts. By partnering with individuals who held significant influence over their followers, the brand harnessed the power of social proof, thereby reaching even more potential viewers. 

You can also Google any keywords related to the film, and watch the search engine’s typically staid colours turn pink, with pink sparkles raining down the screen. Another key standout moment in the ongoing campaign includes Barbie and Ken on their neon rollerblades, which went viral shortly after the set photos got leaked. Afterwards, an army of rollerbladers wearing those exact skates promoted the movie at New York City Pride this year. 

Embracing inclusivity and diversity

We all know that movies have a huge impact on shaping young minds and how they perceive the world. Well, Mattel recognised this need for evolution and took decisive steps to modernise the Barbie brand. One of the most impactful moves was promoting messages of inclusivity and diversity. In doing so, Mattel challenged outdated stereotypes and presented a more inclusive vision of beauty and empowerment.

In the past, Barbie has faced criticism for promoting unrealistic beauty standards, but the Barbie movie shows the iconic doll evolving to become more inclusive and diverse than ever before, by featuring diverse characters and embracing a wide range of backgrounds and identities. This shift in messaging not only attracts new viewers but also earns admiration and loyalty from those who feel represented and empowered.

Speaking to Time magazine, Barbie actress, Margot Robbie, said: "If (Mattel) hadn’t made that change to have a multiplicity of Barbies, I don’t think I would have wanted to attempt to make a Barbie film. I don’t think you should say, ‘This is the one version of what Barbie is, and that’s what women should aspire to be and look like and act like’"

Leveraging social media

In the era of social media, brands have a unique opportunity to directly engage with their audience, and Mattel seized this chance to create anticipation and excitement for the Barbie movie. Through active interactions on various social platforms, the brand fostered a sense of community and encouraged organic content, including memes.

One significant catalyst for the online buzz is the coincidental release of Christopher Nolan's gritty biopic, "Oppenheimer," about the creator of the atomic bomb, on the same day as Barbie. This unexpected pairing has led to a flurry of jokes and playful rivalry discussions on social media. People have playfully debated the ideal itinerary for the ultimate moviegoing experience this summer: the Barbie-Oppenheimer Double Feature. It prompts us to ponder whether Barbie's current online popularity and meme-worthy status would be as prevalent without this situational irony.


Utilising User-Generated Content (UGC)

A few months ago, a Barbie selfie generator took the internet by storm. Powered by AI, this innovative tool allows users to insert themselves into marketing posters alongside a suggested Barbie-like catchphrase, such as "This Barbie is a boss." Moreover, users can customise the catchphrase to suit their preferences, adding a personal touch to their Barbie-inspired creations.

For brands, user-generated content (UGC) has become an invaluable resource in establishing a stronger connection with their target audience. Mattel successfully leveraged UGC to foster a more authentic relationship with consumers, crafting compelling stories that resonated with them both organically, and on multiple levels.

The Barbie campaign was particularly well-suited for UGC due to the iconic Barbie brand itself. The association with the colour pink and the allure of Barbieland easily captured the imagination of social media users. With the added ease of AI image generation tools, people eagerly embraced the opportunity to join in on the excitement.

At a glance

The success of the Barbie movie, along with the pre-launch excitement it generated, undoubtedly demonstrates Mattel's innovative and adaptable approach to brand marketing. While not all brands may have an endless budget, it is essential to delve into the core elements that made Barbie's marketing so exceptional. By embracing nostalgia, promoting inclusivity, utilising social media, and forging strategic partnerships, Mattel tapped into the essence of human attention.

The Barbie movie stands as a shining illustration of the potency of compelling storytelling and well-rounded marketing strategies in captivating global audiences—even before the movie's release—and achieving brand success in an increasingly digital era.