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  • Writer's pictureKannon Marketing Agenc

Barbie's Marketing Masterclass: How to Create a Cultural Sensation

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Why Barbie’s Marketing Strategy Deserves All the Praise And What We Can Learn From It:

From a real-life Malibu dreamhouse to outstanding brand collaborations, the Barbie marketing team has left the fans in awe.

Margot Robbie as Barbie in the new Barbie movie as marketing strategies push the boundaries leaving fans pink crazed
An Analysis of the new Barbie Movie's impressive Marketing Strategy

The much anticipated Barbie movie release this weekend marks the culmination of an exceptionally extensive and remarkable marketing campaign. It's a rare phenomenon for a film to become a cultural sensation even before hitting the big screen, but Warner Bros.' Barbie has managed to achieve that status.

The star-studded movie boasts an impressive lineup of renowned actors, including Ryan Gosling, Helen Mirren, Issa Rae, and the new Doctor Who, Ncuti Gatwa. But that's not all; the film's soundtrack, curated by Mark Ronson, features tracks from popular artists like Dua Lipa, Tame Impala, Nicki Minaj, and Ice Spice, who have ingeniously sampled the classic Barbie Girl by Aqua.

However, the buzz surrounding the Barbie movie isn't solely due to its A-list cast, captivating soundtrack, or glowing reviews.

The film's marketing campaign has played a significant role in generating widespread excitement and discussions among audiences. It's evident that the Barbie team's strategic and extensive marketing efforts have successfully invited everyone to join the Barbie party, ensuring that this film release becomes a cultural phenomenon.

In the world of marketing, two key terms are often used: "paid media" and "earned media." Paid media includes promotional efforts like TV spots and trailers, which are paid for by the studio. On the other hand, earned media refers to the buzz and publicity generated on social media and other platforms without direct payment.

It's a common practice for Hollywood studios to allocate a significant portion of their budget to marketing event films, often matching or surpassing the production costs. Global marketing campaigns for major event titles can easily reach $100 million or more.

Barbie loves shoes. We know this. So it’s not particularly shocking that you can now buy all kinds of Barbie shoes, from stilettos to sneakers to, yes, Crocs with their own special Jibbitz to stick into the holes.
Barbie x Crocs collaboration released on July 11 ahead of the upcoming “Barbie” movie.

Moreover, promotional partnership deals play a crucial role, often worth tens of millions. Barbie's popularity has attracted over 100 partners, resulting in diverse collaborations, such as custom pink Crocs, a Prada clothing line, and hair dryers, among others. Various merchants and brands capitalized on the Barbie craze, and companies like Progressive Insurance and General Motors featured Barbie in tailored TV and digital ads. Altogether, these partnerships have contributed at least $70 million in value to Warner Bros. and Mattel, the company behind Barbie.

Additionally, the film's generated publicity is immeasurable, ranging from local TV news spots to prominent features in respected publications like Architectural Digest and The New Yorker. Barbie's presence has become all-encompassing in various media outlets.

From real-life dream houses to star-studded brand collaborations, the marketing team behind the Barbie movie has left no stone unturned in creating a global frenzy. Warner Bros. has proven that innovative and interactive marketing strategies are the key to generating excitement around a movie release, going beyond traditional methods to dominate the cultural conversation.

The global Barbie mania is in full swing with a marketing frenzy.If you feel like you've been seeing Barbie everywhere you turn, rest assured, it's not your imagination.

"This is a test case in how to perfectly market a movie," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, a company with expertise in box office numbers. Although this extensive marketing effort is more than just a promotion for the film itself. It's a masterful celebration of the Barbie brand, epitomizing everything pink and vibrant. The success of this campaign is evident as Barbie's iconic image continues to capture hearts and dominate the cultural conversation worldwide.

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gossling as Barbie and Ken in Barbie Movie

Marketing is most effective when it seamlessly integrates into an enjoyable customer experience rather than feeling like a sales pitch. Barbie's marketing team has embraced this approach, employing innovative strategies that have sparked immense global anticipation for the film.

Barbie's marketing brilliance lies in its ability to create an immersive, engaging campaign that captivates audiences across various industries and platforms, leaving everyone eagerly awaiting the film's release.

Let's take a closer look at the out-of-the-box ideas that have won fans' hearts and made Barbie's marketing strategy worthy of praise.

Eye-Catching displays: Cities worldwide have been adorned with pink billboards, showcasing only the film's release date. Ads everywhere you look!

London was swept into the Barbie party as well, with Barbican tube station transformed into "Barbiecan" and a pink Tardis appearing at Tower Bridge.

Social Engagement & Virality: Rise of Discourse & Viral Memes Barbie's marketing campaign spurred heated discussions on social media platforms, and fans created hilarious memes about the film. Social engagement and viral trends soared with digital posters, which people could edit themselves into and encouraged a lot of people to make their own and publish them on their own social networks.These user-generated contents contributed to the film's hype, showcasing the power of social media in boosting ticket sales and engagement.

Margot Robbie as Barbie in Barbie movie promotional ad showcasing the exceptional Barbie marketing strategy

Barbie mania has already had a cultural impact as well. Since the beginning of the year, mentions of #Barbie have shot up 80% on YouTube and 191% on TikTok. And TikToks with the hashtag have amassed over 9 billion views collectively, according to social data company Snack Content.

Leveraging the power of AI, they've created the "Barbie selfie generator" which allows fans to create their own Barbie-like posters with personalized phrases and images, inviting widespread engagement. The cast also hopped on the AI bandwagon, sharing photos using a similar AI-powered tool, further captivating the audience.

Experimental activations: At a real-life shopping mall in Santa Monica, fans have been experiencing the "World of Barbie," an Instagram-friendly pop up with a life-sized Barbie camper van, space station and music recording studio.

Real-Life Barbie Malibu DreamHouse In a brilliant move, Warner Bros. listed a real-life Malibu Dream House on Airbnb, painted hot pink and complete with all the luxurious amenities Barbie fans could ever dream of. This unique marketing stunt allowed lucky guests to experience Barbie's lifestyle firsthand, generating a visual spectacle and immersing them in the world of Barbieland.

Barbie partners with Beis for a luggage collaboration
Béis x Barbie luggage collection

Extensive Brand Collaborations Barbie's marketing went beyond traditional promotions. The film collaborated with over 100 brands, releasing exclusive Barbie-themed collections across various industries, including Barbiecore fashions and frozen yogurt, to home insurance policies. The partnerships extend to OPI (nail lacquer), NYI (cosmetics), moon (dental hygiene), Beis (suitcase), Gap (clothing), Funboy (pool collection), Homesick (candles), Ruggable (Rugs), Aldo (shoes), Forever 21 (clothing), Impala (rollerblades), and many more, various industries have jumped on the Barbie collaboration wagon.

In a strategic move, the team tapped into the gaming world, teaming up with Xbox to release eye-catching pink consoles and controllers inspired by Barbie and Ken. These partnerships sparked a shopping frenzy and reinforced the film's cultural impact.

Moshe Isaacian is a senior brand consultant who compiled a viral Twitter thread listing many of the impressive Barbie marketing stunts and licensing deals.

And if the campaign has felt like it's been going on for ages, he says the planning has been years in the works.

Moshe, who's worked with Nike and Amazon, says many of the deals have been "a year, two years in the making" and that Mattel have been "very good at being selective".

"It doesn't just feel like the regular licensing deals," he says."It's more like [they're selling] Barbie's lifestyle plan now - like this is how Barbie would dress up, talk, the things she would eat, what kind of candles she would have in her house.

Ryan Gossling and Margot Robbie on the press tour for Barbie movie

Press Tour: While the rollout of typical film milestones—such as first-look images, character posters, teasers and trailers, the official soundtrack and a press tour filled with viral interviews and fashions worthy of analysis— have helped the film maintain a high level of engagement.

Margot Robbie's Barbie-Inspired Wardrobe Lead actor Margot Robbie embraced the role of Barbie not only on the screen but also during the promotional tour. Sporting Barbiecore fashion at various events, she made a bold fashion statement that attracted attention and further fueled the movie's buzz. This clever marketing tactic turned Robbie into a living embodiment of Barbie, drawing fans deeper into the film's world.

Barbie's Commitment to Empowerment and Inclusivity Beyond the glitz and glamour, Barbie's marketing team embraced a social initiative in collaboration with Save The Children. This partnership aimed to empower young girls by providing them with resources, support, and education. The charity buzz auction and messages from the cast encouraged viewers to contribute to this cause, strengthening the film's positive impact on society.

The film's commitment to inclusivity and empowerment resonates with modern audiences, while the partnership with Xbox promoted women in tech, adding depth to the movie's appeal. While the top-of-mind audiences for dolls and gaming may not immediately align, the tech company said its partnership was inspired by aligning tenets of inclusivity. In addition to 'Barbie' themed autos being introduced into 'Forza Horizon 5' and a one-of-a-kind 'Barbie' console sweepstakes, Microsoft will use the partnership to promote women in tech through a series of spotlight videos called 'Careers in Gaming.'

'Xbox and Barbie share many fans who reflect our mutual values of increasing positive representation of diverse communities in entertainment,' said Kirsten Ward, VP of integrated marketing at Xbox, via email. 'By partnering with 'Barbie,' we hope to motivate young girls to follow their passions and highlight careers in STEM and gaming.'"

Barbie Movie marketing strategy paints the world in pink in Barbie's dreamland

A Different Approach to Movie Marketing Barbie's marketing success can also be attributed to its bold and refreshing approach compared to traditional blockbusters. By targeting young parents and adult audiences, Barbie's marketing transcended age boundaries. While Mattel's merchandising strategy targets all age groups, collaborations tend to skew more towards teenagers and adults due to the movie's PG-13 rating. Their target audience ranges from their core customers, little girls, all the way to what they affectionately call "glam-mas" or grandmothers. The goal is to appeal to a broad demographic, ensuring Barbie's presence in various aspects of consumers' lives, beyond the classic doll-play image.The film's appeal reaches beyond its target audience of doll-loving youngsters, resonating strongly with an older generation as well. In fact, this is the film’s target audience.

“A lot of brands and companies try to be everything to everyone, and what ‘Barbie’ has done so beautifully is know who they’re talking to,” which is why the film’s marketing has found such success on social media with adult audiences.

The “Barbie” movie is a marked step in speaking to adults, a pivot that Lisa McKnight, executive VP and global head of Barbie and dolls at Mattel, said has been in the works over the past decade. While targeting children to inspire a case of the gimmes is an obvious choice, McKnight described the necessity of instilling Barbie’s message of empowerment and inclusivity, as well as a sprinkle of nostalgia, with parents as well.

This broader allure can be attributed, in part, to the film's direction by Greta Gerwig, known for her work on the critically acclaimed "Little Women."

One intriguing teaser clip features Barbie posing thought-provoking questions to her fellow dolls, such as pondering thoughts about mortality. Additionally, Ken's request to stay at Barbie's house surprises her, adding a layer of humor to the film.

As a result, the movie's content and direction create a unique experience that defies typical categorization as a children's film. This has the potential to captivate a wider range of viewers, although it might also leave the youngest audience members somewhat bewildered by its depth and complexity.

The Barbie marketing strategy has set a new standard for film promotions, combining innovative ideas with a touch of nostalgia to create a cultural sensation. Warner Bros. and Mattel's commitment to pushing boundaries, embracing inclusivity, and engaging fans through multiple platforms have transformed Barbie's movie into a must-see event.

As the film hits theaters, it's clear that Barbie's marketing brilliance has elevated it from just a movie to a larger-than-life cultural phenomenon, leaving audiences excited to experience the magic of Barbieland on the big screen.


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