The Marketing Magic Behind the Barbie Movie: 5 Key Takeaways

Aug 11, 2023

You may have noticed that this summer has looked a little bit pinker.

This time of year is particularly important for the film industry, with summer tent-pole pictures being the lifeblood of the industry. The kids are on holiday, the British weather is unpredictable at best, and people need something to watch. 

Normally, the main attractions for this time of year are blockbusters such as the new Mission Impossible or Oscars-destined films like Oppenheimer. However, the Barbie Movie has blown them out of the water – and we’ll be telling you why. 

Based on the Mattel children’s doll, the film has passed $1,000,000,000 at the box office worldwide. The hype and success have much to do with the film promotion and how the marketing team created massive interest in the movie, even before its official release date.

Here are five key takeaways that marketers can learn from.


Takeaway 1: Understanding the Audience

The most important aspect of marketing strategy is to know and understand your target audience. And the Barbie Movie marketing team knocked it out of the park in this respect. 

Instantly with the Barbie brand, they had a ready-made audience in younger children – predominately girls. But Barbie has been around for decades, so there was a much wider audience to tap into.

The marketing team made use of a feeling that’s very powerful. And that feeling is called nostalgia.

Millions of adult viewers around the world have a past with Barbie, even those who didn’t play with them. By identifying a whole new swathe of the audience, tapping into adults’ emotions and sense of nostalgia and targeting them especially, they brought more people to the movie. And most importantly, they had fun with it. 

The Barbie Movie also effectively got the movie literate onboard with the hiring of the director (Greta Gerwig, an indie stalwart) and the first teaser trailer. The short clip parodied 2001: A Space Odyssey, a classic film – putting a Barbie twist on it. This stopped people from thinking, “Is Barbie a kid’s film?” and presented it as just a film – positioning it as the perfect viewing experience for all moviegoers. 

Understanding your audience, catering to them through various methods such as video production, and leaving no stone unturned is important for any effective marketing campaign.


Takeaway 2: Innovative Marketing Campaigns

If you felt like you were seeing Barbie everywhere, that’s because you were.

The Barbie Movie marketing strategy didn’t just tap into the digital space but took its tactics out into the world. 

Simple pink billboards with just the release date popped up all over. Tube station signs were changed, Barbican to Barbiecan and Kennigton to Ken. We even saw pink buses driving around in city centres, and if you were to search ‘Barbie’ in your Google search bar – pink stars flooded your desktop screen, with Google’s logo turning a bright fuchsia colour. Don’t believe us? Try it out for yourself! 

The online world is incredibly important for any strategy, but marketing campaigns with a physical presence helped something as global as the Barbie brand become local.

The branding (pink and simple) is easy to shift onto various platforms. Social media became awash with Barbie – TikTok and Instagram filters, Twitter hashtags, and a trending soundtrack promoted on Spotify – meaning it was pink everywhere you looked. 

The Barbie Movie marketing team also used influencer partnerships to create an even bigger buzz. Online personalities with large followings across a broad range of platforms, were invited to the Barbie premier, screenings, launches and parties to show their audiences what Barbie was all about and encourage further sharing.


Takeaway 3: The Power of Word of Mouth

Any product looking to take over the world’s collective consciousness completely needs great social media marketing – the modern day version of word of mouth marketing. 

The marketing team created tools for their fans to have fun and then let them run with it. The Barbie Selfie Generator allowed people to put themselves onto the film poster with the “This Barbie is a…” customisable tagline. This helped create a shared experience amongst people and build a pink community that could interact through memes and shareable content online.

A more surprising aspect of the marketing success was the Barbenheimer meme. Oppenheimer, a film about the birth of the atomic bomb, was released on the same day as the Barbie Movie. Fans took this up and double features were planned to watch both on the same day.

Sufficient hype for the film and fantastic reviews have helped interest grow through word of mouth, letting the audience do the marketing for them.


Takeaway 4: Utilising Celebrity Influence

Not even the rich and famous were safe from the Barbie Movie film promotion train.

Support from celebrities was important for the Barbie Movie. Sure, the leading actors, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, were contracted to promote the film, but they definitely went for it. Gosling appeared at CinemaCon in full Ken mode, and Margot Robbie gave a tour of the Dream House for Architectural Digest, whilst in character.

Other celebrities, such as Tom Cruise, jumped on the Barbenheimer wagon – stating that he planned to see both films. The varied and star-studded cast (Dua Lipa, Will Ferrell, Helen Mirren etc.) across fanbases and generations – appealing to a wide audience.

Margot Robbie understood the assignment, immaculate in Barbie-themed outfits at various red-carpet events and she talked passionately about current issues in the film industry like the strike action.

The Barbie Movie also hit “celebrity” brands, such as Xbox, Burger King, Airbnb who were all partnered with Mattel to help with taking the promotion of the movie to the next level.


Takeaway 5: The Importance of Storytelling

Storytelling in marketing is incredibly powerful. If you can make people feel something when they interact with your product, then they are likely to engage with it.

The Barbie Movie may have been everywhere, but it was also purposeful. As stated above, Barbie Movie marketing tapped into people’s emotions and took Barbie out of the toy aisle and into the real world. It promoted inclusive ideas, mirroring its audience’s views of the world – reclaiming Barbie as a feminist, modern figure rather than the previous symbol of unrealistic beauty standards.

In a way, Mattel was an underdog in a redemption story. Barbie was old news – a relic from a more conservative past – but the driving, emotionally engaging marketing strategy put new life into the brand.


Lessons for Future Marketers

So you might now have the budget Barbie had to splurge on marketing, but don’t worry – there are still key lessons any marketer can take from this. 

Identifying your audience clearly and tapping into emotions rather than focusing on just the product can help you grow your business. Creating creative content that is easily shareable online and engaging with a community provides near-limitless possibilities for growth that can be achieved on a tighter budget.

Savvy partnerships with brands and influencers can also help you become more visible as a business and do some of the heavy lifting.

Strategies such as SEO are the foundation of any good marketing strategy, but the Barbie Movie has shown the world that thinking outside the box is successful for a reason.

And there’s a chance it might just have set the new standard.


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