She’s been a powerful cultural mover and shaker for 64 years, only growing in popularity for each new generation of little girls. You know her, you love her, or you hate her…
And, after all this time, success, and world conquering, 2023 just might be the year of Barbie.
And it’s all thanks to a blockbuster movie and one of the most clever, powerful marketing campaigns we’ve seen in a long time.
The Barbie movie itself already comes with its fair share of bonafides. From Margot Robbie in the title role, Ryan Gosling as her ever-constant boyfriend Ken, and even Will Ferrell as the CEO of Mattel, this cast is stacked. On top of that there’s Greta Gerwig, a writer/director with an already stellar track record for unique, entertaining films.
Pair that level of pedigree with a stunning marketing machine and you’ve got yourself a cultural juggernaut!
So let’s pick it apart a bit and see how marketing genius turned a movie into a phenomenon.
For starters, everybody knows Barbie. No matter how you feel about her, she’s everywhere, and it’s been that way forever. Little Generation Alpha girls have her in their toy boxes, and their grandmothers remember playing with her too! People know Barbie. They know her dresses, her Dream House, her beach cruiser. They know her friends. They know her story. They’ve been following her subtle evolution for years.
With Hollywood’s current fixation with relying heavily on existing intellectual property, it’s almost surprising they took so long to get to Barbie.
But that’s not where the magic stops…
Barbie isn’t just for kids anymore.
Feel like staying in a life size Barbie Dream House in Malibu? It’s listed on AirBNB, and just got a brand new makeover.
On top of that, you can purchase official Barbie luggage, toiletries, XBox controllers and rollerblades. The marketing takeover, rumored to have cost upwards of $100 million USD, and extravagant production design, has even led to a global shortage of pink paint. This has amounted to more than 100 brand partnerships in any area that seems remotely fitting, from apparel to frozen yogurt. And it’s working!
We’re not kidding!
And adults are living for it. Maybe it’s the post-pandemic desire to finally share an experience with each other, but people are getting in on this in ways not seen in quite some time.
And that includes a great example of counterprogramming.
See, Barbie just so happens to be coming out on the exact same day as Christopher Nolan’s latest epic, Oppenheimer. His biopic of the brilliant, conflicted mastermind behind the creation of the atomic bomb is, in many ways, the diametric opposite of Barbie’s sunny, fanciful storytelling. And the studios seized upon this contrast, planted the seeds in social media, and watched the public take it and run with it.
So much so that the event has been christened…
Fans are turning the dual release into a double feature event, and having fun with the differences between the two films on the way. A quick Instagram search lets you know you’ve stumbled upon the meme of the summer.
Barbie has yet another job: social media influencer.
Elsewhere, when it comes to marketing the Barbie movie more is more. From autograph signings at malls and beachside resorts, to the return of iconic Barbie fashions, both life-size and plasticine, it’s a nonstop barrage of marketing magic and, for once, we all seem to be on the same page. Brand partnerships have turned out events like popups, cruises and events all over the world.
In fact, more has been written about the marketing of Barbie than on the film itself!
It seems that, if there is a way to market the Barbie movie, it’s been utilized, put out into the world, and promoted by news outlets looking for something big.
The final trailer’s tagline says it all: “If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.”
Barbie is for everyone, and the filmmakers have endeavored to reach as large an audience as possible with a postmodern wink, while also staying true to the simple, childish joy of playing with dolls. It’ll be a tightrope walk to say the least, but one that millions of people all around the world are excited to see.
And that’s all thanks to pulling out the stops on every kind of marketing wizardry you can think of (and a bottomless budget to match.)