Have you caught yourself lately humming, “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie wooorld…” ? Like the song just popped in your head out of nowhere?
We certainly did.
As July 20 was approaching, the official release date for the long-expected movie phenomenon “Barbie”, Aqua’s 90s hit was threatening to take over the world, or at least to transform it into one giant pink bubble.
Most likely because the movie marketing was brilliantly planned and executed.
Around $100 million was invested in this blockbuster project, and that’s according to Variety, so it’s not a surprise that marketing around it was blistering and extensive. And when you add the fact that the main protagonist is the most famous doll in the world, and that it took almost 15 years for the movie to be made, what you get is a Barbie brand explosion.
Everything went pink. And glittery.
If the main goal of the Barbie marketing strategy was to create a huge buzz, to revamp the Barbie doll, and the idea behind it, and to open the door for many brand collaborations – checked ✅, checked ✅ and checked ✅.
But what exactly does this mean for our media buyers and affiliate marketers – what are the lessons they can learn from this campaign?
You are about to find out.
First things first – the doll queen: Barbie herself
The forever-young Barbie was presented to the world in 1959, as one of the first adult-look-alike dolls, signed by toy company Mattel, Inc. Her design was based on a German doll called Bild Lilli, and was a bit controversial at the time, due to the fact she had a full female body shape (including chest!)
Barbie was intended to be a teen-age fashion model, but over time she overgrew the primary role and became a sort of an influencer with a great impact on social values – which is still the subject of many debates.
Until today, Barbie remained the company’s most profitable item, with billions of dolls being sold worldwide, and what’s particularly interesting is that Barbie was one of the first toys that was engaged in television advertising.
Fun fact: The first ever Barbie released was available as blond and brunette, wearing a black and white striped swimsuit.
How did the Barbie rush happen?
Today, 64 years later, Barbie is probably at the peak of its fame, all thanks to a movie that’s to be released today, starring Margot Robbie and Rayan Gosling.
But the sudden Barbie fewer didn’t come on its own, triggered by the Barbie fans who are impatient to see how this blockbuster is about to present their favorite doll as a movie character. Nor by the usual upcoming movie buzz based on reviews, the cast names, or music industry giants signing its soundtrack.
The Barbie rush we are witnessing is a result of a master plan hatched by the movie marketing team that, to be honest, took quite an unexpected path.
Their strategy completely focused on social media campaigns, brand partnerships, and experiential marketing.
Literal Barbie world: Full-on Barbie experience
The Guardian reported that 100 partnerships were made between Mattel and other brands, and they all involved Barbie. As a result, we now have:
- An Airbnb Barbie Malibu mansion hosted by Ken, where you can spend the night in. We are not kidding – it’s a real life-size toy pink mansion with a panoramic ocean view, pool, and all the crazy amenities a house like this could have. But as you can imagine, all the dates until June 2025 are already booked.
- Architectural Digest tour of the Barbie set, hosted by Margot herself. It already has 10 million views, and it was released only a month ago.
- Specially designed Barbie rollerblades and a protective set delivered by Impala Skate; the ones Margot appeared in at the Venice Beach boardwalk with Rayan by her side – it is an already iconic scene since it provided the public with a first glance of the movie and its leading roles a year ago.
- Barbie Xbox console and controllers fans had a chance to win in an international sweepstakes. The console was actually housed in what seems to be a mini replica of a Barbie house.
- Barbie pop-ups and events all across the US – you can visit little Barbie corners in Chicago, NewYork, and DC, and engage, for instance, in a $2.000 Barbie experience at the roof bar while drinking from a giant martini glass decorated with pink cotton candy.
- And let’s not forget about the Barbie boat cruise on Boston Harbor hosted by no less than Warner Bros. It will happen only once, and it will take place on June 30.
Barbie is a fashion icon, so collaborations with clothing brands were clearly expected. There are Barbie collections at:
- Gap, Primark, Forever 21 – mostly cute pieces for teenagers, kids and young adults. But that’s not all. Forever 21 took it a bit further and launched the line in the virtual world of Roblox, not just in physical stores.
- Aldo where all the dreamy shoes, accessories, and bags inspired by the recognizable blond doll are already sold out.
- NYX – makeup brand could not be missed. Then again, they as well are almost out of stock for all the items; Barbie flip phone bag mirror was the first to go.
But why stop here. There is a collection of Barbie pool floats, Barbie branded frozen yogurt, Barbie candles, glassware, nail polish, a rug collection, and even the Barbie toothbrush. Barbie suitcases by Beis, however, (available from July 19) are especially trending right now.
So if you think you are becoming delusional when seeing pink everywhere, you are not. Barbie took over the world.
Not only that these collabs sparked a movie hype and created a glittery ground for the movie premiere, but Mattel received, and continues to do so, significant revenue solely based on these partnerships.
According to Wall Street Journal, the company that launched Barbie is taking a sales cut from the majority of brands, 5% to 15%, while others are paying a license fee.
The thing with licensed merchandise is, they are not only playing a role in promoting movie events. They are here to stay, prolonging and nurturing the brand’s life. So hat off to the marketing team. They managed not only to lure us to the cinemas this July, but also to the Barbie dream world. And to make sure we want to remain inside pinkish walls for a while.
While we’re on the subject:
Another fun fact: During creating a real-size Barbieland, the company supplying paint for this endeavor ended up completely out of pink paint. The movie makers wiped their entire global supply, or as production designer Sarah Greenwood said for the Architectural Digest - “The world ran out of pink”.
Social media and AI interactivity: Modern Barbie twist
As of recently, it’s hard to imagine any up-to-date marketing campaign without AI input. It was almost expected for the Barbie marketing team to tap into this still controversial trend, and they sure didn’t disappoint.
The artificial intelligence tool they created brought something so simple and basic, but yet very effective. And fun.
The Barbie poster.
It’s a Selfie generator that allows anyone to pop in an original Barbie cast poster, as a Barbie herself, or her supposed boyfriend, Ken. All you need to do is snap a photo of yourself while on the page, or upload one, and voila – you are a legit member of a Barbie movie crew.
And the result of this move went viral. It even opened the door for Barbie to become part of meme culture.
With the Barbie generator marketing makers killed three flies with one swat – AI integration, interactivity, and social media sharing.
So here is another round of applause for them.
Fact: In the past six months, there have been more than six million Barbie-related engagements all across social media, as the Axios reports, and all based on data collected by the NewsWhip.
Lessons we learned
Let’s be honest – Barbie is a brand of unreachable heights. Even though Disney with Frozen did manage to “steal” part of the doll market from Mattel. But it’s hard for smaller brands to grasp the range and volume of this marketing campaign.
However, even without an enormous marketing budget, creativity and the right strategy can take you a long way.
We can for sure learn something from blondie who had more than 200 careers in her CV. These are the lessons Barbie as a teacher showcased:
Lesson #1: Step outside the box
Be brave. Always. That will allow you to reach more audiences. Staying in your comfort zone and hiding behind your own shadow won’t take you far. This campaign is a perfect example.
Think about who’s your targeted audience, but more importantly why. Then try to expand the circle. Offer your products or services to people who you didn’t primarily think would be interested, but might be. It’s all about the approach.
Even though Barbie is a doll, and logically her most faithful fans are girls and boys of young age, this campaign, as the movie itself, focused on the older crowd.
With this campaign Barbie entered the gaming community through the console and Barbie dressed in Xbox gear, it offered an exclusive experience to people attracted and intrigued by the unique adventure (boat ride, pricey Barbie events), and it marketed the whole line of adult products, so even 30 and 40 something people who used to love Barbie were hooked.
This time Barbie stepped into an unmarked territory, and it sure paid off.
Lesson #2: Stay present
Ignoring new technologies and trends is not an option. Even Barbie had to knock on Metaverse doors and team up with AI.
But if presenting your brand through Roblox and similar still developing virtual platforms, or creating artificial intelligence software is too much for you, not a problem. There are a number of novelties in the world of marketing you can tap on.
If you still haven’t, get to know more about micro influencing, deinfluencing, video storytelling, social commerce, push notifications, mobile optimization… There are plenty of eggs in the marketing basket, so choose one or two and experiment.
You have to remain relevant.
Lesson #3: Don’t forget the basics
Most of the marketing efforts the pink team conducted are familiar and not that innovative. But everything was just spot on. Even the pink billboards with nothing but the movie release date.
Yes, Barbie is probably the only brand in the world that is instantly recognized by the specific shade of a color, but the point is – acknowledge what’s your strongest link and exploit it. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary, but it is necessary for your campaign to rely on creativity.
Explore emotional targeting, make sure your campaign is easy to relate to, and when choosing your creatives try incorporating unexpected elements, something that will make people talk.
It works like a charm, every single time.
Tell us your thoughts on this Barbie mania, we will be happy to hear and comment on them. What’s your favorite part of the pink marketing campaign?
By the way, all the affiliate Kens are already on our Telegram chat. Let’s go party?