Barbie Movie as the Marketing Campaign of the Year: Five Tips for Achieving a Powerful Phenomenon

Barbie Movie as the Marketing Campaign of the Year: Five Tips for Achieving a Powerful Phenomenon

Birgit Karus, partner at NOH Production, observed the Barbie phenomenon in social media and public spaces, sharing recommendations for creating extensive marketing campaigns for companies.

As a marketer and entrepreneur, one can only admire Mattel’s management and marketing decisions that have enabled such a decades-long success wave. Barbie is a prime example that a product can be more than just a sales item, as its impact as a social symbol goes beyond being just a toy. The Barbie brand has managed to keep up with the times and adapt to different target groups by offering a wide range of dolls in various races, professions, and fashion styles.

This versatility has allowed the product to remain popular across multiple generations. Adaptation is not just a goal for Mattel’s profit-making but also their mission and core value, as the Barbie brand is also dedicated to social responsibility and promoting diversity. Here, other marketers and entrepreneurs can only learn.

Now, with the release of the Barbie movie, the pink craze has taken on a whole new dimension thanks to a well-thought-out marketing strategy. There is probably no one who hasn’t seen the explosion of Barbie-themed posts in their social media feed or the selection of “Barbie-fied” products in stores. More than 100 collaborations have been made for the film, from Airbnb-themed accommodations to NYX’s Barbie-themed cosmetics, Zara clothes, and Aldo shoes. After the Barbie movie, there has been a boom in social media with videos offering style tips on how to dress like Barbie. The fact that these suggestions are used in real life is evidenced by the photo series from film premieres in various countries.

Thus, no one can escape the Barbie and pink flood in social media, stores, and public spaces today. Even if they wanted to, because it is one of the most successful marketing campaigns of the year, achieving every company’s dream of becoming viral. Once the creation and dissemination of a marketing campaign have moved to the masses, it is no longer possible to stop this machine. It is certainly a headache for some people, especially those who are fed up with pink, but for entrepreneurs, it is a dream come true – how and if it is possible to achieve such a thing with their products.

The marketing of the Barbie movie began already a year before the film’s release, and in fact, the entire Barbie brand has been worked on since 1959. Therefore, it cannot be said that it is an overnight phenomenon, as Mattel has heavily invested in product development innovation, allowing the Barbie doll to keep up with the times, and has contributed to strong branding that has remained true to its roots from the beginning. Such a mission and consistency could be adopted by many companies in Estonia in their management, as there are not many companies in Estonia that have lived longer than their founders. This is especially a good example for startups, known for their extreme innovation and mission-driven approach, who need to keep the brand alive even when the founders leave the company.

If the brand image is strong and clear to the consumer and they can identify with it, it is very easy to build long-term loyalty on this basis and create such viral campaigns as Barbie managed with her film. Of course, the scale can be different and depends on how much is invested in the marketing campaign at the beginning, but in today’s global social media world, this investment is nothing compared to the effect of free viral marketing, where consumers and influencers start promoting the product or service on their own through creative content. For example, in Estonia, there are famous people or brands that have managed to achieve a viral campaign and international success: from the music world, Tommy Cash, sauna manufacturer Iglu, and fashion brand Racer Worldwide, to name a few.

How to Create a Marketing Campaign with Barbie’s Reach?

Some Recommendations for Companies:

  • Create a Strong Message: Develop a message that resonates with people and aligns with your product or service’s unique niche, making your product a symbol for the target group. For Barbie, the message is “Barbie can be anyone, and everyone is Barbie.” The size of the target group is also important here. The film’s foundation is the revival of Barbie’s origin story, focusing on strong nostalgia. Since the film is intended for the whole family, not just children, the idea is to engage and target everyone who has ever interacted with Barbie.
  • Develop a Viral Visual Concept: Create a visual campaign concept that can take off according to social media trends and become viral. Find well-known individuals who can share information in the appropriate style on their channels. For the Barbie movie, one of the first campaign concepts was a teaser video where Barbie steps out of her shoes on tiptoes as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Then, many people worldwide began trying to make the same graceful video or, conversely, turn it into a joke.
  • Support with PR Actions: Provide context for the campaign with PR actions. In the case of the Barbie movie, discussions ranged from the phenomenon of pink running out in the world to in-depth analyses of what Barbie means to people. PR support began a year before the film’s release and continues to this day.
  • Licensed Associated Products: Creativity and accessibility of associated products to a large number of people. Licensed products have always been an important marketing channel for Mattel. For example, a retro Barbie makeup palette or a real overnight stay in a Barbie house style. Every company wants to benefit as much as possible from Barbie products and thus further contributes to the film’s marketing.
  • Sense of Community: Watching the film and branded products bring people together like the Estonian Song Festival. People meet old friends and find new ones through shared values. Companies should definitely think about how their product or service contributes to or even creates a certain lifestyle.

Creating a globally powerful brand and marketing campaign is definitely not easy, and there is no one-size-fits-all framework. If there were, it would no longer be unique or special and would lose its meaning. Barbie has shown us today that a strong brand and a well-thought-out marketing campaign ensure success for decades, connecting people from different generations across borders.

Originally published on August 2, 2023, in Delfi Ärileht.

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