The Barbie Phenomenon
Unless you’ve tuned out from all media—print, broadcast, and social—you know that the Barbie doll is everywhere, thanks to the release of a blockbuster movie from Warner Brothers. Yes, the movie “Barbie” may set a higher bar for summer movie releases, not to mention the marketing of merchandise opportunities.
The most popular toy for a popular brand
Equally as recognizable as Barbie is the toy company that presented her to the world in 1959: Mattel. While responsible for many popular toys—including the Hot Wheels model car sets—the Barbie doll and all related accessories may well top Mattel’s list. Popularity and maintaining a steady and secure presence is, however, never guaranteed—even for a longstanding and well-known company like Mattel.
With the passage of time, more sophisticated toys and games gradually attracted the attention of children, as well as the dollars of their parents. This presented a challenge to Mattel, as pointed out by Cameron Miller in Digital Marketer. Kids increasingly turned away from “old fashioned” ways of play to the razzle dazzle of gaming and digital entertainment, which in turn negatively impacted profits and stock performance for Mattel (as well as other “traditional” toy companies). Seeing the proverbial writing on the wall, Mattel put a plan in motion…
As far back as 2009, the idea for a Barbie movie had been in the planning stage and was to initially be produced by Universal Pictures. As with many proposed projects, this idea remained in “development limbo” until becoming reality when filming started at Warner Brothers in March 2022. For the last few weeks, a ripple effect of anticipation for the film’s release spread far and wide…
Behind the scenes of marketing “Barbie”
Traditional and digital marketing in perfect sync: The marketing of “Barbie” utilized every type of media available, making this one of the most effective cross-platform marketing strategies in recent times. Both traditional and digital media fueled enthusiasm among waiting audiences. (Even Google got into the act by decorating its screen with pink starbursts and background when “barbie movie” is entered into the search bar, as shown in the image at top.)
Sponsorships and partnerships: Sponsorships were also included in the marketing plan, and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Barbie” attracted more than 100 promotional partners, from Progressive Insurance to General Motors, along with 98 others. Add in some celebrity endorsements to bring an influencer marketing touch, and “Barbie” had as complete a marketing package as could be imagined.
Fast-forward to June 21, 2023, when “Barbie” was released. With a domestic gross of $155 million, complemented by an international gross of $182, Warner Brothers Studios and Mattel have a lot to be happy about. (Indeed, Ms. Miller calls this reversal of fortune a “game-changer” for the toy company’s future, with an abundance of possible merchandising opportunities.)
The paid media of TV ads—along with the earned media word-of-mouth on social—ensured an above and beyond opening weekend for success.
Yes, reality now kicks in. Not many brands and businesses have the budgets that Mattel and Warner Brothers can spend, but the marketing strategy behind the movie “Barbie” is proof positive of the power in cross-platform marketing: Traditional works with digital (and vice versa), and, if possible, a word from a sponsor or a comment from an influencer works wonders to make a brand seen, heard, and remembered.