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How Clever Marketing Made the ‘Barbie’ Movie Explode

How the marketing team behind ‘Barbie’ ensured commercial success and nostalgia.

'Barbie' Promotional Billboard in NYC
Credit: Shutterstock/rblfmr

How ‘Barbie’s’ marketing team at Warner Brothers ensured a guaranteed box office success.

Exploring the ‘Barbie’ movie:

There is no denying the sheer power of ‘Barbie’, from the original dolls and fashion history, has an iconography that ensures nostalgia and success amongst its loyal audiences.

‘Barbie’ was released on the 21st of July; the highly anticipated film, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie, is on track to surpass $155 million in box office sales worldwide. Despite box office success, the lead-up to the release already guaranteed success due to Warner Brothers’ innovative marketing strategy.

1. ‘This Barbie is’: promotional posters

Taking cast announcements to a creative level, ‘Barbie’ released a series of promotional posters of the cast, noting each cast member under the header, ‘This Barbie is.’ The success of these posters inspired a wave of replicas and memes, with fans recreating the Warner Brothers posters, and establishing a new online trend. The marketing team noticed this attention and created an online template for fans to recreate the iconic posters. The hashtag ‘This Barbie is’ has 70.1 million uses on TikTok, with a new filter that allows users to see which ‘Barbie’ they are.

The selfie generator for Barbie created a social media frenzy; audiences created their own marketing and promotion for Barbie simply by sharing their own ‘Barbie’ selfie template.

2. The Barbie dream house

A real-life construct of the Barbie dream house appeared in Malibu, California, appearing on Airbnb to promote the movie; Barbie fans can book a stay in the all-pink space, featuring a disco roller rink, a gym, and a lavish pool with ‘Ken’ floats.

3. The press tour

Credit: Shutterstock/ Kathy Hutchins

Margot Robbie (Barbie) and Ryan Gosling (Ken) announced an 8-city press tour, including London, Los Angeles, Toronto, Berlin, and New York. Interest was generated by the arrival of the film stars into these cities and the Barbie-inspired outfits they wore. During their stop in Sydney, Margot Robbie wore a Hervé Léger dress inspired by the original Barbie’s 1959 monochrome swimsuit. In South- Korea, fans were ecstatic to see a replica of the original ‘Day to Night’ Barbie outfit, with fans in London seeing the Vivienne Westwood gown, replicating the ‘Enchanted Evening’ Barbie.

Credit: Shutterstock/Fred Duval

4. The Barbie soundtrack

The highly-anticipated movie was accompanied by a star-studded soundtrack, with artists such as Billie Elish, Dua Lipa, Sam Smith, and Ice Spice producing records for the film. The soundtrack has already achieved several Billboard chart hits, with Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance the Night’ predicted to reach number five in the UK charts. According to Atlantic Records President Kevin Weaver,

“We’re always looking for something that feels like it has cultural stickiness outside of the four walls of the film.” Barbie’s pervasive influence made it the perfect candidate for an extraordinary soundtrack. The film effortlessly embedded itself into the pop culture conversation before its theatrical release, thanks to the power of the iconic brand…and a huge marketing spend, of course. All it needed to complete the package was some music for the part

Hugh McIntyre

The success of ‘Barbie’

Just days after its release, ‘Barbie’ has become the biggest box office opener since 2019 in the UK. Greta Gerwig made history with ‘Barbie’ having the most successful opening weekend for a female-directed movie.

The Barbie marketing team at Mattel and Warner Brothers had pursued more than 100 brand collaborations for the movie; in turn, the record-breaking box office numbers suggest the $100 million budget for marketing worked in Warner Brothers’ favor.

The way Barbie has been resonating with audiences today is a virtue of how it’s both shifted its brand narrative and also taken risks with being irreverent with its messaging. The Barbie from 10 years ago didn’t have the inclusive, empowering and relatable voice she has today. So, for all marketers looking to activate with the brand, it is key to express Barbie, not just through the iconic nostalgia it commands but also in a way that connects with audiences today.

Raphaël Bouquillon

Although these marketing tactics were successful for ‘Barbie’, for most audiences, the appeal was simply in the doll ‘Barbie’, the ever-changing childhood symbol for a lot of women and girls.

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Hello! My name is Rachel, I'm from Manchester and I'm a Journalism student at Cardiff University! I love writing anything related to popular culture and entertainment.

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