Creating a Barbie Movement

What can marketers learn from the success of the Barbie film?

You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Barbenheimer. Two seemingly opposite films on the surface that were launching at the same time, both of which explore the zeitgeist of their respective eras. Both launched to critical acclaim, but Barbie is the clear winner at the box office, taking in more than double what Oppenheimer has. It’s led marketers to look on in awe and scratch their heads as they dissect what has made Barbie such a wild success. While lightning (probably) isn’t going to strike twice with this exact mash-up, there are tons of lessons to be learned from what clicked with audiences.

  1. 1.

    Greta Gerwig

    The linchpin of it all, Gerwig is a fantastic storyteller, who isn’t afraid to head down a rabbit hole of controversial thinking. Whether her work always lands perfectly or not, we’ll leave up to the critics, but no one can argue she bring a fresh, exploratory viewpoint to narrative building. She faces her projects with courage and passion. She is dauntless and fearless. That approach is the crux of any successful marketing campaign. Be bold, take risks, engage your audience, and have a clear perspective on the story you want to tell.

  2. 2.

    Barbie is polarizing

    Love her or not, Barbie stirs up all kinds of conversations. She’s a contradiction. On the one hand she’s an astronaut, a surgeon, a USAF pilot, a judge, and a microbiologist to name a few. With the number of jobs in science she’s had, you can argue that Barbie is a role model for women in STEM. But then you look at her gravity defying body proportions and realize she’s also setting up some pretty unhealthy expectations for body image. But having this dichotomy for an issue is good for marketing. It sparks passionate conversation, which in turns becomes a viral phenomenon. The lesson? Be open to exploring controversial topics, know where you stand, and stand with your consumers rather outside of the circle of conversation.

  3. 3.

    Mattel has guts

    You have to admire Mattel for taking this level of risk and being willing to poke fun at themselves. It speaks to their vision and confidence that they saw Gerwig’s vision and were all in. They saw that the film could not only reinvigorate the brand, but that it could change the cultural dialogue about Barbie. For brands and marketers, Mattel has set a good example, showing that taking a good long honest look at yourself and rethinking your position on something is not only rewarding, but powerful.

  4. 4.

    Cultivate new fans

    The marketers behind the Barbie film were a vocal supporter and a strong presence at gay pride celebrations in multiple cities. That kind of allyship unequivocally stated that Mattel and Barbie stand for LGBTQ+ rights. It upended the thought that Barbie is a “girls” doll, tossing the gender binary out the window. And it brought a new audience to Barbie, at a time when the queer community is faced with rising legislation to chip away at rights.

  5. 5.

    Transform an argument into a unified movement

    Barbie the film has changed the conversation about Barbie the doll. By addressing head on the unrealistic ideals of Barbieland and shining a light on the sexism and misogyny that exists in the real world, Barbie offered an honest critique of our treatment of women, and a glimmer of hope that the patriarchy can find a more balanced way in the future. Barbie has become a global empowerment movement for women and girls. Brands can learn from Barbie. Don’t just spotlight what’s wrong in the world make your brand a slice of hope and a solution to making the world better.

Image via Courtesy of Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Margot Robbie in Barbie.

Pierce Mattie

Pierce Mattie is a full-service marketing agency that interacts with consumers and key stakeholders at every stage of the journey. With a focus in beauty, health and wellness, we are immersed in the marketing landscape, able to powerfully communicate a brand’s point of difference to acquire and maintaining customers. The content team is obsessed with what's trending in the digital world, and how it intersects with consumer behavior. We are passionate about the changing landscape of the world, including how emergent technologies affect brand attachment, how diversity and inclusivity are critical to success, and where humans fit into the equation.

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