It was the summer of bright pink everything, “mojo dojo casa house” jokes, and Margot Robbie’s iconic press tour looks – you could say summer 2023 was our Barbie era.
The July release of Warner Bros.’ Barbie movie was quite literally a historic moment and topped charts with new records like largest opening weekend of 2023 at the US box office and largest opening weekend ever for a female director.
How did one movie so deeply permeate our culture? What made the movie launch so iconic? A lot of it comes down to the impressive marketing strategy. While the team is rumored to have had $150 million at their disposal to promote the movie, we can still glean some valuable strategies to use in any campaign.
Keep reading for the 5 marketing lessons we’re going to be borrowing from the Barbie marketing team.
1. Building Anticipation
People were eager and excited for the Barbie movie months before the release – even people who weren’t fans! This can be credited to the team’s strategic teaser posts that gave juuuuust enough information to intrigue and hook fans, like the poster that revealed the actors who would play Barbie and Ken, without giving away any of the plot or other characters too soon.
(image source: Warner Bros.)
And the people loved it! The internet buzzed with predictions of what was to come and invited fans to tap into their Barbie memories as they waited to experience the brand in a new way.
If you’ve got a launch on the horizon, think about what that small tease could be to hook your audience’s attention and make them curious.
2. Expanding Your Audience
If you think about it, the Barbie movie was a tough sell because the target audience isn’t immediately obvious. Is it geared towards children? For those who grew up playing with Barbies before the brand started to decline in popularity? Females?
It’s a challenge for sure, but what the Barbie team did so compellingly was appeal to *all* demographics. Yes, it tapped into nostalgia marketing for millennials who grew up with the dolls and also attracted new audiences while strongly communicating the brand values. They even addressed the divide head-on with this tagline: “If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.”
This is a great lesson that your target audience isn’t locked in forever. Just like you and your brand or business will evolve, so will your audience. Look for the ways that you may need to tweak your messaging and the opportunities where you can tap into audiences you hadn’t considered before!
3. Creating Crossovers
The Barbie team created countless brand collaborations, from a Progressive ad to Swoon’s Barbie-Pink Lemonade to hot pink Béis luggage and possibly our favorite, the life-sized replica of the Barbie DreamHouse you can rent on AirBnb. And of course, the star-studded soundtrack with songs from Lizzo, Sam Smith, Billie Eilish, and Tame Impala to name a few. All of these partnerships significantly expanded the cultural moment that was happening.
Although you might not have the budget to release product lines or huge advertisements with other brands, the main idea here is that partnering with others opens both parties up to reach a wider audience.
4. Consistent Branding
What’s the common thread across every single Barbie campaign? Pink! The hot pink hue has come to represent strength and empowerment, and we see it used in the movie, marketing campaigns, and physical products.
It’s impressive how a single color can be such a core part of a brand’s identity, but Barbie has been sowing the (pink) seeds since 1959. Consistent branding gives you roots so you can evolve in other places. The Barbie brand has changed its messaging pretty significantly over the years, but the strong visual identity has retained other parts of the brand, so it doesn’t feel like everything has changed.
Brand recognition through a single color is monumental, and while not everybody has to achieve that, it’s a great reminder that visual branding matters and the subtle things like color palettes, logos, and fonts can really help you form an identity.
5. Continuing the Experience Online
Don’t discount organic content! Yes, the Barbie team had impressive pop-ups, partnerships, billboards, etc., but a lot of buzz came from their social media content which was engaging, shareable, and invited a user response.
You can do the same with something as simple as creating a hashtag or more unique, like the Barbie team did with a Barbie selfie generator (check out this step-by-step guide for creating a Snapchat filter!). The point here is to think strategically about what you can do to facilitate interaction digitally. Are there influencers or collaborators you can tap into your marketing? Is there a pop-culture moment you can jump on (or create) that you know will resonate with your audience? It’s up to you to create the setting for these online moments to happen.
As you can see, Barbie’s journey from toy store shelves to the big screen has been nothing short of electric. We laughed, we cried, and we got some marketing lessons out of it too!
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