She’s everything, and he’s just Ken.
As the dust settles on the movie event of the year, let's take a step back and examine just how Barbie took over the world this entire year. Everything and everyone was pink this year, from Flo from Progressive to Crocs. Not only were brands embracing life in plastic, but Barbies, Kens, and Allans worldwide were flooding social media with Barbie content. The influx of pink propaganda proved effective with the movie earning over $1.4 billion at the global box office.
So let’s break down just exactly how Barbie’s marketing team used out-of-the-box strategies to bring Barbie Land to life in the Real World.
Brands' Barbie Boom
They say life in plastic is fantastic, and due to their efforts, and many companies jumping at the opportunity to draft up licensing deals with them, Mattel has ensured that everyone can live out their inner Barbie. Mattel has taken licensing deals, the ability of one company to sell a product using another company’s brand, to another level. With over 100 agreements with a variety of brands, they have used established partnerships, as well as new ones to make sure the whole world knows that Barbie is coming to town. Some of the less obvious ones include: Burger King Brazil’s Bacon burger with a stunningly pink sauce, Progressive’s Barbie commercial alluding to their plastic client’s many assets that need insurance, and Impala's neon yellow roller skates, make sure you never go anywhere without them. The pink wave flooding different stores’ has made one thing certain: even if you’ve never heard of Barbie, and you aren’t trying to seek her out, you now know who she is, and when and where you can see her movie.
This Barbie Engages Her Target Audience
Many were shocked by the movie’s PG-13 rating, but it was an evident move for the brand. Those who love Barbie and want to see this movie are those who grew up watching the classic Barbie movies. The likes of Barbie: Princess and the Pauper, Diamond Castle, and so much more. The newer generation of viewers, those who grew up watching their favorite YouTubers, were an added bonus, but most likely don’t have a strong connection to the brand. Making the movie geared towards older audiences not only allows the movie to explore mature themes of identity, and patriarchy but targets the audience who have grown up with Barbie.
This gave the brand one more advantage to use in their marketing strategy. Their viewers not only are nostalgic for their childhoods, but also actively use social media, and want to share their enthusiasm with those around them. Mattel just had to light the spark that turned into the flame of the social media onslaught of Barbie content. Creating just one Instagram template- This Barbie is a…- they have allowed their audience to grow closer to the brand by seeing themselves as Barbie. These templates were spread and modified until it became impossible to have not seen one on your feed. Mattel also used social media to engage further with their fans, posting memes fans can relate to, bingo cards that get them to interact more with the brand, and interviews. These actions not only spread awareness about the film, but made fans feel as though they were part of the process, they were in on the jokes, and the brand became a personable social media user.
This community created by the brand prompted fans to do free advertising for the movie as the premiere was approaching. Fans made memes, TikToks, and posts celebrating their inner Barbie, and their enthusiasm came from the brand’s initial engagement with their fans.
We can’t talk about the use of social media to promote the Barbie movie without talking about how Barbenheimer, the rivalry between Barbie and Oppenheimer fans, was created using TikTok. Fans started promoting both Barbie and Oppenheimer, by stating what they were going to wear to their respective viewings, and why you should see one over the other. This content was solely generated by fans, with neither studio being involved in the rivalry, though the movies were both released on the same day. The Barbenheimer phenomenon once again emphasizes the importance of social media marketing in today’s atmosphere.
Is Audience Engagement Kenough?
The Barbie movie brings many questions to the future of marketing films to audiences. The movie chiefly relied on an established world and engaging audiences online to come into it whether that was through licensing agreements or memes; audiences felt part of the world before they had even seen it in its entirety. This engagement resulted in the biggest box office opening for a female director and created a long-lasting affinity for the brand.