It's a Barbie World

Lessons in Marketing from the Summer's Most Anticipated Movie

By: Wesleigh Mowry

This summer’s most anticipated movie isn’t about the return of a daredevil action hero or fan-favorite treasure-hunting archaeologist, but someone with even bigger name recognition: everyone’s favorite fashion doll, Barbara Millicent Roberts herself, Barbie. 

Since the first teaser trailer debuted in December 2022, Barbie and her signature pink have been expanding past the toy aisle into brand collabs, PR stunts, and ad campaigns that have made her the it-girl of the moment. But you don’t have to have the budget of Mattel to follow in her footsteps. Here are four lessons from the ‘Barbie’ movie marketing that can apply to any brand. 

Lean on Brand Recognition 

The first poster for the movie didn’t even include the film’s name — just the key actors names, a release date, and a giant recognizable pink and white letter B. Take stock of what elements of your brand are most familiar to your audience and use them to your advantage. Maybe you have a unique color palette, a catchy tagline, or a beloved mascot. Use these elements frequently to build even greater brand recognition and familiarity. 

Barbie movie teaser poster with large pink "B"

Know Your Audience 

According to a 2016 report from the Motion Picture Association of America, the majority of moviegoers are female (52%) and between the ages of 25-39 (23%). With this in mind, the idea of a big-budget movie about a toy doll aimed at adults makes perfect sense. While the movie revolves around a doll, it’s not catered towards children. It’s a movie for adults who grew up playing with Barbie dolls as children, and the marketing has played directly into that in a number of ways:

  • The font on the official posters (like the above) reflect a logo used by the Barbie brand from 1975-1991, prime childhood years for Gen X and Millennials
  • Movie tie-in licensed products have gone beyond just toys and froyo to designer shoes, home decor, luggage, even electric toothbrushes to immerse customers in living the Barbie lifestyle 
  • Costumes in the film and even the actor’s clothing during appearances and premieres are references to actual outfits worn by Barbie dolls the target audience would recognize from their childhood
  • Barbie’s dream house has been brought to life by Airbnb and Architectural Digest, tapping into the audience’s nostalgia

Apply this same thinking to your brand: Who is your target audience and what things inspire, delight, or resonate with them? Look for ways your brand can uniquely tap into their interests and meet them where they are. 

Own the Conversation 

When the ‘Barbie’ character posters dropped alongside the Barbie Selfie Generator, the Slide Nine team immediately made posters of our staff and shared them online as the trend took over social media, creating millions of user-generated ads for the brand for free. The ‘Barbie’ marketing team had the foresight to know the poster design was meme-able and then built the meme-maker so that inevitable copies would contain their own branding — a truly genius move. How can you make it simple for your audience to interact positively with your brand? Consider what plug-ins, apps, shareable graphics and other elements would help your audience easily share your brand story. 

Spread the Word 

"Our goal for this summer and this year is for Barbie to be everywhere and for her to be ubiquitous," said Lisa McKnight, Mattel's global head of Barbie and dolls portfolio. And everywhere she is: with more than 100 product collaborations and nearly half a million articles written about her since January alone, there’s no shortage of Barbie in the cultural conversation. The lesson? If you want there to be buzz around your brand, don’t be afraid to talk about it — most communications and marketing pros are familiar with the saying that it can take seeing something seven times before you remember it. Diversify your messaging across platforms and audience segments to get your brand in front of the right people in the right places. 

The marketing around the ‘Barbie’ movie is inspirational — and having brought in $155 million at the box office opening weekend, must have been doing something right. In fact, a third of our team members were among those who saw it opening weekend!