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Marketing Breakdown: The Barbie Phenomenon

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By Miri Rossitto

Introduced in 1959, the Barbie doll was the most iconic creation of globally recognized toy company, Mattel. Barbie captured the imagination of children worldwide, instantly becoming a cultural phenomenon. Over the decades, Barbie has undergone many transformations to adapt to changing times while promoting diversity and inclusivity. However, despite efforts to stay relevant, Mattel faced challenges in recent years, struggling to compete with the shift in children’s play patterns towards online gaming, digital toys, and other entertainment options.

These challenges created the push for Mattel to branch out into uncharted territory, taking Barbie from iconic fashion doll to the cinema. The result: the release of a Barbie movie on July 21. And everyone was all in! During its opening weekend, the film grossed $155 million with an additional $182 million internationally, exceeding all projections. What was even more astounding was the “Barbie-mania” that extended to multiple brands and products, as well as inspired Barbie pop-ups all over the country. 

What made the marketing for this movie such a complete success?

An Empowering Storyline

The movie depicted Barbie as strong, independent, and adventurous, embodying the essence of “You Can Be Anything.” By showcasing her determination to not only overcome challenges but to evolve into something more, it resonated across generations, providing inspiration rooted in relevant issues faced today as seen in Margot Robbie’s Barbie’s visit to the real world to America Ferrera’s monologue on women. 

One of the most commendable aspects of the new movie was its commitment to inclusivity and representation with their diverse cast of characters from different backgrounds, and ethnicities. The intentional representation demonstrated the power of inclusivity, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment among viewers and fans alike.

Leveraging Brand Loyalty 

and Authenticity

Over the years, Barbie became an integral part of countless childhoods across multiple generations, making her the iconic figure she is today. The movie’s marketing and storytelling capitalized on this deep emotional connection, evoking feelings of nostalgia among older fans while introducing the character to a new generation. The combination of nostalgia and novelty ensured a broad audience. 

The transition of this classic character to modern times was handled adeptly and only amplified its authenticity. Though the film focused on contemporary themes and challenges, it stayed true to Barbie’s timeless values of kindness, compassion, and resilience. The modern elements were integrated into the movie without compromising the essence of what makes Barbie, well, Barbie.

Engaging and Multi-Faceted Marketing 

The marketing campaign created around the new Barbie movie was nothing short of impressive. The team utilized a combination of traditional advertising, digital marketing, and strategic partnerships with influencers, celebrities, and other brands. Engaging content, interactive experiences, and exclusive previews helped generate excitement and anticipation leading up to the movie’s release and beyond. Using social media to reach a global audience fueled more support and success for the movie and the Barbie brand.

Barbie’s reinvention on the big screen through the new Barbie movie reconnected this classic icon and brand to multiple generations. It created a nostalgic experience for an older generation of fans while engendering relevance for the newer generation of fans. Its empowering storyline, leveraging of brand loyalty, and strategic engagement and multi-faceted marketing brought success to an iconic brand and made it relevant to a broader audience once again.

Miri Rossitto is CEO of COWE Consulting. Follow them on all social @CoweOfficial.


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