What We Can All Learn From the Barbie Marketing Team


The Gist

  • Collaboration counts. Partnering with other brands can significantly enhance reach and impact.
  • Experiences matter. Immersive real-world experiences generate buzz and strengthen brand connection.
  • Beyond tradition. Non-traditional marketing channels can help make a memorable impact.

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” pulled in $155 million in its box office opening weekend, filling seats in more than 4,000 North American theaters and surpassing the much-anticipated “Oppenheimer.” 

“Barbie” movie on the TV screen with a bowl of popcorn and remote control in front.

The pink-filled flick is ranked the best box office performance of the year so far and the best domestic opening for a woman director ever. And while the success of “Barbie” hinged on a good movie, one other factor undeniably came into play — the marketing team. 

Barbie Reminds Us Why We Love Movies 

Think about the last time you were excited about a movie — not just to buy tickets and watch the show, but to immerse yourself in the full experience of an imaginary world. 

“Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” come to mind. Fans dressed up to attend midnight premieres with their friends, often hosting pre- and post-film parties to discuss, celebrate and get a little nerdy. And they bought branded products to look the part and feel a little bit of magic. 

But the movie industry hasn’t been able to keep up this inspiring trend, especially with the pandemic torpedoing peoples’ ability to go to theaters and economic tensions making ticket prices (and refreshments) unaffordable. 

Enter “Barbie,” a glimpse of what the movie-going experience used to be.  

Related Article: How Social Media Marketing Has Changed This Year

How the Barbie Marketing Team Won Our Hearts 

Movie marketing today has become standard (AKA boring). We get a teaser or two, then a full-length trailer. Maybe some branded merchandise if it’s a big reboot or Marvel film. If there’s true hype, it tends to be user-generated. 

Barbie’s marketing team approached things a little differently. 

Products, Products, Products

A movie about a famous product cashing in on product marketing? Sounds about right. 

Branded products give people a chance to own part of the movie experience. And Barbie has a leg up here, because a big chunk of the target audience grew up with Barbies in their houses (and now have money to spend). But we’re not just talking dolls. If you can think of the product, there’s probably a Barbie collection for it. 

Looking for clothes and shoes? You can find branded collections from Forever 21, Hot Topic, Gap, Target, Crocs, Aldo shoes, Bloomingdale’s and many more. Or you might want to get your hands on some official Barbie skates from Impala

Official Barbie skates from Impala

You could also find Barbie-themed rugs, luggage, pool floats, toys, dog clothing, accessories and a myriad of different beauty products from a slew of brands. 

Make your house smell like Barbie’s Dreamhouse with candles from Homesick (sweet peony, lemon zest and sandalwood) or grab some Barbie Land froyo at Pinkberry (strawberry and dragonfruit). 

Barbie-themed frozen yogurt from Pinkberry.

If you’re looking to go a little more digital, you can snag some Barbie-themed Xbox gear, like custom controller faceplates designed to match Barbie and Ken’s outfits and game content where players can drive the duo’s iconic cars. Xbox also gifted one lucky winner a Series S console built into a Barbie Dreamhouse. 

Barbie-themed xBox products and Barbie-themed console giveaway.

Real-World Experiences 

Products can be great, but they’re not the bread and butter of Barbie’s marketing campaign. Instead, it’s experiences. You might hear it called viral marketing, or maybe experiential marketing, but the result is crafting moments people can participate in that evoke strong positive emotions — happiness, amusement, wonder. 

For instance, wouldn’t you be excited if you hopped on Airbnb, only to discover you could stay at the real Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse for one night, free of charge? I’d be ecstatic (and skeptical). But it happened to a few lucky people. 

Twitter post from Airbnb announcing the Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse.

On the East coast, Warner Bros. and Fangirl Fantasy paired up to offer a 21+ Barbie Dream Cruise in Boston. Tickets were free and first come, first serve, with attendees getting the chance to dance the night away and participate in giveaways.

Poster promoting the Barbie Dream Cruise in Boston hosted by Warner Bros. and Fangirl Fantasy.

Those willing to pay for their Barbie experiences can check out the World of Barbie exhibit in Los Angeles, where attendees can visit the Barbie Dreamhouse, the Barbie Interstellar Rocket, the Barbie Sound Studio and seven other interactive worlds.

There’s also the Barbie-themed hotel in Malaysia, along with pop-up cafes in Chicago and New York City featuring Barbie-inspired food and decor, exclusive merchandise and (in the Windy City) a roller skating rink.

Pop-up Barbie Cafe in Chicago, complete with a roller rink.

Even if you weren’t seeking Barbie out, the marketing team likely got your attention.

There were Barbie-themed TV ads, hot pink billboards, famous city monuments lit up in pink, Barbie bus stop benches, an appearance from Barbie-themed roller skaters in the DC Pride Parade and even a Barbie-themed episode of “Summer Baking Championship” on the Food Network.


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