This Barbie is writing about Barbie.
Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling walk into a Bar(bie). Unfortunately, this isn’t the start to my latest joke – it’s the start to what could possibly be the best movie of this century (yeah, I said it). I’m Erin, a Community Manager at Puzzle, who spends a lot of time looking at screens, thinking about Barbie and wearing pink. Aside from being excited for this movie for personal reasons, I’m fascinated with how the Barbie movie has already become somewhat of a cult classic without it even being in cinemas. From rumours of the movie swirling around as far back as 2019, leaked pictures of real life Barbie and Ken rollerblading around Venice Beach, to the most viral meme filter I have seen in a very long time – the marketing of the film itself deserves a thesis; and that’s not even beginning to unpack the easter eggs, the inclusion of different Barbies and the speech patterns of characters shown in trailers. As someone who seriously loves pop culture and spends a hell of a lot of her time on the internet, this is obviously something I am invested in. Put on your pinkest outfit, buckle up, and get ready to join me on a wild ride from your childhood bedroom all the way to Barbie Land.
It all started in April when the internet was flooded with Barbie’s movie posters. Sickeningly sweet colours, incredible costumes and casting with the now iconic taglines of, “She’s everything, he’s just Ken.” I could not process any of the information I was being given about this film, because it was everywhere. Everywhere. Finally we get to see the cast in full; Margot Robbie and Emma Mackey are acting side by side, the whole cast is based off official individual Barbie lines, there are so many Kens, Dua Lipa is here and doesn’t she look amazing with blue hair?! There was an overwhelming amount of content, but still no further context about the film. Talk about a teaser trailer mindset (spoiler alert: I will be revisiting this very soon). Following on from this, we had the viral Barbie selfie generator – all in the same month, might I add. If there’s one thing that sells, it’s UGC. Why? Because it’s authentic, user-made, fun to make and inherently viral. If we take things back to basics, the filter seemingly appeared overnight and suddenly over-saturated every single social media feed ever – a similar tactic we saw with the original movie posters. With internet folk already hooked on everything about this movie, the posters revealing the cast combined with an interactive element was obviously a) going to start a conversation and b) cause major hype before anything official longer than about 5 mins had been released. It’s human nature, we want to know more about things that appear mysterious – and this is exactly what made the marketing around this film so successful.
Barbie marketing carries the mystery strategy throughout pretty much every decision they make – tapping into what some people have coined the “teaser trailer mindset”. While we have known about the existence of the Barbie movie for quite some time, we don’t actually know what it’s about. We’ve suspected that it’s sort of like Barbie’s coming of age movie but instead of coming of age, she’s realising there is life outside of Barbie Land. Even in interviews, though, Margot Robbie hasn’t given much away at all. We even got an AD tour showing off The Barbie Dreamhouse complete (or should I say incomplete) with a shower that has no water – alongside the chance to stay in the Dreamhouse on AirBnB. The entire strategy around this film really takes advantage of overwhelming audiences to capture their attention, and to keep them engaged – meanwhile revealing almost nothing about the actual product. We’re so close to the movie we can almost taste it, it’s being dangled right in front of us, with no way for us to get to it until release day. There’s something about taking a spam-like approach that is so genius, and not very often adopted. Sure, some people might get annoyed by having their feeds flooded with nothing but Barbie and Ken but given there has been such anticipation for the film, leaning into the excitement is a great move. Ever since the teasers and trailers kicked off, none of us have been able to get away from Barbie. It doesn’t matter if it’s filters, soundtrack reveals, more teasers, more trailers, articles about pink paint shortages, interviews of Ryan Gosling talking about Kenergy – you name it, the Barbie marketing team have done it. As marketers we often ask ourselves how we can keep our projects at the forefront of people’s minds – in Barbie’s case, the answer is to literally just spam them.
Speaking of spam, it’s rumoured that Barbie is collaborating with Spam food products on an extra special range! That’s a lie, that isn’t actually happening – but considering how many collabs have been announced you definitely believed me for a second didn’t you? From makeup to roller skates, Xbox to toothbrushes, bags, purses and blankets, anything you could possibly dream of having Barbie-fied is right at your fingertips (here’s a list of all of the partnerships, so far). Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with every one of these products, and I’d love nothing more than to fill my house with all things Barbie – but what does this collab-spam actually mean for the Barbie marketing campaign? We tend to see these sorts of limited edition collections come about once an anticipated piece of media has been released. Think about when Netflix’s Wednesday came out, we didn’t see make-up and clothing collections go live a month before the release did we? The strategy around the Barbie marketing creates an emphasis on the build up stage before the actual event. If we actually think about it, it makes total sense. If you can hype something up enough, you’re bound to create a ready-made audience that’s already obsessing before they get their hands on the actual product. We saw a similar thing with Fyre Festival (I use the word “similar” very loosely) but if you provide the internet with enough content showing clear blue water with models having a great time in the sunshine, the chances are you’re going to sell enough tickets to make your money back – but unlike Fyre Festival, I’m 99.99% certain the Barbie movie is actually going to be worth the money.
Marketing strategies aside, I think a major reason there has been so much anticipation for this film is because Barbie has provided a canvas for many of us growing up. We looked to Barbie for inspiration, aspirations, hopes, dreams, and fashion inspo. With all the Barbie merchandise and animated movies, we had complete access to every version of Barbie we could possibly hope for – without actually ever meeting the real Barbie. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that Barbie helped me express myself as a child by changing her outfits and braiding her hair. She helped me explore my interests with her wide array of occupations – whether she was a gymnast or a big fan of camping. Barbie gave me a plastic soundtrack to my childhood, which is something a lot of people can relate to and feel an affinity to. Giving a mass amount of people an intense level of comfort and nostalgia wrapped up in 1 hour and 40 minutes with an incredible cast was always going to be a success. The trick is ensuring that the approach to advertising resonates the exact same way that the movie itself will.
So, what can we take away from the Barbie movie’s marketing campaign? There’s a fine line that the Barbie team have managed to tow extremely well, between being annoying and creating excitement. It’s easy to cross over to the dark side of annoyance, but when it’s done right it’s a big ol’ chef’s kiss. Our 3 big pink takeaways from the marketing strategies behind this masterpiece of a movie are:
- More is more, overwhelm your audience with excitement.
- Be consistent in your output – this can be daily, weekly or even monthly content. Just keep the pace up.
- The hype phase is just as important as the release phase.
Well, we seem to have arrived firmly in Barbie Land just in time for release day. I hope you enjoyed our journey to the greatest movie ever made. My cinema tickets are booked, I’m already ironing my beloved Barbie t-shirt and picking out my pink accessories, I hope you are too.