Regardless of where you stand on Barbie, one thing’s for sure – the marketing campaign surrounding the summer blockbuster is likely to go down as one of the best of 2023.
Ever since the first teaser trailer tip-toed online at the start of the year, Barbiemania has been insinuating itself into almost every facet of our daily lives via an impeccably executed promotional operation spanning across print, digital, social, even experiential media. Fast-forward seven months later, and Barbie has become the pink rollerblading elephant in the room – larger than life, popping with colour, impossible to ignore.
First came the selfie generator, a relatively straightforward promotional gimmick which had already been employed by previous film promotional campaigns but that Barbie took to new heights. The platform allowed users to upload selfies and create their own Barbie poster, complete with personalised tagline, and soon every person and their PR manager was taking part in the fad (“This Barbie is on deadline”). The Barbie selfie generator was a masterclass in brand-directed UGC, leveraging the relatability of everyday customers, but making sure they stayed on-message.
Throughout her 64 years, Barbie has always been a fashion icon, so it’s unsurprising countless retail fashion brands didn’t miss the chance to Barbiefy (read: turn bubble-gum pink) their merch, whether it was dresses, sunglasses or matching suitcases. The likes of Zara, Beis, Forever 21, Impala Skates, and Cogent’s own client ALDO all understand that Barbie's influence extends beyond the toy world. Over the years, many real-life fashion designers and stylists have drawn inspiration from Barbie's iconic looks to create their own designs. Her impact can be seen on runways, in clothing lines, and in collaborations with both high-end and High Street fashion brands, which is why capitalising on the release of her first live-action movie was always going to be a must.
Perhaps the most impressive stunt was the one pulled off by Airbnb, which erected a life-size version of the Barbie’s Malibu dreamhouse that guests could stay in ahead of the film’s release. Located on the famous Southern Californian beach for a limited time only, the people lucky enough to secure a booking were able to relax by the pool and try on Barbie’s wardrobe, all while uploading their snaps to social media and spreading the FOMO.
Adding to the whole mix was an unexpected, yet entirely welcome dose of viral marketing coming from the most unlikely of places: a shared release date with Oppenheimer, the much-anticipated WW2 drama by Christopher Nolan. Over the past few weeks, ‘Barbenheimer’ has become one of the highest trending topics on social media, as cinemagoers debate online which film to go see on opening day, with varying degrees of fervour, but often with hilarious results.
All this talk of Barbie does leave us however with the legitimate question: is the film any good? We’d argue that at this point, it doesn’t really matter. The marketing teams at Mattel and Warner Bros. Discovery have pulled off the mother of all integrated campaigns by getting everyone talking/posting/blogging about a film about doll. And in the film’s orbit, a whole range of other brands have made very smart moves by adding their own splash of Barbie-fication to their products, communications and customer experiences. With all the buzz it’s generated, we’d be surprised if Barbie doesn’t become one of the highest-grossing films of the year. In fact, we’re posting this from the queue outside the cinema right now.