The Barbie Movie Marketing: Reinventing An Iconic Brand

The world’s most popular doll is here to rock the world of movies. The new Barbie movie is all set to rock the big screens in a few months. But it has already become a social media sensation. Even if you only browse social media occasionally, you must have come across at least one meme or Barbie selfie so far. There’s brilliant marketing in play and we’re going to talk about it today. 

After all, going viral is every marketing team’s dream. How did the Barbie movie marketing team achieve this in such a brief period? That too when there are more than two months until the release of the movie? 

Well, the answer to this lies in the strength of a doll, a brand that’s decades old. Above all, if a doll brand managed to keep the franchise alive in an era of video games and technology, there’s definitely a bulk of marketing lessons to take away. 

So, in this blog, we’ll be talking about not just the Barbie brand but also about the recent Barbie movie meme trend on social media and the evolution of the Barbie brand.  

Barbie – the brand spinning its magic for more than six decades 

The Barbie doll was an idea created by Ruth Handler, and sold by the Mattel toy company. Ruth Handler named the doll after her daughter Barbara. the Barbie doll was introduced to the commercial market on March 9, 1959, at the  American International Toy Fair in New York City. If the date looks familiar, it’s because this date is also often cited as Barbie’s birthday. 

Around  350,000 Barbie dolls were sold the year it made its debut. That’s indeed a big number considering that this was the time before marketers had technology, TV and social media to spread the word. 

From patent disputes with Louis Marx and Company for Barbie being a modified version of their popular doll Bild Lilli to criticisms about the unrealistic portrayal of body image and backlash for unfair racial representation, there have been several bumps in the journey. But the Barbie brand emerged through them. And now stands tall as the Barbie movie is making fans on social media go crazy. 

It all begins with a clear purpose that plays out 

Have you ever wondered why when there are so many toy brands out there Barbie remains an undefeated champion for decades? Well, at the crux of it, there’s a clear brand purpose. Let’s find out what that is. 

We spoke about how the Barbie doll was introduced in 1959. But it’s the backstory, the idea behind Ruth Handler’s introduction of this character that matters. Those were times when a majority of the dolls available were mostly modeled after infants. The idea was to encourage caretaking roles in little girls. 

Ruth Handler noticed her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls and assigning these dolls roles of grown-ups. That was when the idea of the gap in the dolls segment caught her attention. The Barbie doll was inspired by the Bild Lilli doll from Germany. But from there, Barbie has evolved by leaps and bounds taking on several roles as well. 

The introduction of the Barbie doll is one of the best examples of a successful brand strategy. When you identify the potential gaps in a market and introduce a solution to fill these gaps, there’s a better chance to succeed. 

In this case, Ruth Handler wanted to create something that allowed little girls to imagine and dream big. The idea was to inspire and to believe that everything is possible. Since the brand started out with such clarity of purpose, it has come a long way overcoming many stumbling blocks. 

Growing by leveraging storytelling 

Barbie continues to be one of the most successful and also one of the most profitable brands of Mattel. In 2022, the sale of Mattel’s Barbie amounted to 1.49 billion U.S. dollars worldwide. Look closely and you’ll realize that one thing that the Barbie brand has that many other toy franchises don’t is a strong storyline. 

However, slowly, several new characters were added to the lineup. These were not random characters but connected to Barbie like family members and friends. With this Mattel didn’t just create a story that sells but also connected with the original rationale behind playing with dolls – role playing. 

There’s a whole array of characters and roles that kids create while playing with their dolls. And by introducing them in the form of different dolls, Mattel showed that it listens to its audience. 

That’s one reason why in addition to Barbie, even the supporting characters are quite popular among fans. Ken (Barbie’s boyfriend), for example, is another well-recognized character. The prominence of Ken’s character is evident from the recent Barbie Movie meme trend of “She’s everything. He’s just Ken”. 

The Barbie brand does not just tell stories but also adapts the storyline to the changing norms in society. Like when the brand started introducing more characters from diverse races. That shows that while telling stories is important, telling the most relevant ones that resonate with your audience is even more important. 

Now that we have spoken about the Barbie brand, how it started, and how it grew, let’s talk about the topic that’s breaking the internet – the Barbie movie meme trend. 

The Barbie movie meme trend – a new social media phenomenon 

The trend of bringing fictional characters to life through movies is pretty popular these days. Take the Super Mario Bros Movie for example. We’ve seen such instances of game characters, animated shows, and toys becoming the central characters in movies. 

The success of these movies and the subsequent boost in popularity they bring to the brands behind them show the strengths of content marketing. Now the Barbie movie and the way its popularity has been pushing the Barbie brand and Mattel toy company ahead is yet another example of this. 

Let’s look at how the marketing team behind the Barbie movie has been making this happen through the Barbie Selfie Generator. 

The Barbie Selfie Generator 

When the Barbie movie teaser was first released, it got Barbie fans talking about the movie and created anticipation. 

However, things started getting more serious when the first set of Barbie movie-themed posters was released on the movie’s official Twitter page. 

The above posters were launched a few hours before the release of the trailer. And these posters created quite a buzz. Enough to make the trailer a big hit. It’s hard to believe that all this happened hardly a week ago. Because since then the internet is flooding with plenty of creative versions of Barbies and Kens. 

People have been curiously sharing their own versions of the Barbie movie poster on their social media pages. All this also comes from the brilliant marketing idea from the Barbie movie marketing team – the Barbie Selfie Generator tool. 

We have seen marketing teams create Snapchat filters to promote their movies and to build awareness about the movie before the release. But the Barbie Selfie Generator is even cooler. 

On the Barbie Movie Twitter page, a post was shared with a link to the website where people could generate their own Barbie selfies. The idea is simple – people can upload a picture or capture one and the Barbie movie poster elements are automatically snapped onto the design. They can then easily share the generated design on social media. 

Winning the hearts of diverse demographics 

One of the most notable elements of the Barbie movie meme trend is the variety of demographics of people taking part in the trend. People from around the world have been sharing their own versions. These feature text describing their many roles and the way they see themselves. 

The core idea of the brand, as we discussed a little while ago, was to allow little girls and boys to imagine without boundaries. And to dream big. Over the years, sailing through disputes of gender disparity in toys and the talks about whether Barbies are only for girls, the brand has grown and evolved. 

There have been Barbies of various races and roles introduced to cater to different demographics of audiences. The memes that we see shared in this Barbie movie meme trend are proof of the diverse demographics of audience segments that the brand has garnered over the years. 

Brands joining the Barbie Movie meme trend 

The way social media users have been responding to the Barbie movie meme trend is a marketing lesson in itself. Because it’s not just Barbie fans and celebrities who have joined the trend but also other brands. The below version of the Barbie selfie was shared on the McDonald’s India Instagram page. 

By hopping on to such trends, brands grab the attention of their social media audiences. When people see the brands they love join the trend that has their attention or talk about the movie or character they love, it connects with them differently. It helps strengthen their relationship with the brand. 

Kimp Tip: Hopping on to social media trends as a brand is crucial in marketing. It’s just about talking to your customers in a language they understand well. Sometimes, it is easy to join the league. In this case, the Barbie Selfie Generator makes it easy to create your own versions of the picture. 

But did you notice how McDonald’s brilliantly customize the design by incorporating its brand colors in it? This way it does not sway from its brand consistency while joining the trend. Now that’s something that feels a bit challenging. What if you want to change the colors, and tweak certain elements to add your brand’s flavor to the meme without losing out on the meme’s original theme? That’s when working with a professional designer feels like a much more convenient option. 

And if your designer/design team has quick turnarounds, you can be sure that you adapt to the trend before the virality window moves away. 

Here’s Kimp’s version of the Barbie Selfie that shows how brand elements can still be retained while trying viral trends. 

Branding lessons to take away from this trend 

The Barbie Selfie Generator lets users become Barbie or Ken. Adults who played with Barbies and Kens growing up wanting to be them can now actually put themselves in their places. The emotional value in this idea is what fueled the popularity of this trend. So, if you wish to create fans and not just customers, aim at creating emotional connections with your audience. 

The Barbie Selfie Generator also shows the need for being a trendsetter. When you create content, people notice you. But when you create trends, people talk about you. Just like everyone is talking about the Barbie movie. That’s because the brand created a trend. Also because this “trend” resonates with today’s filter-loving Snapchat-browsing audience. 

Through this, the marketing team has managed to make all eyes fall on the Barbie movie. That too before the start of the major promotional activities of the movie. 

Why did the Barbie movie meme trend become viral? 

We’ve seen the magnitude of the popularity of the Barbie movie meme. Amidst everything else that’s happening on social media, why is this particular trend so big right now? We’ll tell you. 

To some, Barbie is more than just a doll. She has been an inspiration. There are kids who grew up wanting to be Barbie. So, a movie featuring this iconic character naturally stirs up a lot of anticipation. That’s partly what makes it tough for the movie makers. The movie has so much to live up to. 

One way to deal with this is to connect with these fans who are emotionally invested in the character. The Barbie movie marketing team here leverages user-generated content. Instead of simply sharing posters or focusing on the movie, the team here is throwing the spotlight on its audience. 

By letting the audience take the center stage, the marketing team managed to get the world talking about the Barbie movie without creating a fancy extravagant campaign or an elaborate promotional event. While these will eventually be part of the movie promotions, what the Barbie movie meme trend has created for the movie is valuable. 

Since Barbie is an evergreen toy now having fans of different generations, ideas like these help bring all these audience groups together. These ideas ensure that every single fan knows what’s brewing. 

Implement your ideas inspired by the Barbie movie meme trend 

Did the viral Barbie movie meme trend inspire you? Are you brimming with ideas on how to come up with such trendsetting campaigns to engage your audience? Having a reliable design team who can bring your ideas to life can be of great help. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for a Kimp subscription and start creating trendsetting campaigns for your brand in no time. 

Register now for a free 7-day trial of Kimp.