No one knew what the Barbie movie was about, but everyone went anyway—dressed in pink
When Warner Bros. released the first look of Margot Robbie as Barbie sitting in her pink convertible, the phrase “Barbie is everything” became true. The Barbie movie marketing campaign was a massive success, with over $150 million spent on marketing alone. This exceeded the film’s production budget of $145 million, as reported by Vanity Fair.
Barbie Marketing Campaign
The Barbie marketing campaign went beyond traditional methods, incorporating various creative strategies. It included fun collaborations such as an Airbnb Barbie DreamHouse rental and a Barbie boat cruise on the Boston Harbor. Additionally, Burger King in Brazil served pink burgers as part of their collaboration with Barbie. Progressive insurance also featured Barbie in their commercials.
Aside from these collaborations, teaser trailers reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey” were released, billboards adorned Times Square, and an Instagram countdown to opening night built anticipation. The ubiquity of the marketing efforts contributed to the perception that a significant amount was spent, but in reality, Warner Bros. maintained responsible spending for an event movie, according to Josh Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of global marketing.
You know you’re in the zeitgeist if you’re a trending meme
Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie made a splash at the box office, earning over $160 million during its opening weekend. This impressive achievement solidified it as the biggest debut ever for a film directed by a woman. However, the success of Barbie was not limited to its box office performance alone.
Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, a film about the creator of the atomic bomb, also debuting on the same day, contributed to the weekend’s success. The meme-ification of Barbie-Oppenheimer, fondly known as “Barbenheimer,” played a significant role in generating a combined $311 million in ticket sales. This made it the fourth highest-grossing domestic box office weekend in history, surpassed only by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Avengers: Endgame,” as reported by the New York Times.
The Internet embraced Barbie’s ironic and self-aware tone, evident in one of the film’s taglines, “If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.” The marketing team behind Barbie also fueled the frenzy by incorporating pink-themed promotions such as pink sunsets, pink-colored lakes, and even sightings of rare pink dolphins.
Social media users applauded the creativity of the Barbie marketing team, sharing their excitement and admiration through various memes.
The Barbie marketing team have done it again. So creative 👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/h4JCbRzFaj
— Mark Rofe (@iamrofe) July 17, 2023
the Barbie marketing team has done it again 👏 https://t.co/IvRdEZmzuj
— mary mandefield (@marymandefield) July 19, 2023
Criticism of Mattel’s Marketing Strategy
Despite the overwhelming success of the Barbie marketing campaign, Mattel faced criticism for its “Barbie School of Friendship” program. The company distributed free Barbie dolls to children in schools as part of their promotion leading up to the film’s premiere. Experts expressed concerns about this form of stealth marketing, expressing faint repulsion and questioning the need for children to be exposed to such tactics, as reported by the British Medical Journal.