Barbie May Be Plastic, But Her Shared World Is Fantastic
Marketers everywhere, let's take a moment to bow down to Barbie's promo team that gave this summer a complete makeover. The reported $150 million marketing budget created a cultural phenomenon that will become business lore for years to come.
Seemingly every brand on Earth became part of the Barbie fun—from Burger King's cheeseburger with pink sauce and Crocs' capsule collection to Airbnb's bookable Malibu DreamHouse. The brand created a viral juggernaut on social media that can't be stopped—including the selfie generator that started it all and this terrifying "Barbie Feet" TikTok challenge.
With all that buzz, actually watching the movie becomes the ultimate test of expectation vs. reality. As a mother of girls, a marketing leader and a woman who grew up in Barbie's heyday, I was curious if the film could possibly live up to the hype, and what it would mean for the brand going forward. To find out, my youngest daughters and I put on our brightest pink outfits and hit the premiere.
Barbie isn't just a movie, it's a master class in brand repositioning. Don't get me wrong, Barbie is full of fantastical, poppy fun that anyone can enjoy. But the real substance lies in the brand impact. Long known for homogenous perfection and subservient female imagery, Barbie was in danger of becoming irrelevant, or even canceled. Both the marketing and the movie brilliantly address those perceptions head-on and create a world where we all have a little Barbie in us.
She had to eschew perfection to remain relevant, but it's difficult to ignore the sheer brilliance of the brand moment. A line of dolls once known for being superficial became a brand that transcends gender and identity.
Long after the summer of pink fades into the rearview mirror of our Barbie Jeeps, we'll remember the whole experience for boldly addressing the toy's flaws and building a movement that embraces all consumers.
We'll remember the empowerment message—and feeling like Barbies and Kens everywhere can become their best selves and do almost anything.
But most of all, we'll remember when a brand transcended itself to become something greater than the sum of its plastic parts.