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What brands can learn from Barbie

It’s 3am in Leicester Square.

And there are fans who’ve been queuing for hours to be in with a chance of spotting a cast of actors donning pearls, sequins and most crucially 50 shades of bubblegum pink. The film was announced in 2019, its first teaser in December, the full trailer in May and it’s set to take to our screens on the 21st of this month. The film isn’t even out yet, but the build up has generated a social media frenzy with Barbiecore dominating ForYou pages nationwide, ‘In six months, Barbie has gone from being a tired brand to a modern icon for the social media age.’ (Steafel, 2023) Brands should look at the success of Barbie’s marketing campaign and take notes. 

There’s a lot to be learnt. 

Taking a holistic, multi-channel approach

Barbie is everywhere. Pink double decker buses, a dream house is listed on Airbnb, ‘she’s’ even landed herself a collaboration with Crocs, to name one of the many brands who’ve readily jumped on the Barbie bandwagon. The genius of the film’s marketing campaign is that by slotting her into every and any context, we’ve been convinced that she belongs everywhere. She’s truly embraced a holistic multichannel marketing approach, something many brands can learn from. 

But what’s crucial is that seeing her everywhere isn’t jarring, we’ve found ourselves excited to see where she’ll turn up next. What’ll be the next limited edition bubblegum-core merch drop? Which sector will she infiltrate? It would appear that the world is Barbie’s playground. She’s the main character, and we’re ‘just Ken’, our lives providing the gallery for her plot. 

Leveraging nostalgia & embracing the inner child 

The film will be ‘The first time history’s most problematic doll has been incarnated in live action form’ So, why is this once dated dolly cool again? Perhaps because Barbie’s familiar, she stirs in us a sentiment of nostalgia and fun which is welcomed with open arms. Fun and nostalgia are two emotions we continuously try to leverage with our ‘Magic’ MARVELS’ lever. 

The doll’s fanbase has spanned 6 decades, meaning her audience are multi-aged strangers united by their ties to a plastic figurine, ‘The children who begged their parents for a Dreamhouse in 1998 are now just the right age to get nostalgic about this second go round – and they have the disposable income to be taken in by all the merch.’ (Steafel, 2023) Barbie has tapped into a dormant loyalty – or magic – that most of us forgot even existed. 

Don’t neglect the power of nostalgia and try to reconnect your consumer with their inner child. Making emotional attachments the centrepiece to your marketing campaign is a sure-fire way to push your consumer to believe in your branding, relate to it, and want to find it anywhere and everywhere they can get their hands on it. 

Labelling and the power of Pantone 219C 

It seems we can’t escape this particular shade of pink, with billboards dedicated to the colour, and only this colour, springing up all over the UK. 

The appeal of this particular image can be found in our ‘Labelling’ lever. By leveraging the brand heuristic (the colour pink) and then having it turn up in unexpected ways (The Gap Theory) the campaign is, at times, leaving the viewer to unpack the message, making the audience work to understand its meaning – and ‘get it’. This is tapping into the Co Creation Theory. By making us work hard to co-create or join up the dots on some of the executions makes them more memorable. By ‘getting it’, we feel empowered, building our sense of self worth and making us feel compelled to share – pouring our own fuel on the Barbie flames. 

Leaning into humour and accepting that there’s fun in cringe  

There’s nothing exclusive about Barbie. Cool is on its way out. There’s no fun in people thinking they’re better than pinkness, because they definitely aren’t. 

The campaign gets this and leans heavily on humour. Humorous material is proven to be more memorable, as we pay more attention to it. Even the fans are running with this humour, naming the queue for the premiere last week, the ‘Bar-bie-Queue’– how fun is that!

Lastly, let’s not forget that kitsch is back, and it’s here to stay. Don’t be afraid to play with branding that’s bold, maybe it clashes, maybe it’s borderline ugly, but who cares? It’s fun. And in a post-pandemic world, that’s what everyone needs right now. A bit of pink, a bit of camp, and hell, why not add a bit of glitter to the mix? 

Perhaps Aqua were on to something.

Come on Barbie, let’s go party.