4 Strategies Influencer Marketers Can Learn from the Barbie Movie
Since debuting two weekends ago, the Barbie movie has hit a record-high at the international box office, grossing over $780M worldwide. Much of the record-breaking success of the Barbie movie can be attributed to the extensive (and expensive) marketing campaign from Warner Bros and Mattel that has been rumored to have cost over $150 million in advertising fees alone.
While most of us don’t have that kind of marketing budget to dish out on a single product launch, there are still important takeaways we can learn from the marketing masterminds behind the Barbie movie. Here’s how you, too, can successfully build a buzz around your brand and drive conversions for your next product launch.
Get a head start.
Warner Bros President of Global Marketing, Josh Goldstine, told Variety that the Barbie team used a “breadcrumb strategy, where [they] gave people little elements of the movie to stimulate curiosity and that created conversation.” Spoiler alert: it worked.
Many consumers already started getting excited about the movie all the way back in 2021, when paparazzi shots of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling rollerblading as Barbie and Ken in Santa Monica flooded the internet that June — but official promotion for Barbie didn’t start until late 2022, when the first Barbie trailer, where little girls smash their baby dolls in the desert, premiered in select theaters before the immensely popular movie, Avatar: The Way of Water.
In the same Variety interview, Goldstine said, “We did a very provocative teaser trailer and put it [before showings of] ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ which is maybe not your first thought for a ‘Barbie’ movie. It had music from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in an homage to the Stanley Kubrick film. It made a bold statement that this movie isn’t going to be exactly what you think it is.”
Then, several months and countless brand integrations later (more on this in the next section), the main Barbie trailer dropped this past May, which now has a whopping 62 million views. The star-studded teaser features some of the movie’s funniest moments, enticing creators across the world to make their own Barbie movie trailer parodies and other memes.
To replicate this kind of success, start your campaign early to build up excitement for your product launch. Work with influencers to give their audiences a sneak peek at your new collection. As the launch date approaches, you can even provide influencers with unique affiliate codes or links to give their audiences special early bird discounts.
Create FOMO through UGC.
User-generated content (UGC) is arguably the biggest reason Barbie lives in all of our heads rent-free. The Barbie marketing team activated easy and fun ways for anyone and everyone to create content around the movie. For example, the team created an AI tool that allows anyone to upload their photo and generate a movie poster with the customizable tagline “This Barbie is a ____.” This in turn inspired consumers everywhere to make their own Barbie memes. Another fun UGC activation features a Barbie selfie box where movie-goers can stand inside for a quick snapshot. And by doing so, the Barbie marketing team’s paid media turned into earned media.
All of this UGC not only builds excitement around the movie, but also creates FOMO for anyone who hasn’t already gotten involved in the fast-growing Barbie movie community.
To build a similar buzz around your next campaign, encourage participation from your influencers’ community with a giveaway. Partner with 10 influencers to sponsor a giveaway of your best-selling products, and set rules to enter, such as sharing UGC with a specific branded hashtag. This will turn the giveaway into a fun challenge, where you’ll handpick the top 10 UGC creators to win a bundle of your products or a year-long membership to your services.
Leverage co-branded promotions.
Not only did Barbie take over our social media feeds, but the movie also painted the entire retail landscape pink through co-branded promotions with all kinds of brands, totaling a reported 100 brand integrations.
For example, the Barbie partnership with Xbox treated video game players to an in-game replica of Barbie and Ken’s cars from the movie. Another integration with AirBnb allowed people to rent out a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu. Then Shay Mitchell’s luggage brand, Béis, featured a collection of suitcases, travel bags, and accessories inspired by the movie’s signature pink colorway. The list goes on.
Many of the partnerships have been good for business — Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s global head of Barbie and dolls, told Adweek the Barbie x Béis collaboration has proved “extremely successful” in terms of sales.
As reported by Variety, some of these partnerships were part of licensing deals with Mattel, while others were organic integrations with brands that wanted to be part of the cultural zeitgeist. Regardless of how they happened, these co-branded partnerships were a great idea.
Why? Co-branding can be an effective way to expand your audience and break into new markets, especially when working with influencers. By partnering with another brand to launch a new product, you can tap into creators from different niches to spread awareness at a wider scale. It also gives you the opportunity to get creative with activations in a way that makes sense for both of your brands.
Lean into nostalgia.
Barbie is a recognizable symbol of nostalgia for many of us, who grew up playing with the iconic toy as children. Luckily for Warner Bros and Mattel, the Barbie movie came at a time when millennial and Gen Z consumers are leaning heavily into 90’s and Y2K pop culture, allowing the companies to capitalize on these feelings of reminiscence and fond childhood memories.
Because nostalgia stirs up these strong emotions, it’s a powerful purchase driver for those who long for the past. It’s the same reason why programs like “Friends: The Reunion” garner so much attention and vintage products like Levi’s 505 jeans and Polaroid cameras come back in style and sell out in just minutes.
So, how can you lean into nostalgia? Incorporate nostalgic elements into your next campaign in creative ways. This could mean bringing back some products from a collection your brand launched back in the 90’s, or simply running a campaign with Y2K as the backdrop. Double down on the nostalgia by working with TikTok creators like @bridget_desgrange and @fancypantz707, who dedicate their content to 90’s and Y2K-themed videos, to produce relatable, funny, and nostalgic content around your products.