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How Barbie’s $150 Million Marketing Campaign Turned the World Pink

Thursday 17th August

Blog Author Beth Perrin by Beth Perrin

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How Barbie’s $150 Million Marketing Campaign Turned the World Pink

Thursday 17th August 2023

Whenever a new movie is about to be released, it’s commonplace for a large-scale marketing campaign to also be launched - usually with a budget of at least 50% of the film’s production costs. As expected, these campaigns aim to raise awareness, create a buzz surrounding the movie, and of course sell cinema tickets. However, it’s hard to think of another movie that has done so quite as successfully in recent times as American director Greta Gerwig’s latest film, Barbie - which stars Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and a whole cast of other Hollywood favourites.

Based on Mattel’s beloved and iconic fashion dolls, Barbie is the first ever live action Barbie film, following many animated movies and specials. From memes to merchandise, its marketing campaign (which studios estimate cost $150 million - that’s more than the $145 million budget used to produce the movie!) has been a roaring success, turning the world pink and taking the Internet by storm over the last few months. Let’s dive into this case study to see what Warner Bros did right and what other brands can take away from Barbie-mania.


100+ Partnership Deals

Movie marketing campaigns often involve a handful of partnerships with brands who will create limited-edition products and collections that tie in with the film’s branding style and characters. Impressively, Barbie attracted more than 100 promotional partnership deals from an extremely broad range of industries, including food and drink, clothing and shoes, homeware, luggage, jewellery, cosmetics and more. Among these were:


• This pink burger from Burger King Brazil

• This detangling hairbrush from Tangle Teezer

• Crocs’ Barbie collection

“All That Glitters is Pink” ice cream from Coldstone Creamery

• This luggage collection from Béis

• This special edition UNO card set


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A post shared by Tangle Teezer Hairbrush🇬🇧 (@tangleteezer)

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A post shared by Crocs Shoes (@crocs)


A photo also circulated on social media showing that the sign at Barbican tube station in London had been changed to say ‘Barbiecan’, although sadly this was debunked by TfL who confirmed that the image had been Photoshopped and the station’s name had in fact not been changed! However, a pink version of the Tardis phone box from Doctor Who really did appear on the banks of Tower Bridge to celebrate the UK premiere of the film, seeing as it stars Ncuti Gatwa who also plays the Doctor.


The Barbie Impact

Josh Goldstine, president of global marketing at Warner Bros, told Variety magazine: “Some of those [partnerships] were licensing deals with Mattel and some are brands that made their own decisions to be part of the colour schema of the movie. Brands wanted to become part of this because they saw the film was finding its way into culture in such a dynamic way. It stopped becoming a marketing campaign and took on the quality of a movement.”

Senior brand consultant Moshe Isaacian also noted that: “Many of the deals have been a year [or] two years in the making and Mattel have been very good at being selective. It doesn’t just feel like the regular licensing deals. It’s more like [they're selling] Barbie’s lifestyle plan now - like this is how Barbie would dress up, talk, the things she would eat, what kind of candles she would have in her house.”


Progressive Insurance TV Ad

Even brands that seem completely unrelated to the world of Barbie managed to get involved in the craze, proving the far-reaching impact of the movie and its characters. One of the largest insurance companies in the United States, Progressive, partnered with Warner Bros to release a TV advert promoting their home and car bundle package. The ad depicts the Progressive team standing outside Barbie’s classic pink dreamhouse, with one member excitedly telling his colleagues about the company’s new “special, secret client” - who of course turns out to be Barbie herself.



Barbie’s DreamHouse Airbnb

Speaking of the Dreamhouse - another huge part of the Barbie buzz was a life-sized version of the doll’s iconic mansion that fans could actually book and stay in, courtesy of Airbnb, as a one-off listing. Located in sunny Malibu, California, the oceanfront property previously came onto Airbnb in 2019 as part of Mattel’s celebration of the doll’s 60th anniversary, before returning to the site in July this year following a massive makeover for the purpose of promoting the movie. The Dreamhouse was decked out with an outdoor disco floor, infinity pool, pink clamshell bed, rollerskating rink and more - everything fans would need to fully immerse themselves in Barbie’s perfectly pink lifestyle!

The Dreamhouse was only available for two separate one-night stays for two people each on 21st and 22nd July - plus it was completely free of charge, which helped to create very high demand, a sense of exclusivity and a lot of Internet chatter about who would be among the lucky few to secure a stay.



Barbie Meme Template

In April, the movie’s official Twitter/X account posted a series of tweets revealing the cast, with a tagline beside each actor describing the profession or role of their respective characters - “This Barbie has a Nobel Prize in physics”, “This Barbie is a mermaid”, “This Barbie is a lawyer” and so on. This format sparked a huge meme craze across social media, with thousands of fans using the template to make their own versions of the poster featuring themselves and their friends, their favourite characters from other movies and TV shows, celebrities and more. Businesses even joined in the fun by uploading photos of their team members and describing their roles or personalities within the workplace.



This type of content is known as ‘earned media’, which refers to any publicity gained from methods other than paid advertising - aka all the content on the Internet about a brand that hasn’t come from the brand itself. In this case, although the original Barbie cast posters were uploaded by the movie’s official account, the subsequent memes (and therefore the extra exposure and awareness) were created by fans, meaning they essentially became a form of free advertising.


Box Office Results

So, did the marketing campaign pay off? Absolutely - Barbie crushed box office expectations, scoring a massive $155 million domestically in its opening weekend, which made it the biggest debut ever for a film directed by a woman. As of two days ago (15th August 2023) Barbie has grossed $537.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $660.6 million in other territories, making a worldwide total of $1.2 billion. Yesterday (16th August 2023), it even surpassed The Dark Knight to become the highest-grossing domestic release in Warner Bros history.



Naturally, not every brand has $150 million to spend on a marketing campaign, so don’t panic - your business doesn’t need to follow directly in Barbie’s footsteps to achieve results! However, the movie’s huge success is an excellent example of how, with the right promotional tools, a strong brand identity and a network of great partners, a product or service (or in this case, a film) can become so much more than a standalone concept. Plus, it shows how handing things over to the fans and allowing them to get creative with memes and viral moments can elevate your advertising efforts even further and help your brand build traction organically.

Learn more about social media collaborations in this blog post or get in touch to find out how our team can work with you to make your next campaign a triumph.