We wanted to explore the masterful marketing push behind this film as no expense was sparred for it.
It's a Barbie World Thanks to Some Genuis Advertising Ideas
You would have to have been living under a rock for the past couple of months to miss out on the explosion of marketing that ushered in the Barbie movie. For over a year leading up to the movie's release in July 2023, Warner Bros. and Mattel rolled out a comprehensive multi-platform advertising campaign that was designed to reach both kids and adults alike in a way that had never been done before.
It’s estimated that the studio spent anywhere from $125-$150 million on marketing, and their total production budget was roughly $145 million (Insider). That’s a significant investment in marketing since most marketing costs for big-budget movies are usually around 50% of their production budget. And Mattel and WB got incredibly creative with their marketing tactics, which spanned over 100 international partnerships. From Barbie-themed ice cream and apparel to roller skates, billboards, and more, no expense was spared for this movie’s advertising blitz.
The Barbie movie's marketing success can be largely attributed to its comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Utilizing social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, the film engaged with younger target audiences and encouraged user-generated content through challenges and trends. For instance, WB introduced an online poster generator in April which allowed social media users to personalize and insert themselves into shareable content. This encouraged user engagement and allowed users to get more excited for the upcoming movie, while also serving as free promotion through social media sharing. This organic and interactive approach not only increased brand awareness but also fostered a sense of community around the movie.
Moreover, the advertising team recognized the importance of diversifying marketing efforts. Alongside digital marketing initiatives, traditional advertising channels like billboards, print ads, and television commercials were also utilized to reach wider audiences. For example, in the months leading up to the film's release, the studios used pink billboards with nothing but a release date. By implementing a multi-channel approach, the studio was able to maximize the impact of their advertising and create a cohesive and memorable brand presence across numerous mediums.
Going Beyond the Expected
Barbie didn't just try to dominate digital and traditional media areas with a few gimmicks; they leveraged tons of brand collaborations for their benefit. To generate interest before the movie's wide release, several companies announced tie-in merchandise, further extending the marketing reach and maximizing the potential revenue for the Barbie movie.
For example, to promote the release of the film, Cold Stone released a limited-edition Barbie ice cream that quickly went viral. OPI unveiled a special Barbie nail polish collection and even Crocs got in on the fun, with a Barbie-themed shoe. By diversifying their collaborations to all kinds of products, these partnerships gave Barbie an influx of public attention and created excitement around the movie launch.
In addition to brand collaborations, going beyond the run-of-the-mill advertising ideas has been essential for the film’s success. Part of the Barbie line of toys is the well-known "dream house," and the marketing team created a real-life dream house that guests could rent short-term. The pink spectacle stood out from more traditional homes in the area, drawing in a massive amount of attention from audiences who wouldn't otherwise have the film on their radar.
And lastly, we can’t forget to mention the influx of user-generated content that was, honestly, impossible to predict for many marketers. Another widely anticipated summer blockbuster, Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” was slated for release on the same weekend as “Barbie.” As audiences rallied behind both films, a cultural phenomenon was born, and a swarm of user-generated social content was produced for the “Barbenheimer” event. The films cross-promoted each other in a way and the overlap led to a ton of free promotion for both films.
The film has already made back its production and marketing costs at the international box office, and then some. As marketers, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this masterclass campaign and other advertising agencies in Denver are likely taking notes.
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