Examining Barbie’s $150 million marketing campaign We didn’t know the movie, but we still watched it.

Examining Barbie's $150 million marketing campaign We didn't know the movie, but we still watched it.

Barbie Marketing

Barbie: Marketing Genius Behind the Pink Phenomenon

The phrase “Barbie is everything” could not be truer. Warner Bros. dropped the first look at Margot Robbie as Barbie sitting in her pink convertible in April 2022, and since then, Barbie pink and the iconic logo have been virtually everywhere and on everything.

With a marketing campaign budget estimated to be over $150 million, Barbie has made a splash in the media and the zeitgeist, surpassing her own production budget of $145 million. The campaign has been a colorful extravaganza, filled with unique and eye-catching promotions that have captured the attention of audiences worldwide.

From DreamHouse Rentals to Pink Burgers

Barbie’s marketing efforts extended beyond traditional methods to create a complete brand experience. One of the standout promotions was an Airbnb Barbie DreamHouse rental, providing a chance for fans to immerse themselves in the Barbie lifestyle. Not stopping there, Barbie also set sail on a boat cruise in the Boston Harbor, creating an unforgettable experience for lucky fans.

Barbie’s marketing team even partnered with Burger King in Brazil, where pink burgers were introduced, adding a touch of Barbie to fans’ dining experiences. The unexpected collaboration generated buzz and excitement, bringing the Barbie brand to new heights.

In addition to these unique collaborations, traditional marketing tactics were also deployed. Teaser trailers with a touch of nostalgia reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey” piqued the curiosity of moviegoers. The iconic Barbie logo illuminated Times Square billboards, capturing the attention of the masses. And of course, an Instagram countdown to opening night kept fans eager and engaged.

Josh Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of global marketing, spoke about the impressive marketing campaign, stating, “The reason people think we spent so much is that it’s so ubiquitous. That’s a combination of paid media and how many partners came to play with us. Because it pierced the zeitgeist, it has the impression that we spend so much. In fact, we spent responsibly for an event movie.”

Barbie and Oppenheimer: A Memorable Weekend

Barbie’s debut weekend was a massive success, earning over $160 million in ticket sales. Directed by Greta Gerwig, Barbie became the biggest opening weekend for a film directed by a woman. However, it wasn’t just Barbie that made waves at the box office.

Coinciding with Barbie’s release was Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, a film about the creator of the atomic bomb. Both films benefitted from the power of social media and went on to achieve a combined ticket sales total of $311 million. This impressive result secured the weekend as the fourth highest-grossing domestic box office weekend in history, ranking behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.

Part of Barbie’s success can be attributed to its meme-ification; the film quickly became a trending meme on social media. Embracing an ironic and self-aware tone, one of the film’s taglines cleverly read, “If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.” This resonated strongly with audiences, leading to a surge in online conversations about the film.

The Internet, always ready to add its own touch of creativity, took the Barbie-Oppenheimer fusion and turned it into “Barbenheimer.” The film’s marketing team played along with the memes, creating a ripple effect of attention and further driving ticket sales. From claiming sightings of rare pink dolphins to showcasing pink sunsets and lakes, Barbie’s relentless promotion extended beyond the theaters and into the everyday lives of fans around the world.

The Controversies and Criticisms

While Barbie’s marketing campaign was undoubtedly successful, it did not come without its fair share of criticism. One particular controversy arose when Mattel, the owner of the Barbie brand, distributed free Barbie dolls to children in schools as part of the “Barbie School of Friendship” program leading up to the film’s premiere.

Experts raised concerns about the ethics of stealth marketing targeting young children. The British Medical Journal reported that some experts felt “faintly repulsed” by this approach and questioned the appropriateness of exposing children to this type of marketing.

Neither Warner Bros. nor Mattel responded to Fortune’s request for comment on the matter.

The Pink Phenomenon Continues

Barbie’s marketing campaign for the film has been a testament to its power and influence. From unique collaborations and traditional marketing tactics to meme-ification and controversies, Barbie’s pink dominance has left an indelible mark on the media landscape.

With the film’s success surpassing expectations and capturing the hearts of audiences worldwide, Barbie has solidified her place as a cultural icon. The marketing campaign’s creativity, humor, and positive tone have resonated with fans old and new, further enhancing the enduring legacy of the Barbie brand.