Ubaid Zargar

Barbie’s marketing genius has turned pink into the new black

Ahead of its launch, the Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie starrer film has put the fans in frenzy. Brands want some of it too.

If you look up Barbie on the internet or give any of the associated cast and crew a search, Google will flood your screen with pink stars from Barbie-land. The trend has encapsulated the entire world, it seems.

Ahead of its release, the much-anticipated film starring Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie has gathered a cult following, with fans from across the world embracing Greta Gerwig’s work of art. The franchise holds solid sentimentality amongst the millennials and Gen Z, who appear to have delved deep into the depths of nostalgia. 

Brands have followed suit. Have you checked out Nike’s limited edition ‘Barbie’ Dunk Lows? Well, they’re pink. Oh, how about Burger King’s ultimate Barbie meal? And did we mention Fossil has unveiled a Barbie-themed watch collection? The list goes on, and on. In fact, the movie has partnered with some 30 brands globally for promotions, including Airbnb, Crocs, and Gap, among others.

Airbnb's Barbie Mansion
Burger King's Barbie Meal
Nike's Barbie Dunk Lows
Fossil Barbie watch

From the house of Warner Bros, the film has taken the internet by storm. The memeing community has had a field day ever since the teasers for the film came out. What stands out is the release date of the movie, which clashes with Oppenheimer, a Christopher Nolan directorial starring Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. And yet, all box office projections for Barbie expect a $100 million opening for the film’s first weekend in the theatres. 

From the looks of it, the marketing efforts of the film have hit all the right promotional spots.

Naresh Gupta, points out that the entire Barbie universe has always been a mirror of what real life is. He says, “A lot of the people who are vibing with the Barbie movie are the ones who’ve played with the Barbie dolls as children. So, it is more of a throwback to their past. Driven by Nostalgia, the movie is a way for audiences to revisit their childhood.”

While the fate of the movie lies solely on its ability to deliver on the expectations held by millions across the world, the overarching narrative generated by the film’s promotions is that of fun, adventure and humour. 

Over the years, the franchise has caught some flak for glorifying a certain skin colour or ethnicity. In response, the brand has previously launched more inclusive product ranges to incorporate different cultures of the world. However, it is often hard to walk past a certain stigma associated with a brand. Does this have any negative connotations for brands? 

Gupta suggests that minor controversies here and there are inevitable, and aren’t something that necessarily determine the success of a franchise, or its associates. “I personally don’t see any negative impact of Barbie dolls on kids. What works for Barbie is its charm and the way parents vibe with it. The world of Barbie isn’t really controversial.”

Ramya Ramachandran, the founder of Whoppl, a content to commerce company, opines that Barbie franchise is not just a doll, but a representation of a particular lifestyle and attitude. She says, “Everyone feels part of the Barbie community, especially young girls. Over the years, the franchise has taken strategic measures to tie up with brands.”

Ramachandran also points out the crucial elements of Barbie’s marketing endeavour, that have worked for the movie’s promotions. She says, “We’re in 2023 and there are certain measures you need to take in order to stand out. The strategists for the movie realise that a single traditional form of marketing is not going to work. You need to be 360 degree more holistic. Hence tying up with celebrities, tying up with influencers creators brand promotions, and everyone talking about it, becomes the need of the art. I feel everyone is definitely talking about Barbie because of their efforts.”

For a topical interest like Barbie, brands leveraging some of its popularity makes sense. But, in many cases, the relevance drawn between a brand and an intellectual property could also mean onboarding elements of controversies.

Anushree Pacheriwal, co-founder & creative navigator of Gemius, an integrated marketing agency, points out that for brands, collaboration with the film is moment marketing. “Just tapping in to a certain degree, and not digging too deep is a safe zone for brands for such collaborations.”

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