GG’s Nisha Gupta analyzes Mattel’s shifting PR and marketing strategy to promote the upcoming Barbie movie and highlights lessons that any company can learn from their efforts.
If you haven’t heard of the latest movie Barbie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, then I applaud your ability to unplug from the world. Over the past few months, Barbie has infiltrated my day-to-day life everywhere – including social media, TV ads, billboards, or the grocery store. While It’s hard to miss Barbie’s official hue – the eye-catching Pantone #e0218a is – that’s not the sole reason why I cannot seem to escape Barbie mania. Barbie by Mattel has been a staple brand across America for decades (debuting in 1959), but the creative and well-received PR and marketing efforts for the film has reaffirmed the iconic doll reigns supreme. Mattel’s impressive promotional efforts serve as a reminder to never fear adjusting your marketing strategy.
Mattel’s ability to step outside of the norm and cater to a wide variety of audiences has been well-known for decades – but the movie has really put that to the test. From introducing its career Barbie line to adding more inclusive and diverse Barbies to its collection, Mattel has always made an effort to change with the times. It’s no secret Barbie saw declining sales over the past several years, and their grip on the doll market was loosening. This movie was a risk for Mattel because it required the brand to part from the traditional and kid-friendly image its success relied upon. However, they made the transition beautifully by taking the time to carefully consider its new goals. Instead of focusing solely on ways to boost doll sales, Mattel took a strategic approach to revamping its empire by capitalizing on the Barbie brand rather than the doll itself.
Mattel also expanded their outreach efforts by including more demographics. While it’s easy to assume that their marketing strategy would focus on the stereotypical Barbie demographic of young women and children, Mattel has transcended traditional procedures and reached a remarkable array of demographics while promoting this film. With over 100 brand partnerships, Barbie is literally everywhere, and the already massive brand awareness of this iconic doll has expanded even further. From Xbox to Airbnb to Progressive, Mattel has all your hot pink needs covered.
The movie and the mythology around Barbie as a public figure have opened doors in unexpected ways. Barbie is not just a toy anymore – she’s influencing everything from food to clothing to luggage. It would be hard to find someone whose niche interest or hobby hasn’t been infiltrated by Barbie. Some of my personal favorite brand collaborations include Barbie x Swoon, Barbie x Tangle Teezer, and Barbie x OPI. Just take all my money, Mattel!
Over the past few weeks, it’s hard not to marvel at Mattel’s efforts. If we forget the social hype for a moment and look at the numbers, the data paints a pretty picture—albeit a green picture instead of a hot pink one. One brand partnership alone could offer Mattel anywhere from a 5% to 15% cut. Multiply that by 100+ and the zeros on their 2023 revenue records will have you green with envy. Since January, almost a half a million articles have been written about Barbie, while the movie has seen more than 6 million engagements across social media. The film is projected to bring in a whopping $60 million in its debut weekend despite the coinciding release of Oppenheimer. We could all take notes from Mattel’s marketing strategy the next time it comes to promoting new material.
While this specific case study applies to a consumer product and brand identity, Mattel’s approach can still prove useful to various industries. If a legacy toy brand like Mattel can shift and expand its approach so substantially, any industry can, from professional services to higher education to nonprofits. From the product you advertise to the people you target, companies must constantly reevaluate their fundamental building blocks like brand persona, brand image, demographic, product offerings, etc. Mattel could have easily kept itself boxed into their traditional strategy, and they probably would have remained successful. But they dared to evolve, and the payoff was worth the risk.