He Barbie The film hits theaters on Friday, but a surge of hot pink—Pantone 219-C, to be exact—has preceded it, thanks to a supercharged marketing campaign that gives rose-tinted glasses a whole new meaning.
Mattel, the company behind Barbie, has signed cross-deals with dozens of companies to promote both the movie and the famous doll. It comes a few years after the iconic toy, long criticized for promoting unrealistic beauty standards for girls, was rebranded to be more inclusive.
Fashion brands like Forever 21, Gap and Primark have designed official clothing lines with Barbie in mind; the Beis luggage company released a collection of hot pink travel items ahead of the movie; and NYX Cosmetics launched a Barbie-inspired makeup set.
Montreal-based shoe brand Aldo also landed an official brand deal, a collaboration that came to fruition after a sneak peek of the Barbie the film was released, according to Alison Neill, the company’s senior director of global brand strategy.
“We think it can be sold at any time of the year, but we have certainly benefited from the cultural moment [that] Barbie is having it right now,” he told Breaking:.
The “Barbiecore” fashion trend, which favors hot pinks and other vibrant colors, began to pick up last year as Barbie re-entered the zeitgeist. Neill noted that while trends come and go, they tend to have a longer lifespan when they’re culturally linked.
Aldo’s collection has been popular on Tik Tok, where the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag led to part of its success, Neill said. The company saw its e-commerce traffic increase by 48 percent when the collection launched in late June, and its Barbie platform sold out within 24 hours. (Some other products sold out in 72 hours.)
“We tried to time the collection for this release to match the kind of marketing hype for the movie,” Neill said.
Nostalgia, annoyance, it’s complicated.
The first Barbie The trailer dropped in May, along with character posters that quickly became a trend online when Warner Bros. released a meme generator for fans to use.
The campaign to market the film has only gotten louder—and rosier—since then. Although, apparently, not everyone is enjoying it.
I hope to enjoy the movie; but marketing is like a tsunami
For many, the doll’s renewed relevance evokes feelings of nostalgia, one of the elements that Canadian fashion designer Hilary MacMillan sought to capture in her own line of Barbie-inspired clothing. Her 15-piece capsule collection features a mix of styles for women and kids, and it’s pink as far as the eye can see.
“We actually didn’t know the movie was coming out when we first talked about the collection, because it was in 2021,” MacMillan told Breaking: from his Toronto studio.
When Barbie was announced, said, “We said: Here, it comes, Barbiecore, we’re going to be here.”
“It’s going to be an explosion of all things pink, all things Barbie. So we just felt like the timing was perfect. Everything lined up perfectly for us.”
The Barbie doll has had a complex history since its launch in 1959. Though she was invented to be a career-oriented doll for girls, her prototype—blonde, white, and impossibly thin—has been championed ever since as a symbol of unattainable beauty standards.
A new line of Barbie dolls introduced in 2016 aimed to bring the brand into the 21st century, with more racial and body diversity. Some of the dolls used wheelchairs or prosthetics; to later collection introduced Barbies that were bald or had vitiligo, a skin pigmentation condition.
“They’ve really put a lot of effort and time into creating dolls of plus sizes, of different races and of different occupations, and they really are a brand trying to show that girls and women can do whatever they want,” said MacMillan.
“I think the direction they’re headed in is something that speaks to our brand, because we’re very cognizant and aware of diversity and size inclusion and offering more to women.”
Products that make you scratch your head
Sameer Hosany, a professor of marketing at Royal Holloway University in London, who has written about the long-term popularity of the brandpredicts that there will be winners and losers in the Barbie marketing campaign, depending on how closely a product aligns with the brand.
Even beyond the movie, he said, “a lot of corporations are taking advantage of [into] the rebirth of Barbie itself, and that’s why you’d see [a] wave of collaboration from designer brands to accessories, high fashion, shoes.
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“It’s just that immediate fit of Barbie across various product categories and brands,” Hosany said, that’s what makes a potential collaboration successful. the lego moviefor example, it wouldn’t guarantee the same level of brand collaboration, he said.
A handful of Barbie-inspired products can have you scratching your head. There is a Barbie Xbox, a Barbie rug, Barbie candles, glassware and electric toothbrushes. Progressive Insurance released a Barbie-inspired commercial starring Flo, the fictional saleswoman who regularly appears in their ads.
At Burger King locations in Brazil, customers can order a “barbie burger”, which is a beef burger combined with cheese, bacon bits and covered in a bright pink sauce that the fast food chain described as “smoky”.
Burger King Brazil presents limited-edition Pink Burger and Barbie Shake to celebrate the launch of #Barbie.
Tomorrow, July 12. pic.twitter.com/EM98BroZvz
Cross-promotion can be a high-risk strategy, Hosany said, since each brand’s reputation depends on the other’s. There’s also the risk of “brand dilution,” in which a brand’s reputation or value suffers because it releases a product that doesn’t meet its usual standards.
“Much of this collaboration has been very carefully selected,” Hosany said.
Even as several other companies jumped on the Barbiecore trend and showcased their brighter pink products, MacMillan said she’s not worried about the ubiquity of Barbie’s marketing campaign when it comes to her brand.
“I think our collection offers [something] A little different. It’s not just the Barbie logos clipped onto bucket hats or sweaters,” she said.
“It’s a little more elevated, Barbie-inspired, you know, nod. We have a specific type of client for that. And so, more than better is my mantra.”