Barbie movie case study

Bridging the Barbie Phenomenon: How Digital Entertainment and Influencer Marketing Created a Box-Office Record

The Barbie phenomenon, a cultural icon that has been a part of our collective consciousness for over six decades, recently made a triumphant return to the spotlight.

The release of the much-anticipated Barbie movie in the summer of 2023 marked a turning point for Mattel, the renowned toy company that had been facing challenges with declining sales and a weakening brand appeal.

This article will dive into how Mattel revitalized the Barbie brand presence through digital entertainment, harnessed the power of omni-channel marketing, leveraged strategic brand collaborations and influencer marketing, and translated hype into engagement and growth.

Revitalizing Brand Presence through Digital Marketing

In the world of toys, few brands have achieved the iconic status of Barbie. Since its inception in 1959, Barbie has been setting the standard for fashion dolls and capturing the imagination of millions of children worldwide. 

However, in recent years, Mattel, the globally recognized toy company behind Barbie, faced significant challenges. The rise of digital entertainment and fierce competition from other brands led to a decline in Mattel’s financial performance and stock value.

But in 2023, a new development emerged that had the potential to reshape the company’s trajectory and revitalize its brand presence: the release of the much-anticipated Barbie movie. The Barbie movie was not just a cinematic venture; it was a strategic move by Mattel to squeeze the growing popularity of the Barbie brand to boost their sales significantly.

The marketing campaign for the Barbie movie was a masterpiece.

With an estimated $150 million marketing budget, Barbie became an experience everyone wanted to enjoy.

The team at Warner Bros. left no stone unturned, from traditional advertising mediums like billboards and bus sides to digital platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. The Barbie movie was everywhere, creating a buzz that was impossible to ignore.

The campaign kicked off with a teaser trailer that was strategically placed before showings of “Avatar: The Way of Water.” This bold move signaled that the Barbie movie was not going to be what people expected. The trailer, featuring music from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” was designed to challenge preconceptions and stimulate curiosity.

Barbie: The movie

The film followed Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) on a journey of self-discovery following an existential crisis. It emphasized themes of empowerment and inclusivity, promoting diverse representations of characters.

The movie’s message was clear: women should have the autonomy to be what they want to be without having to conform to societal ideals.

And the marketing campaign was everywhere, not just promoting the film but also the Barbie brand and everything it represents. It leveraged the power of digital entertainment in many ways.

Let’s dive deeper!

Scene of the Barbie movie 2023


Barbie: Becoming a virtual influencer

Becoming a virtual influencer may have been one of the brand’s wisest moves. In 2016, Barbie underwent a dramatic transformation; introducing fresh faces, body shapes, and skin tones that challenged gender stereotypes. This bold new strategy was a major success, with worldwide gross sales skyrocketing to an incredible $276 million – an 87% increase!

They’ve re-imagined one of the world’s most beloved toys, Barbie, as a virtual influencer, repositioning the iconic doll to emphasize the value of self-love and self-care, highlighting  the idea that Barbie can be beneficial for a child’s development.

This opened the door to a new audience of young parents looking for educational toys, and it’s definitely paying off.  Not only is Barbie a source of nostalgia for many, but now it’s also a role model that kids look up to.


Barbie: Collaboration with influencers, celebrities, and other partners

Another key element of the campaign was the collaboration with influencers, celebrities, and other partners. This amplified the movie’s reach and  created additional hype. 

To start with, the casting of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, two of Hollywood’s most influential actors, created a buzz around the movie.

In addition to this, Mattel partnered with Airbnb to offer a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse for rent in Malibu. This promotion generated great aerial photography and added a unique element to the campaign. Interactive experiences were another innovative marketing tactic employed by the Barbie team. The Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse and Barbie Hotel provided consumers with unforgettable and exclusive moments, generating buzz both online and offline.

Airbnb Barbie house

There was also one partnership that stands out as particularly noteworthy: The collaboration with pop sensation Dua Lipa. The singer’s involvement in the film was multifaceted, contributing significantly to its global appeal and record-breaking box office performance. 

Dua Lipa’s role in the Barbie movie was not limited to just acting; she also lent her musical talents to the project. She played a cameo role as Mermaid Barbie, a character that added a touch of fantasy and glamor to the film. Despite her screen time being brief – only 30 seconds with a total of 16 words spoken – her appearance was highly anticipated and well-received by fans.

It doesn’t end there. Beyond her on-screen presence, Dua Lipa also contributed to the film’s soundtrack. She released a new song and music video titled “Dance the Night,” which was featured prominently in the movie. 

The music video showcased Lipa in a dazzling Versace outfit from her own collaboration with the brand, further intertwining her personal brand with the Barbie movie. The partnership extended beyond the film itself, with Dua Lipa actively promoting the movie. 

She posted behind-the-scenes footage of the making of “Dance the Night,” generating additional buzz and excitement among her fanbase. This cross-promotion was a strategic move that leveraged Dua Lipa’s massive following to boost the movie’s visibility and reach.


Barbie: Partnerships

This strategic partnership has not only revolutionized the way toys are marketed but also created a unique synergy between the toy and fashion industries. Mattel, the creator of Barbie, has always been at the forefront of innovative marketing strategies. 

One significant collaboration was with fast-food giant Burger King. In a unique promotional tie-in, Burger King Brazil launched a Barbie-themed meal to coincide with the movie’s premiere.

The BK Barbie Combo featured a cheeseburger topped with bacon bits and dressed with a bright pink sauce, a pink vanilla milkshake with strawberry Nesquik powder mixed in, and “Ken’s potatoes,” a plain order of fries. The combo meal, despite being available only in Brazil, generated millions of views on TikTok and Instagram, contributing significantly to the global Barbie mania.

And what about fashion?

In the world of fashion and entertainment, few collaborations have been as impactful as the one between Mattel’s iconic Barbie brand and various high-profile fashion brands.

These collaborations were not just about creating Barbie-themed clothing; they were about creating a dialogue between the brands, their legacies, and the core values that define them. 

They allowed consumers to engage with the Barbie brand in a new and exciting way, transforming their homes into an IRL Barbie Dreamhouse with Barbie decor or stepping into Barbie’s dream closet with Barbie-themed clothing and accessories.

Forever 21, a fast-fashion brand known for its trendy and affordable clothing. The Barbie x Forever 21 collection featured Barbie-branded hoodies, tees, and comfy swimsuits in sizes ranging from 0-24, catering to a wide range of body types and promoting inclusivity.


The Gap x Barbie collection included adult puff sleeve icon denim jackets and other apparel items.

The collection included women’s wear, men’s wear, pajamas, and accessories, all inspired by Barbie’s signature style. From the swimsuit that started it all to Barbie Land neon separates, Primark’s collection had something for every Barbie fan. 

In anticipation of the movie’s release, Béis launched a collection of bright pink travel gear. The collection was designed to solve frequent flyer problems, offering functionality without compromising on style. The brand’s promise to provide affordable yet stylish travel accessories resonated with the Barbie movie’s theme of empowerment and self-expression.

The Béis collection included a range of products, from duffle bags that double as gym bags to backpacks that transition seamlessly from carry-on to tech carriers. 

The collection’s vibrant pink color scheme was a nod to Barbie’s iconic style, further cementing the connection between the movie and the merchandise. 


The collection, released on June 23rd, 2023, was inspired by the vibrant colors and electrifying energy of the Barbie movie. The assortment included mini shadow palettes, a mini cheek palette, two new shades of Jumbo Eye Pencil sticks, Jumbo Lashes, Smooth Whip Matte Lip Creams, and a Butter Gloss in an exclusive Barbie Land pink shade. 

NYX Professional Makeup leveraged its core brand values of embracing authenticity and diversity to bring the Barbie collection to life. The brand collaborated with creators of all ethnicities, body types, sexual orientations, and genders to promote the collection both online and in real life. The campaign amplified the movie’s themes of empowerment, aligning perfectly with NYX’s commitment to self-expression and exploring one’s boldest potential.


Barbie: The Pink Movement

Speaking of the color pink, long associated with Barbie, it also became a central theme of the campaign. The world was painted pink as the marketing team managed to embrace the color pink, and turn it into a cultural symbol. 

On social media, the Barbie movie created a “pink movement” that swept across Instagram and TikTok, with mentions of Barbie increasing by 191% on TikTok and 80% on YouTube. 

Warner Bros leaned into this color palette, making it synonymous with the movie. This decision resonated with the audience, leading to the rise of the ‘Barbie-core’ movement in fashion and culture.

Google even released a new Easter Egg to celebrate the film, turning the entire Google results page a subtle shade of pink when users searched for “Barbie,” Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie, or Ryan Gosling.

The marketing campaign included partnerships with products ranging from a bright fuchsia Xbox to a $1,350 Balmain cropped hoodie. As mentioned earlier, there were also real-life Barbie Dreamhouses bookable through Airbnb and themed boat cruises.

These collaborations stand as a testament to the power of strategic partnerships in driving brand growth and consumer engagement. It serves as a case study for other brands on how to effectively leverage digital entertainment and influencer marketing to create successful collaborations.


Barbie: User-Generated Content

One of the most innovative aspects of the Barbie movie’s marketing strategy was its use of user-generated content (UGC).

The Barbie selfie generator used artificial intelligence to transform fans’ photos into Barbie movie posters, creating a shared experience for hundreds of thousands of users who then shared their pictures on social media with the #BarbieTheMovie hashtag. This tactic not only fostered a sense of community among Barbie fans but also served as free advertising for the movie.

Lessons from Barbie beyond marketing: The power of storytelling.

The Barbie movie’s marketing team demonstrated their effectiveness in creating a peak point of activity through strategic launches. This was achieved by collaborating with over 100 brands, making pink an evergreen trend during the summer of 2023. 

The result was a surge in brand relevance and sales for Mattel, the company behind Barbie. However, the success of the Barbie movie wasn’t solely due to its marketing strategies. 

The film’s narrative also played a significant role. We discussed in a previous article how to leverage the power of storytelling.  In this case, Barbie learns that being human isn’t something one needs to earn or ask for; it’s what all of us simply are.

She decides that the uncomfortable feelings leading to her low self-esteem are worth enduring if she can also experience joy and happiness. This message resonated with audiences, contributing to the film’s success.

Valuable lessons

The Barbie movie also taught valuable lessons about the importance of balance. It depicted extremes of conventional masculinity and femininity through Barbieland and Kendom, showing that neither is healthy and that true humanity exists in between this binary. 

It emphasized that it’s not women’s burden to fix men who do not yet know themselves, a lesson that is particularly relevant in today’s society.

The Barbie movie’s success also highlighted the need for more female directors in Hollywood. Greta Gerwig’s direction of the film showed the world, in all its simultaneous beauty, double standards, binaries, and messiness, through the eyes of girls and women. Such films should be as prolific as Barbies themselves. 

The Barbie movie’s success can be attributed to a combination of effective marketing strategies and a powerful narrative that resonated with audiences. It serves as a case study for other brands on how to translate hype into engagement and growth.


Despite the controversies surrounding Barbie’s body image and the unrealistic standards it sets for beauty, the movie managed to address these issues head-on. It emphasized themes of empowerment and inclusivity, promoting diverse representations of characters. This authentic storytelling reflected the varied experiences and backgrounds of the audience, further enhancing the movie’s appeal.

The Barbie movie’s marketing success offers valuable lessons for businesses. By understanding their audience, creating emotional connections, employing innovative strategies, and leveraging digital entertainment and influencer marketing.

Get in touch if you’re looking to launch your own campaign! 


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