Lessons from the ‘Barbie’ Marketing Blitz: Five Tips for Local Retailers

07.20.2023 Sara Brasfield3 min

The Barbie brand is everywhere right now. In the weeks leading up to the July 21 release of the feature film, Barbie, the brand has taken center stage in popular culture.

And it’s not only movie trailers, press junkets and other movie marketing: as the surging trend of ‘Barbiecore’ demonstrates, the Barbie brand is shaping not only our summer movie watch list, but also our style and interior design preferences.

All of this attention is by design—but it’s not solely in service of the Barbie movie itself. For the brand’s parent company, Mattel, the Barbie movie is designed as the first of possibly 45 movies all based on popular Mattel toy lines, including a Lena Dunham-led Polly Pocket movie and a Hot Wheels movie helmed by J.J. Abrams.

In that sense, the Barbie movie is as much a massive marketing campaign as it is an entertainment product in its own right. And the marketing blitz around this movie offers some valuable lessons and insights that can benefit the brand-building efforts of local retailers.

Collaborations Can Breathe New Life Into Your Brand

Strategic partnerships can be a great way to build new product lines, expand distribution channels, and cross-promote your brand among the built-in base of your collaborators. T

The Barbie brand has invested a lot of resources into these partnerships, resulting in new products and collaborations with dozens of brands, including Forever 21, Roblox, Airbnb, Joybird, and Fossil. These collaborations help those partner brands capitalize on the Barbie frenzy, and it also activates the Barbie brand even among consumers who will never watch the new feature film.

Strong Brand Loyalty Leads to High Customer Lifetime Values

Looking for proof of the value of brand loyalty and customer retention? Look no further than the Barbie Dreamhouse.

This popular toy set has endured among young consumers for generations, and its revenue impact for the Barbie brand has been massive: in addition to the initial Barbie Dreamhouse purchase, Mattel reports that Dreamhouse owners buy twice as many Barbie products as consumers who don’t own a Dreamhouse.

Not every retailer can develop a product that drives accessory purchases like the Dreamhouse, but retailers should be on the lookout for products and product lines that incentivize repeating purchasing. When the volume of purchases increases the perceived value of the other products—as is the case when purchasing Barbie toys—brands have a built-in mechanism to retain customers, increase brand loyalty, and drive their customer lifetime value (LTV) higher and higher.

Experimentation Pays Off

It’s easy to grow comfortable with tried-and-true marketing strategies—especially if your business has found success with those campaigns. But if your brand is happy with ‘good enough,’ you may never discover more valuable opportunities that require your business to step outside of its comfort zone.

Mattel’s embrace of an experimental approach has led the company into new, exciting and uncertain territory—starting with its decision to fund a star-studded blockbuster. But a feature film is only the tip of that risk-taking iceberg: the company has lent the Barbie brand to create exclusive in-game content for video games, as well as original video series and other in-game product placements.

While more than one-third of desktop gamers say they have a negative relationship with in-game ads, 55 percent of gamers say the product placements enhance the authenticity of their gaming experience. Mattel’s calculated risk to build Barbie’s visibility through unconventional channels has helped generate positive brand uplift among a diverse consumer base.

Never Lose Sight of Your Core Offerings

Product collaborations, brand partnerships, and experimental marketing all represent strategies local retailers may consider when garnering new attention and customers for their brand. But as these strategies are employed, it’s critical that businesses don’t lose sight of the core offerings and customer experience that are foundational to their brand.

If you’re a local retailer with a core offering of maternity clothing and supplies for expecting mothers, your brand’s evolution and collaborations can’t pull your products and services away from that core customer base. Despite the massive sprawl of the Barbie brand across fashion, interior design, video games and other domains, Barbie remains a toy brand above all else.

As long as your business recognizes these priorities, you can embrace experimentation and growth without jeopardizing the foundation of your brand’s success.

Ready to grow your brand’s presence in your local market? A small business marketing consultant can help you identify the right channels, messaging and creative elements that are aligned with your company’s goals. Find out how Cox Media can help—contact us today to learn more.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is a Marketing Manager on Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than nine years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the office, Sara loves spending time running, reading, and supporting her favorite sports teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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