The Barbie movie, it’s everywhere – from social media memes to the temporarily-renamed Barbie-can Centre.
Praised for its witty marketing and seemingly endless barrage of promotions leading up to the release date, Barbie has now grossed over $400 million worldwide after less than a week in cinemas. The movie’s extremely successful marketing campaign has seen the movie achieve the highest opening day sales of any movie this year.
While it’s undeniable that Barbie’s massive $100 million marketing budget played a part in the triumph of these campaigns, the real genius lies in the strategies utilised by Barbie’s marketing team; building meme generators and social media filters, pushing brand identity and nostalgia-marketing, and getting people involved in their interactive campaigns – strategies that are equally relevant to SMEs.
Marketing is a powerful tool that can boost brand awareness and attract new customers, and there is a lot that business leaders can learn from the overwhelming success of the Barbie movie’s marketing attempts.
Connor Campbell, business expert at NerdWallet comments: “There is no doubt that the Barbie movie has seen some of the most effective marketing in recent years. Opening to staggeringly high box office numbers, the movie has been able to transfer its marketing virality into direct sales – something that is equally desirable for small businesses in the UK.
“The secrets to the movie’s success lay in the marketing team’s ability to create a ‘moment’ that masses of people want to be part of. By playing to their strengths of pushing the strong identity of Barbie as a brand – utilising hot pink and iconic fonts, alongside appealing to nostalgia – the Barbie marketing team have generated significant buzz and anticipation ahead of the movie’s release.
“While SMEs are unlikely to have the budget potential that the Barbie team were given, these are all methods that can inspire the way in which small businesses market themselves and build brand awareness in the wider public – optimising the power of social media virality to build interactive campaigns that people want to participate in.”
Connor has shared the following tips to help businesses take inspiration from the Barbie marketing victories:
Create interactive social media content
One of the main reasons that the Barbie movie hit such high levels of viral popularity is through their strategic use of interactive social media content. This has taken the form of meme generators – such as the ‘This Barbie is a…’ generator that allows users to transform photos of themselves into Barbie-themed posters, and the Barbie-related filters on TikTok and Instagram.
By directly getting people involved and providing them with a ‘memento’, this encourages them to want to take part. This can be in the form of creating a filter or sound that others can use to create their own pictures or videos, or could even be done by jumping on pre-existing trends and giving them a twist that relates to your business.
Social media is a great way for businesses to promote themselves to a wider audience, and creating interactive campaigns increases the chances of going viral – particularly on platforms such as TikTok that are known to have a very user-friendly algorithm.
Brand identity is key
The Barbie movie utilised a wide range of marketing strategies – from social media to offline collaborations with other brands across different industries. However, what tied all of these together was the consistency of Barbie’s brand identity.
Over the years, Barbie has become synonymous with its hot pink colour palette and instantly recognisable font. These elements have been carried across each of the marketing tactics used, and mean that people can immediately recognise trending content as being Barbie-related.
In a similar way, businesses can ensure that they have a strong brand identity of their own. Whether this is through having an instantly recognisable logo, or carrying across a core colour palette in everything you do. Every marketing campaign – whether it’s large-scale billboards or simple Instagram posts – should carry across these elements of brand identity to make your business synonymous with these factors.
Building up to a “main event” while maintaining an event
In Barbie’s case, the “main event” was always the release of the movie in cinemas. Everything the marketing team did up until this point was solely to generate buzz for the main attraction. In this way, businesses should optimise their marketing efforts in the lead-up to a new product or service launch, hinting that something big is coming, and focusing their attention on creating traction for the launch.
However, where the Barbie movie marketing team really excelled was in making the build-up just as much of an event as the movie release itself. The general public knew that the movie was being released on the 21st July, but they were equally as invested and excited about what the movie’s marketing team were doing now – prior to the launch.
Businesses can use this same strategy to make their business more exciting to a wider audience. By putting out frequent social media posts, trending hashtags, and generating conversations in the build-up to the launch of a new venture, businesses can capitalise on this tactic to create two “main events” – one now, and one when the launch takes place.
Making nostalgia-marketing work for you
Nostalgia is an extremely powerful emotion that can be used to appeal to potential consumers. By relating to them and relaying shared memories, businesses can create positive associations with their target demographic. For the Barbie movie, the brand itself is a nostalgic household name for multiple generations. However, this doesn’t mean that small businesses can’t still utilise nostalgia-marketing for themselves.
The secret to successful nostalgia-marketing is really understanding your audience. Identify a core demographic that you’re aiming to target, and make sure you fully understand their core cultural and historical background from their childhood or early adulthood.
If your small business has a lot of history itself, you may be able to incorporate elements from your brand history that overlap with this era. If not, there are still other ways to incorporate nostalgia into your marketing. This could take the form of creating a nostalgic hashtag to use for your social media posts, or launching a limited-time deal that is relevant to an event that took place that month, week, or even day in history.