By Dana Baasiri
Barbie might be the talk of the town but Mattel’s marketing team is the real star of the show. So, how did an iconic brand that was struggling with record-low sales, deflated brand perception, and scrutiny for promoting unrealistic body ideals and stereotypes make an epic comeback? Two words: integrated marketing.
From solid storytelling to strategic partnerships with luxury fashion houses, from empowering social media campaigns and engaging content, the franchise is redefining what it means to market not just a movie, but a brand. While each remarkable campaign on its own has been applauded and hailed as a genius publicity stunt, there’s a much bigger takeaway that no one is talking about — they are all a piece of a much larger marketing puzzle working in harmony to drive results. Whether you are a seasoned CMO or a hotel manager looking to attract more customers, you will find these takeaways as useful as we did.
What the resurgence of Barbie can teach us about shaping your brand narrative.
A winning marketing strategy starts with powerful storytelling, and arguably the biggest takeaway from the Barbie movie is the ability of brands to take control of their story and reshape their own narrative. Mattel used the 2023 movie to change the perception of its brand, showing the world that Barbie is more than just a pretty face and plastic body. Taking a page out of Mattel’s playbook, brands facing an existential crisis can ultimately turn things around by tactfully crafting a narrative that:
1. Embraces change: Brands that cling to their old ways risk becoming irrelevant and outdated. Barbie’s refusal to evolve with changing beauty standards ultimately hindered the brand and its revenue. However, with the new movie, Mattel quite literally flipped the script and introduced an evolved Barbie while incorporating key messaging throughout the film. Marketers can learn from this by recognizing the need to adapt to changing trends and consumer preferences.
2. Engages with audiences: Listening to audiences and giving them a voice will create a two-way relationship that strengthens brand loyalty. Mattel recognized the importance of doing so by listening to their biggest critics and giving them exactly what they wanted to feel seen and heard. Similarly, brands can cultivate storytelling that resonates with their target audiences and meets their needs.
3. Focuses on brand values: Marketers who identify their brand values and lead with transparency and authenticity will create an emotional connection with their audience. Mattel used the new movie to showcase its brand values and reposition Barbie as a role model for young girls everywhere.
4. Evokes emotion: Consumers connect with stories that evoke emotion, inspire, or entertain, making it all the more important to put effort into creating a compelling brand story. The release of Barbie’s new movie drew critical acclaim as it tapped into nostalgia, tugged on heartstrings with its storyline, and inspired action through its partnerships and experiences. Marketers can use this same strategy to capture audience attention and create a narrative that showcases their brand in the best light.
How the power of strategic partnerships can propel your brand forward.
In today’s world, collaborations are key to executing a robust 360˚ marketing plan. When it comes to promoting a new product or service, companies are increasingly turning to strategic partnerships to get the word out. This is exactly what Mattel did when it came time to release the new Barbie movie in 2023.
Over 100 brands have hopped on the Barbie bandwagon, striking lucrative licensing agreements with Mattel. In-store partnerships span across major retailers like Zara and Forever 21, while travel collaborations include a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse that’s bookable through Airbnb and even a themed boat cruise setting sail in the Boston area — all of which generated excitement and engagement ahead of the big movie release. This marketing play by Mattel is a living testament to the power of partnerships and reminds us that:
→ Brand partnerships can maximize your budget: It’s no surprise that Mattel’s marketing budget is rumored to have been blown out of the water. However, in an interview with Variety, their CEO attributes that assumption to the convergence of media leveraged and the number of partners who were willing to collaborate on exciting campaigns.
→ Collaborating with other brands can lead the charge when it comes to a big launch: Hyping up a product launch is no easy feat, but one that brand collaborations can certainly help do. Mattel deployed a breadcrumb strategy, as they purposely launched well-timed brand partnerships bit by bit which allowed them to stimulate curiosity and create conversation that all generated exciting earned media.
→ Partnerships help brands reach new audiences effectively: One of the biggest benefits of coming together with a highly-aligned brand is the ability to tap into their own pool of consumers. Barbie’s licensed agreements and campaigns with other brands allowed them to reach multiple new audiences by leveraging their partners’ channels.
→ Brand partnerships come in all shapes, sizes, and forms: Whether in the form of digital campaigns, in-store retail partnerships, or experiential marketing like immersive pop-ups and events, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to collaborations. Mattel’s experiential marketing involved pop-up shops, installations and movie screenings, and more that brought the brand to life.
Social media’s role within your marketing ecosystem is vital to brand success.
Barbiemania has painted our feeds pink, whether we like it or not. With the power of social media at its fingertips, Mattel has been successful in creating a buzz around the movie even before its release through a simple yet engaging filter, teasers, and behind-the-scenes content, influencers, and social trends that have taken on a life on their own. Taking a step back and looking at how brands can utilize social media holistically, we can be reminded that:
1. Owned content offers audiences an in-depth look into your story: It gives brands full autonomy to tell their own stories and cross-promote company-wide initiatives. Mattel used content marketing to develop a more in-depth understanding of the Barbie brand. From brand-produced promotional videos, behind-the-scenes footage, and long-form interviews to unique filters and engaging polls, this helps create an emotional attachment between the audience and the brand.
2. Influencer marketing can catapult your brand to new audiences: Not only does influencer marketing position your brand to aligned audiences, but it amplifies the narrative. To create an even broader reach, Mattel collaborated with a diverse set of influencers and content creators from different niches such as fashion, beauty, motherhood, and even dance. This strategy helped expand the promotion of the movie and brought in more fans. It also helped widen the scope of Barbie followers across various age groups and preferences.
Mattel’s integrated marketing strategy has shown that Barbie remains one of the world’s most iconic and beloved brands. By utilizing social media marketing, influencer marketing, content marketing, experiential marketing, and strategic product placement, the brand captured and kept the attention of its target audience. The brand’s coordinated marketing efforts created a memorable and thought-provoking experience around the Barbie brand, with a reliance on storytelling and shared experiences. Mattel’s integrated marketing strategies continue to be an example that brands can use when looking to launch a brand or product.
p.s. Did you know Alliance Connection is an integrated marketing agency for travel and tourism brands? We help connect you to travelers nationwide through brand partnerships, transformational PR, social media and influencer marketing, integrated entertainment marketing, and events and programming. To learn more about how we’ve helped brands like yours reach more for less, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org