OPINION: What Barbie Can Teach Content Marketers

OPINION: What Barbie Can Teach Content Marketers

In this opinion piece, Patrick Cullen, copywriter at LEP Digital shares his insights on what brands can learn from Barbie. He even turned himself pink for the occasion!

As a man who raised his children in a household where the phrase ‘Yucky Barbie!’ met any rumour of her arrival, I don’t get it. But as a copywriter at a content marketing agency, I totally get it.

Like it or not, Barbie has arrived and she has much to teach us marketing folk.

Make your launches strategic

The Barbie movie has been headed our way for a very long time — maybe since 1959 and through all of her ups and downs since then.

The release of the movie is far from the first time anyone has heard of it. And who would’ve thought it possible that adults would even entertain the idea of being entertained by Barbie? 

A live-action movie has been in discussions since as early as 2009. But it wasn’t until 2018 when the movie went into development, and the novelty became real, that the Barbie marketing team has really had its inline skates on.

Every moment since then has been managed for the best effect. There was the 2019 announcement of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken. The first pictures of Margot as Barbie appeared in April 2022 and, for millions of people, that one image was already a dream come true. But the pictures kept coming.

The marketing budget of $100M USD may seem like a lot — and it is — but as a percentage of what it cost to make the movie ($145M USD), it’s not unusual. 

What may be unusual, though, is how effectively that budget has been spent to leverage the distinctive Barbie assets.

Show off your distinctive assets

Image: @janetmachuka_, Twitter

Do my assets look big in this?

Search for Barbie on Google and after a rash of pink twinkles, you’ll get a pink-tinged browser.

Image: LEP Digital

Know your brand . . . and position it like you know we know you know

Mattel knows exactly what Barbie represents to people. And they know the sentiment is mixed.

The middle ground in that sentiment might not be narrow-waisted, but one of the movie’s taglines emphasises the extremes:

‘If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.’

That tagline is both a provocation and a placation. So, is the movie for me? Is it for you? I guess the only way to find out is to watch it.

Collaborate in clever ways

If content is king, then collabs are surely queen.

The Barbie Malibu DreamHouse on Airbnb sits atop the mountain of collaborations.

If you can’t get to Malibu, let the DreamHouse come to you with a DreamHouse-scented candle. Savour the flavour of the pink Limited Edition Barbie Collection at Grill’d. Swoon over Swoon’s Barbie-branded pink lemonade. And if you’ve still got room, fill that hole with a Barbie Krispy Kreme doughnut.

You can also get your hands on Barbie UNO cards. Rock Barbie Crocs. Get your game on on a Barbie Xbox console. Sprawl on a rug by Ruggable. Head off with luggage from Beis. Bridge the gap between yourself and fashion with a Barbie range for all ages and genders at GAP.

And an unofficial — Photoshopped, but no less effective — collaboration between Barbie and London Underground’s Barbican Tube station popped up.

Image: @allontheboard, Twitter

Curious, clever, collaborative — that’s content that does your job for you.

Content marketing connects people with brands

Companies and customers all have Barbie fever at the moment. But when will the fever subside? And how?

It may take a while for that pink tinge to fade. But if all you see is a two-hour Barbie advertisement that people will pay to watch, rest assured you’re not wrong.

The content marketing behind Barbie has tapped into a multi-generational pool of existing and new customers. Many of the collaborations are less about Barbie as a toy than they are about Barbie as — dare I say it — an influencer. Barbie is live. She not only has a life, she has a lifestyle.

And the Barbie lifestyle has connected people to the brand who may have outgrown the target demographic of girls aged 3–12, or who were never in the target market.

Any pink feels here?

I’ve seen the trailer and it did provoke a feeling.

In the first few seconds, I saw Barbie step out of her high heels. Her feet fell flat and I felt . . . Well, I’m not sure what I felt. But the action of Barbie’s feet falling flat on the ground had gravity.

The intangibles of the Barbie brand somehow became very real and somehow personal.

The movie is part of an incredible marketing campaign by Mattel for the Barbie brand.

Even if the movie ends with the title card “The End”, it doesn’t end. There is no end to Barbie. The Barbie brand has proved itself to be as relevant now as it’s ever been — if not more.

So, is Barbie yucky? Was she ever? And am I going to pay to see The Barbie movie?

I won’t go see it in a pink fit — or a pink shirt — but I will see it. 

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