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Come on Barbie, Let’s Go Party!: 4 Lessons from Barbie’s Branding Blitz

Alli Van Spankeren,  Mary Jenkins,  Shravani Yalsangikar,  Sophia Torres,  Sara Haney

In recent years, Barbie’s reign as the industry's most coveted and beloved doll seemed to be reaching its end. But today, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Now, Barbie is once again hyper-relevant. More than that, it's become an excellent example of a brand that has dedicated its time to reflecting, researching and reinventing its image—with enviable success. 

So, what changed? 

In a way, nothing. But at the same time, everything. Since 1959, Barbie’s purpose has been to inspire the “limitless potential in every girl.” Recently, the brand has stay trued to that mission, while simultaneously building on it. Through their products and messaging, they’ve worked to foster a more inclusive brand, offering toys with more diverse backgrounds and interests. Using a combination of recent efforts and its strong brand foundation, Barbie has managed to pull off a massive marketing campaign that has everyone saying, “Come on Barbie, let’s go party.”

While on the surface it may seem like our B2B (Business-to-Business) clients at Prosek live in a whole different universe than Barbie and Ken, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, we’d make the case that many of our clients could (and should!) take a page out of Barbie's (likely pink) marketing playbook to creatively and successfully reach, engage, and interact with their target audiences online, offline, and everywhere in-between. 

Here are some of the ways that Barbie has been killing it in the marketing, advertising, sponsorship, and PR games, merging an older brand with new approaches to reach an impressive range of diverse audiences. Prosekians, our clients, and all readers should take not of this truly remarkable promotional feat.

1. They’re Feeling the Glamour in Pink.

The success of the Barbie movie marketing can be attributed to one key concept: brand recognition. More specifically, they’re leaning into the infamous pink color that consumers associate with Barbie. For example, at one point, they marketed their movie with simple bright pink billboards and a date. No title, no messaging, just a clever reliance on Barbie’s strong visual identity. And it worked.

Since then, they’ve continued to deliver a consistent visual identity experience throughout the entire marketing campaign, and the results have been nothing short of fantastic.

It’s important to remember that brand awareness and recognition are not things that happen overnight. For Barbie, these have been a pillar of their strategy for 60+ years. For both Barbie and our clients at Prosek, building a strong, recognizable, and far-reaching brand is a long-term strategy that involves significant investment and thought.

While not every company can “own” a color like Barbie owns pink, the success of Barbie’s marketing tells us that branding and visual identity matter—and that the value of your brand is truly your creation.

2. They’re Embracing the Digital Age.

Barbie and tech have united to transport consumers to the world of Barbie through AI-driven marketing campaigns. The Barbie Selfie Generator, the viral AI Barbie TikTok filter, and a Barbie AR filter on Snapchat are AI integrations that quite literally transform you into a Barbie girl. By leveraging AI and UGC (user-generated content), social media platforms are catapulting users into the world of Barbie and creating buzz.

These immersive digital experiences have been increasing user touchpoints with the brand and expanding the reach of the film’s messaging. As consumer campaigns lean heavily into tech and AI, B2B businesses should consider how they, too, can leverage AI and similar emerging tech trends to increase brand recognition, audience interaction, and add a unique element to the user experience.

3. They’re Adding New Meaning to “I’m Always Yours.”

Nowadays, retro is in. What’s old is new, and nostalgia is more than just a feeling—it’s also a marketing tool beloved by consumer and B2B brands alike. Barbie’s entire marketing campaign effectively taps into the strong power of emotion by connecting with their audiences’ sense of nostalgia, bringing the Barbie they played with as kids to life in a whole new (adult) way.

Nostalgia plays aren’t limited to the consumer world. Take this example from Blackstone: to announce his arrival to LinkedIn, Blackstone’s President and COO, Jon Gray, shared a throwback photo at his desk from his first year working at the firm in 1992 that generated significant engagement. The post is short but effective, with Jon reminiscing on the company's growth over the past three+ decades. By sharing a low-resolution photo featuring a messy desk (and, let’s be honest here, ensemble), along with a reflection on wall that’s changed, Jon endeared himself to readers by using nostalgia to tap into their emotions. 

Another example: last year, CSAA Insurance Group launched an ad campaign with 1980s artist Rick Astley. The video featured Rick Astley “Rickrolling” himself to his iconic tune, “Never Gonna Give You Up,” as well as an assurance to current and prospective customers alike that the insurance group is “never gonna give you up.” Through this campaign, CSAA provided audiences with a sense of nostalgia and a blast to the past; and it worked, reaching 2.5 million views in only a few days!

4. They’re Thinking Outside the Barbie Dream House.

Barbie-branded collabs are flooding our feeds for everything from Cold Stone Creamery to Crocs. The Barbie mania is a testament to the way brands can seize on a trending pop culture moment and use it as a vehicle for their own messaging. 

While beauty and fashion have been the most obvious choices for collaborations, we’ve been seeing some unexpected players enter the arena. Airbnb joined in on the Barbie-fication by creating and renting out a real-life Barbie dream house, Xbox launched exclusive Barbie content, The Washington Post created a pop-up newsletter to send readers “the best memes, coverage, and buzz around the ‘Barbie’ movie,” and even Flo and Jamie from Progressive hopped into the fray with a Barbie-themed TV spot. Barbie collabs are defying assumptions of what “Barbie” is and represents. 

These collaborations are proof points for B2B brands that punchy creativity, boundary-pushing collaborations, and pop-culture tie-ins can not only be fun, but also add dimension. If the insurance industry can be Barbie-fied, there are no limits!

What Barbie’s Marketing Blitz Says About Branding

Since January, close to half a million articles have been written about Barbie, 86,000 of which were published in the past month alone. Also, Barbie’s success tapping into the meme culture has generated more than six million engagements across social media in the past six months—and that was as of July 6th – so that number has no doubt reached newly impressive heights.

While pink Snapchat filters and big-budget multi-platform campaigns may not be right for many of our clients, B2B brands should take note that Barbie’s success in generating interest and excitement involved a 360-degree marketing play, with everything from classic billboards, large-scale activations, unique brand partnerships, and the newest in tech. Barbie is effectively being worked into the zeitgeist, grabbing the attention of critics and fans alike. 

For B2B clients with a long sales cycle, these efforts may not result in direct “sales,” but they can create relevance in a cultural conversation that pays dividends in brand awareness.

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