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She’s More Than a Doll: Barbie

Published on December 1, 2023, 1:54 p.m. 
by Shaley Brown

From plastic fashion doll to live-action movie character, Barbie has always been an iconic brand. With the release of the “Barbie” movie, the franchise created strategic partnerships, social media campaigns and utilized various forms of media worldwide to propel the “Barbie” movie to viral success.

Original Barbie

In 1959, Ruth Handler created the iconic doll known as Barbie, named after her daughter, Barbara. Manufactured by the

Photo via Mirchi

American toy company Mattel, the Barbie doll became the first toy that didn’t look like a baby doll. With fashion items and accessories that modeled careers such as a doctor, astronaut and pilot, Barbie became an inspiration for young girls to dream

beyond traditional career roles.

On the other hand, Barbie has always had a negative connotation to the name. The thin-waisted, blond-haired doll has long been criticized for setting unrealistic body standards. In a TIME magazine article, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz expressed his desire to not only change the narrative but do it in a unique way. Thus the production of the “Barbie” film.

According to a Statista article, the Barbie franchise value was estimated at $378 million before the announcement of the “Barbie” film. Now, the brand is worth over $700 million. But the film isn’t the only thing bringing in the fans.

“I am Kenough”

After the success of the Barbie doll, Mattel introduced the Ken doll in 1961. Ken was created to be Barbie’s love interest; however, their relationship has been on and off since the 60s. Although Ken has always been second best to Barbie, that doesn’t mean his presence hasn’t contributed to the multimillion-dollar franchise and the publicity of the “Barbie” movie.

In the movie, the main Ken doll is played by Canadian actor Ryan Gosling. The movie features Gosling singing a ballad titled, “I’m Just Ken.” According to an ELLE article, his performance in the movie and the writers behind the song have earned a Grammy nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media 2024 as of November 2023.

Photo via the Los Angeles Times

At the end of Gosling singing “I’m Just Ken” in the movie, he is pictured wearing a hoodie that says, “I am Kenough” — meshing his character’s name with the word “enough.” The term is used to show that Ken is more than an accessory to Barbie.

On TikTok, the hashtag #Kenough has 791.3M views. Other hashtags that have impacted the success of the film and franchise are #Mojodojocasahouse and #Hibarbie. Hashtags can be a powerful social media tool in the PR industry for increased user engagement, visibility, connection and promotions. This digital presence helped generate buzz for the release of the movie on a global scale.

“Come on, Barbie, let’s go party”

The Barbie franchise didn’t stop its marketing at the digital media world. With over 35 collaborations and 2,000 registered

Photo via Cocs

Barbie-related works, the studio and toy company left everything to imagination and turned the world pink — Barbie’s signature color. So much so that the world actually experienced a shortage of pink paint!

Some of the most successful Barbie collabs include Barbie x Crocs, Barbie x Béis and an Airbnb Malibu Dreamhouse. Yes, you read that right. Airbnb created Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse that you can actually rent. The collaborations between Barbie and brands allowed the franchise to expand its customer reach and promote the film to additional audiences.

Let’s not forget that the fans of “Barbie” were a crucial part to the movie’s success. Not only did they engage in social media trends established by Warner Bros, but they also created a movement of their own. Do you remember going to watch “Barbie” and seeing everyone in the theater dressed in pink? The public wanted to make watching the movie a full experience and took it upon themselves to be creative with their clothing.

Barbie world

Warner Bros. President of Global Marketing Josh Goldstine shared his method of promoting the movie in a Variety article. Using a breadcrumb strategy, the franchise gave people little hints that sparked curiosity among fans.

Warner Bros. focused on using paid media to promote the movie while simultaneously earning media as fans became more and more excited for the movie. This strategy allowed for the franchise to generate publicity organically and grow its audience as the movie release approached. Giving the public a glimpse into the production of the movie created authenticity and built a community between Barbie and its fans.

With the fourth-biggest box office opening weekend in history, the success of the “Barbie” movie was no surprise. Through various successful global campaigns and strategies, the iconic fashion doll proved that she is more than a plastic toy.

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