Barbiemania: How Warner Bros. and Mattel Painted the World Pink and Created Marketing Magic

Barbiemania: How Warner Bros. and Mattel Painted the World Pink and Created Marketing Magic

Pink is the new green.

BarbieThe theatrical release this weekend caps off one of the most extensive and impressive marketing campaigns in recent memory. In other words: Rarely does a film turn into a cultural touchstone before its theatrical release. Warner Bros.’ Barbiewhich gives birth to the world’s most famous fashion doll, is on the short list of exceptions.

In marketing circles, there is what is known as “paid media” and “earned media”. For example, a TV commercial for a trailer is considered paid media. Earned media can be social media buzz or advertisements.

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“One of the things about theater marketing is that it has an opportunity to engage the cultural zeitgest in an exciting way. Everyone wants to be a part of something,” says Warner global marketing president Josh Goldstine, who also worked for long periods at Universal and Sony. Spiderman at Sony in the distant past. I haven’t felt this kind of electricity for a long time.

Selling a summer marquee is more expensive than ever and more complicated, amid the proliferation of social media and as the box office continues to find its footing post-pandemic. It’s common for a Hollywood studio to spend as much, if not more, to market an event photo as to actually make the film. The price of a global major event headline marketing campaign is usually $100 million or more.

Then there are promotional partnership deals, which can be worth tens of millions. Barbie has attracted more than 100 such partners. From custom pink Crocs to a Prada clothing line to hair dryers and everything in between. Merchants and brands rushed to cash in Barbie craze, while companies like Progressive Insurance and General Motors have used Barbie in custom TVs and digital advertisements. All told, these partnerships are worth at least $70 million to Warner Bros. and toymaker Mattel, home of Barbie. And the publicity value the film has generated is immeasurable, from local news to feature films Architectural digest AND The New Yorker. Stories about Barbie have become ubiquitous.

Barbie should even boost cinema attendance overall and help Christopher Nolan’s new film, Oppenheimerwhich opens the same day and chronicles the making of the atomic bomb (the contest between the two event films even has its own nickname, “Barbenheimer”.) The film pair, along with Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Onethey were the last tentacles of the summer that largely completed their publicity blitzes before the SAG-AFTRA strike began and made it impossible for stars to promote their films.

Rival studio executives are lauding Warner and Mattel for what they say is a marketing campaign for the ages. “Barbie it’s going to be very, very profitable,” says one such source, adding that Warner has wisely focused on the cool and fun factor, rather than nostalgia. The source, who pays close attention to tracking, says social media metrics have continued to show gains. So did the box office projections. When it first hit official tracking, Barbie he was walking a healthy $80 million opening. Earlier this week, that number had jumped to a whopping $110 million. “People go to the cinema to have fun. They want a ride,” the source continues.

Warner Bros. and its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, could capitalize on a box office win. This summer’s DC superhero photo The flash will suffer a sizable loss after earning less than $268 million to date at the global box office. Shazam! Fury of the Gods, released earlier this year, was also a huge disappointment. If it lives up to the hype, Barbie, which cost $145 million to produce before release, could be a huge profit-maker for WBD. Just as marketing departments are scrutinized when a film doesn’t work, they are praised when there is a win. “It’s like they saved it all up for Barbie”, says another rival marketing executive.

Directed by Greta Gerwig, Barbie, which is rated PG-13 is not a paint-by-numbers film, evidenced by its; nor was the campaign created by Goldstine and his team. The first teaser trailer, which played before Avatar: The Way of Water during the end of the year holidays of 2022, it was a parody of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey which replaced the famous monolith with Barbie starring Margot Robbie.

The film’s playful tone came into further focus in early April with the first proper trailer, complete with a viral moment of Robbie’s arched foot popping out of pink heels. A few weeks later, when Ryan Gosling, who plays Ken, appeared on stage at CinemaCon 2023 dressed in a pink blazer. Gosling, joined by Robbie, was the toast of the show, introducing the term Ken-ergy which has become a buzzword. And throughout the month of June, there were Barbie floats in gay pride parades around the country.

“Mattel has just been an amazing partner in terms of collaboration and allowed us to do some pretty edgy stuff. We wanted to embrace a campaign that was as bold and emotional as the movie Greta was making,” says Goldstine.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, like his counterparts at other media and entertainment conglomerates, is excited about the synergy as another means to keep marketing costs in check. Various divisions in WBD were part of the “Barbie in the Real World” blitz, including a competition series that saw HGTV talent redesign a house into various Barbie-inspired rooms over the decades. There was also a summer baking championship on the Food Network, while more than 15 networks across the WBD pantheon featured pink logos and other Barbie graphics on the air.

Initially, neither consumers nor Hollywood insiders knew what to expect from Gerwig’s Barbie. In spring 2022, Warners revealed a first look at the film at CinemaCon, the annual gathering of Hollywood studio and theater owners in Las Vegas. It showed a smiling Barbie sitting in a pink Corvette.

“We saw how it lit up the internet,” Goldstine says. “It was a very significant moment.”