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Brands should think twice before going pink for Barbie

Rochelle Giblin

As the highly anticipated Barbie Movie hits cinema screens, brands have been quick to jump on the mass hype. But brands should think twice before going pink, writes Rochelle Giblin, head of marketing services at BIG Partnership.

With the marketing opportunities bigger than the film itself, it may feel like an easy win for a lot of companies. However, it is important for brands to remember that it won’t make sense for everyone.

The film has instilled a sense of nostalgia across the globe, and not just for 90’s kids like me. Barbie was introduced in 1959 and continued to be a popular choice of toy for the next four decades. Of course, this year’s hype isn’t just about nostalgia. Conversations have largely been driven by the evolved Barbie brand strategy, focused on providing a doll that is fit for modern society, representing different races, body shapes and abilities. This moves the target audience beyond just children and teens to a globally engaged audience, and increases the opportunity for a broader range of brands to tie in.

Barbie manufacturer Mattel has collaborated with almost every different product and retailer imaginable, from Airbnb and the Malibu DreamHouse to UNO’s Barbie the Movie Card Game and the Barbie themed pink X-box console and controllers.

These collaborations made sense because they’re consumer-focused, have experience in big brand partnerships and effectively portray a sense of personality through their brand strategies. They also have a creative and colourful on and offline presence that naturally lends itself to the Barbie ‘pink washing’ and that alone allows them to align their brands with some of Barbie’s core values.

Barbie fan or not, you can’t deny the effectiveness of the film’s marketing campaign. The use of brand associations, influencer marketing, ESG activations and emotive messaging has been an interesting watch, perhaps even more so than the movie ever will be. However, before diving into a Barbie related campaign or unofficial association ask yourself:

  1. Do I have the right brand tone and personality? Think informal, welcoming, energetic, inclusive.
  2. Is there any relevance for my target audience?
    The successful campaigns have been able to provoke an emotional response in their target audiences. Airbnb made the dreams of a whole nation come true with a life size Barbie Malibu home. If you can’t authentically create a sense of nostalgia then it’s not worth it.
  3. Do our values align?
    As a very minimum, your brand should be inclusive of all. At best, you should be able to align with Barbie’s push for entrepreneurialism, empowerment and diversity.

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