3 Things Brands Can Learn From the "Barbie" Movie Marketing Strategy

What the "Barbie" movie marketing strategy can teach marketers about product launches
Published on
Apr 14, 2023
Written by
Elodie Huston
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Marketers, take note. A new product launch playbook just dropped, and it’s everything.  

Last week, the “Barbie” movie trailer hit our timelines and we haven’t been able to talk about anything else since. But we’re not just talking about the non-stop memes, what the movie is actually about, or why Ryan Gosling looks like that. The movie’s marketing strategy caught our eye, too. 

Making a beloved IP feel fresh (and even a little mysterious) is no small feat. Here’s what the movie promotion that launched a thousand memes can teach marketers about launching their own products.


1. Embrace the teaser trailer mindset 

The “Barbie” movie first entered our collective consciousness when photos from the set were leaked. The images focused on the film’s two stars, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, and immediately set viewers’ aesthetic expectations. But what the movie was actually about—and its tone—were kept under wraps. 

Last December, the “Barbie” movie released a teaser trailer parodying the classic film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” giving viewers a taste of the movie’s tone and a preview of a few members of its cast (but still no hint about the plot). And then, finally, the marketing team launched a second teaser trailer revealing not just a handful of celebrities, but 24, with surprise appearances that delighted and surprised audiences. 

The marketing play

It’s natural to want to tell everyone everything, all at once, when you’re launching an exciting new product. But releasing interesting tidbits one by one can help you hook your audience, keep their attention, and build anticipation. Plus, slowly releasing sneak peeks into product features, colorways, or collaborations will help you direct shoppers’ attention to what’s most important, so nothing goes unnoticed. 

2. Mobilize your “cast” 

When it comes to driving social engagement, your community matters. When the second “Barbie” movie trailer launched, each cast member shared a custom graphic (in the signature Barbie packaging style). The marketing team had a deep bench to pull from, from movie and TV stars to comedy icons. This approach helped the campaign reach a wide audience, grab attention with some surprise stars, and offer up its own meme format. 

And, true to form, the imitations began rolling in immediately. The film quickly launched an official Barbie Movie selfie generator, helping users create their own promotional images with AI. 

The marketing play

Tap into your own bench of influencers, superfans, and brand partners to spread the word about your new products. Take a page out of the “Barbie” movie marketing playbook and lean into a signature image or tagline, whether that’s a snap of your product or a special feature such as personalization. 

But your social strategy should extend beyond your paid partnerships, too. Create easily repeatable content and contribution avenues so your audience can join in on the hype right away. Organic content like this will complement your influencer’s work, giving you even more credibility and reach. 

3. Maintain an air of mystery

Barbie has been a childhood staple for over 60 years, so building a sense of surprise around this movie was no small accomplishment. Margot Robbie told British Vogue, “People generally hear ‘Barbie’ and think, ‘I know what that movie is going to be,’ and then they hear that Greta Gerwig is writing and directing it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I don’t…” 

 The “Barbie” movie marketing team created a sense of mystery in three key ways: 

  1. Keeping the plot under wraps 
  2. Subverting expectations by announcing a large, diverse cast after focusing on two main stars
  3. Leaning into nostalgia, letting the campiness of the original IP do the legwork and help set the tone 

The “Barbie” movie didn’t coast by on its source material (opening up themselves up to the risk of disappointing long-time fans). But it also didn’t stay too tight-lipped. Instead, it balanced old and new to keep the audience on their toes and waiting for the next update. 

The marketing play

When launching a new product, consider engaging a select community to build excitement. Give your VIPs even more access to your new products, whether that’s an early sneak peek or the chance to shop before anyone else. Your brand loyalists are more likely to convert, and create a buzz that drives even more engagement. 

Whether you’re launching new products or putting a fresh spin on best-sellers, the “Barbie” movie’s promotional campaign is full of lessons for marketers. Ultimately, teasing out content, tapping into your brand’s community, and creating a sense of mystery will help you hook shoppers (and keep them coming back).

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