The Barbie movie has taken the world by storm, crushed it at the box office and solidified its place in popular culture – at least for a moment. But hidden within the dazzling visuals, heartwarming nostalgia and feminist message lies a sophisticated (and big-budget) example of content marketing, and one that looks set to pay off this Christmas.
Content marketing is a type of marketing messaging that, first and foremost, provides value to audiences – beyond simply promoting a product or service. This can take the form of education, inspiration, entertainment, or a combination of all of these.
It can be as simple as an advertorial article placed amongst editorial content on a publisher’s site, or, in the case of Barbie – as grand as a feature-length film with a $147 million production spend and a marketing budget to match.
While most brands may not have a multi-million dollar marketing budget burning a hole in their pockets, the Barbie movie is a valuable case study in content marketing that any marketer can learn from, no matter what your budget.
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1. Invest in storytelling
At the core of the Barbie movie’s triumph is a compelling narrative that resonates with the brand’s target audience. In the case of Barbie, as with any toy, there are actually two key audiences to balance – children and their parents.
The Barbie movie had to be age appropriate and appealing for the pre-teen girls that their products are aimed at, but it also had to convince their mothers that Barbie is still relevant and sending the right message to their children, an idea that has been called into question over the past few years.
To achieve this, the movie strikes a balance between nostalgia and modernity, appealing to mothers’ memories of their own Barbies, while introducing a progressive and empowering storyline that feels more appropriate for 2023.
Barbie’s storytelling success underscores the importance of understanding your target audience and crafting a brand narrative that appeals to them. This narrative should form the core of any strong content marketing campaign.
2. It’s all in the headline
A successful content marketing campaign hinges on being able to draw the audience in for long enough to hear what you have to say. The Barbie movie showcases the power of a well-crafted headline to create anticipation without revealing too much, encouraging engagement with the content.
The simple tagline, “She’s everything. He’s just Ken,” reveals the stance that the movie takes (and challenges expectations about Barbie), while piquing curiosity about the full contents of the movie.
This example highlights the importance of setting the tone through a captivating headline that leaves audiences eager to learn more. Combined with attention-grabbing visuals, this can be leveraged across channels like Taboola to drive your audience to your content.
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3. Use eye-catching visuals
The most immediately striking aspect of the Barbie movie is its instantly recognizable visual identity. The meticulously designed Barbieland, complete with fake sky, apparently used so much pink paint that it contributed to a worldwide shortage of the stuff.
Faithful recreations of famous Barbies’ outfits were deployed for Margot Robbie’s premiere outfits for a steady cadence of PR buzz, and ads for the movie were immediately recognizable thanks to their exaggerated technicolor imagery that popped out against any background.
All this contributed to immediately capture attention and establish a strong visual identity for the Barbie brand.
Brands should make sure they have a consistent and distinctive visual identity that is applied across all its activities, making all the brand’s touchpoints instantly recognizable. This visual identity should incorporate bright colors and visual elements that stand out to grab attention and pique the interest of your audience.
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4. Diversify your media spend
The Barbie movie was everywhere, all at once. Between outdoor campaigns, over a hundred brand partnerships and an extensive press tour, the summer of 2023 effectively became the Summer of Barbie.
Admittedly, the Barbie marketing had more resources to play with than your average marketer, but by spreading this around a wide variety of different media, they were able to maximize the campaign’s impact.
They were able to achieve greater reach, tapping into the audiences of partner brands, and making sure that ads were present in a variety of online and offline environments. At the same time, consumers saw Barbie multiple times throughout their day, keeping it top of mind and building anticipation for the movie.
Often, marketers double down on one channel that appears to be working well for them, at the expense of experimentation, missing out on opportunities for greater reach and impact. The Barbie movie demonstrates just how effective a cohesive marketing campaign holistically planned and distributed across a variety of formats can be.
5. Make it shareable
The viral success of the Barbie movie was partly fueled by the incorporation of shareable elements throughout both the movie, and the accompanying marketing campaign.
The public was invited to star in a Barbie poster, take photos inside a Barbie box at cinemas, and wear pink to watch the movie – all activities that got the audience involved and encouraged them to share online, complementing the advertising efforts of Warner Brothers and Mattel by earning increased reach, additional touchpoints, and the all-important element of social proof.
In addition, the movie itself featured plenty of meme-worthy moments. Although the movie was not a musical, the creators built in one original song, called “I’m Just Ken”. The song went viral in a TikTok trend in which users showcased the men in their lives and their passions with descriptions of “My Ken”.
Brands can learn from Barbie by incorporating interactive elements like quizzes or virtual try-ons in their campaigns. When creating branded content, marketers should also consider whether they’ve included soundbites that can be removed from their context and shared with ease, increasing your content’s reach.
The Barbie movie showcases how a well thought-through content marketing campaign can permeate through popular culture and create a huge amount of brand value. Incorporate these lessons into your next content marketing campaign to see how much buzz your brand can create.