The Barbie effect: 4 take-aways for marketers

The Barbie effect

Barbie has been breaking records since its release in July. Biggest opening weekend for a female director. Biggest domestic opening for a non-superhero film or sequel. Passed the $1 billion box office mark. It’s a massive hit.  

And its impact will have a more personal aspect to some – apparently, searches for the name “Barbie” have gone up 603% since the film’s first trailer dropped in April, and the name “Ken” is also seeing a 293% increase in page views.

The movie’s incredible success reminds us that there’s more to Barbie than just a doll. As marketers, there are lessons we can take away from the brand and how it has evolved over the years.

Stay relevant.

On March 9, 1959, Barbie was introduced to the world at the American International Toy Fair as a fashion model. In the sixty plus years since then, Barbie has remained popular by staying relevant to the changing needs and interests of young girls. The clothes and accessories bundled with each doll represent a different career path, and over time, options have greatly expanded.

1961 added Nurse Barbie. Business executives (and cheerleaders) came in 1963. Reflecting the interest in space exploration, 1965 saw the introduction of Astronaut Barbie. And on it went. Barbie has had over 200 careers, each helping keep girls’ interest and the brand itself fresh over the years.

And it’s not just careers that have changed. Barbie has evolved over the years to become more diverse and inclusive, which has helped make her a more relevant and relatable brand for young girls from all backgrounds. For example, expanded choices of racially diverse and body-positive Barbies reflect consumers’ changing needs and expectations.

As marketers, it’s good to remind ourselves to always be looking for ways to keep our marketing fresh and relevant to a target audience that itself is changing and growing.

Harness the power of storytelling.

Barbie’s stories have helped to shape the way that young girls see themselves and the world around them. Before she came along, there were baby dolls. Lots of them. The story they told: You can be a wife and a mother. But Barbie – a glamorous grown woman – now she offered options.

Barbie opened up new narratives, many of them around the choices girls could make about activities and careers that might interest them. It was as if the barriers around one fixed storyline fell away, opening up possibilities, opening up the world. Since her introduction, Barbie’s stories have helped to shape the way that young girls see themselves and the world around them.

To bring this back to marketing, storytelling is critical to our approach at Inviso Marketing. We embrace it, to create meaningful connections with target audiences and help our clients build a brand that’s more than just a product.

Be aspirational.

Barbie is an aspirational brand for young girls. She represents many of the things that young girls want to be: beautiful, successful, and independent. Barbie helps young girls to dream big and inspires them to achieve their goals.

As an emblem of potential, Barbie also underscores the idea that there are no limits to what young girls can aspire to be, encouraging them to envision and pursue diverse paths in life. This aspirational spirit not only uplifts but also instills a sense of boundless possibility.

From a marketing perspective, we can tap into the hopes and dreams of customers by focusing our messaging around the solutions we’re providing, not just the nuts and bolts of features or line-item lists of services provided. We need to paint a picture, to show them what the world can look like when they choose [our brand/our product/our service]. Being aspirational can help establish a meaningful rapport with target audiences.

Wrapping it up, the “Barbie effect” is more than just a toy trend—it’s a testament to the value of staying relevant, telling compelling stories, and igniting aspirations. Many of us at Inviso Marketing were directly inspired by our own Barbies, and it’s pretty amazing to think of her impact over the years. Thank you Barbie!

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