Barbie’s Marketing Genius: The Ultimate Case Study

It’s the biggest question of the summer: what are you doing on July 21? 

If you’re like me, the date is already carved out: you’re going to the movies. It’s the double-feature of the century: Barbie and Oppenheimer–Barbenheimer

The two films with the same opening day couldn’t be more different, but there’s a reason they can both stand on their own to compete at the box office—marketing. 

Since its initial tease in mid-2022, Barbie has taken the world by storm. Its bright aesthetic prompted the “Barbiecore” trend, which highlighted bright pastel colours in fashion and design. People have been promoting the movie as if they’re being paid to do it. Barbie is a marketing master-class, having generated major buzz for the better part of a year.

How did they do it? Here’s what everyone, even marketing pros, can learn from Barbie’s marketing skills. 

The Art of the Leak

In June 2022, a picture from the Barbie film shoot went viral: in neon 80s-style workout gear, stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were captured rollerblading along Venice Beach.  

Photo Credit: BACKGRID

Similar leaks, like one of the stars in bedazzled Western getups, set the Internet on fire. People couldn’t get enough of the costumes, going so far as to share where to get the pieces or how to make them yourself.  

Image Credit: APEX / MEGA

Although Internet trends seem to fade faster nowadays, it was impressive how sustained these efforts seemed to be, keeping the movie at the top of people’s minds even a year before its release. 

Interactive Marketing

The best marketing strategies give your audience the ability to advertise for you. Barbie is the perfect example of this, utilizing meme-able content to spread like wildfire on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and TikTok.  

The first success was the laughable line “She’s everything, he’s just Ken”. Here, X users quickly hopped on to create memes about their own lives, their favorite fictional characters, or pop culture.

Credit: X user @bellamisandria

Another act of participatory marketing came with the movie’s casting announcements. Each character was announced on a bright poster with a quirky, memorable tagline. Using a movie-sponsored website, users could create their own versions of these posters and share them with their friends. Talk about low-cost marketing! 

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Fans can try for recognition and virality with Barbie’s hashtag, which shows up on X with its own pastel icon. The movie is making sure it sticks out using its bubblegum palette, catching the eye and building a more cohesive image. Not to mention that its popularity attracts other brands, even unrelated ones like Wendy’s, to use it and draw an even bigger audience. 

Collabs for Days

It wouldn’t be a 21st century promotion without excessive partnerships, and Barbie’s got that on lock

The movie has collaborated with over 30 brands to bring its iconic aesthetic to products like ice cream, lemonade, toothbrushes, cosmetics, apparel, luggage, video game consoles, and AirBnBs. 

With so many brands putting Barbie on their shelves, the movie was just about everywhere before its release. With this method, brands also benefit from Barbie’s name recognition to sell product. It’s a win-win! 

Photo credit: Impala Skate Europe

Barbie hasn’t been limited to just brand collaborations, though. Its artist collaborations have been notable too: creating a fire soundtrack with the likes of Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, Dua Lipa, and more. The music helps to promote the release and is used in everything from advertisements to unaffiliated TikToks. 


The Power of Nostalgia

Nostalgia marketing is nothing new—there’s a reason it’s used so much. Tapping into an audience’s fond memories of their childhood has long been a successful tactic as a consumer begins to associate the product with older, positive memories.  

Barbie does this well; after all, almost everyone can relate to having or being around Barbie dolls, Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of a well-loved toy that has seen better days, and the bright plastic perfection of childhood fun. To viewers, the movie offers an escape from reality and a return to the simplicity of youth. 

Market research has seen that nostalgia marketing works especially well with millennials, who are looking for a more human connection with the brands they use. Barbie’s ability to keep up with trends in order to market nostalgia to the Internet generation has generated more buzz for a movie than any other in recent history. 


We could all learn something from Barbie; not just from the doll’s message that anyone can be anything, but from the franchise’s marketing skills.  

Marketers should never stop the hype when it comes to announcing something new – that is, go beyond a simple social, blog, and newsletter campaign and seek collaborations and unique media platforms to get your message across in unique ways.

Ensure the most people know about your message as much as possible by putting yourself out there, in other people’s circles, and communicating through unconventional means.  
Collaborations with others are an amazing way to connect with similar audiences and expand your reach especially if you don’t have millions of followers already.  

To stay relevant and engage audiences, it requires a perfect balance of anticipation, share-ability, and emotion. 

Let us know how you can translate some of Barbie’s tactics into your own content strategies! And, most importantly, enjoy the movie!