Pink sauce on that Burger King burger? What about “Barbie-fying” your pet with sweaters and beds with Barbie motifs? If that’s too low-brow, perhaps you’d be interested in hot pink Barbie monogrammed knit leggings by luxury designer Balmain instead, selling at Neiman Marcus for a cool $2,150.
Welcome to the wonderful and weird world of “Barbie” movie marketing.
Ahead of Friday’s U.S. release of the “Barbie” movie, parent company Mattel has created a product marketing blitz with more than 100 brands plastering pink everywhere.
There are pink benches at bus stops and pink clothing displayed in store windows. Microsoft’s XBox has come up with a Barbie console series and HGTV is hosting a four-part Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge.
And then there are all the unofficial collaborators trying to grab a piece of the Barbie craze. Restaurants across the country are offering special pink cocktails, while interior decorators are showing options like vibrant pink backsplashes to “Barbiefy” your kitchen.
Even the organization I Support the Girls — a nonprofit that has provided 22 million bras and menstrual hygiene products to homeless people, refugees and immigrants — is creating a social media campaign around menstrual periods using Barbie and having volunteers create miniature packages of Barbie-sized menstrual pads and tampons as teaching tools.
“The capability to share stories and knowledge through playing with Barbie is what made us realize we need to jump on this pop culture Barbie bandwagon,” said Dana Marlowe, founder and executive of I Support the Girls. “If you can see yourself in a toy or in a doll, we want to also make sure that we’re raising awareness about bras and clean underwear and the like.”
Some experts say all the marketing beyond the movie is only good for the 64-year-old brand, helping to attract multi-generations of fans.
“When a brand owns something as iconic as the color pink, it’s good news and bad news,” said Marc Rosenberg, a Chicago-based toy consultant who led the global marketing teams for Hasbro’s brands like Furby, GigaPets, and Hit Clips. “In this case, I think it’s all good news. Everyone in the world wants a piece of pink now.”
But pundits also say it’s going to be hard for many of the products to stand out when the world is awash in pink.
“There is such a stampede toward this that most people are going to get stepped on and will not be noticed,” said Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, noting he believes there will be more losers than winners.
For some shoppers like Hollie Krause of Mahwah, New Jersey, Barbie pink blitz that ramped up since June is already getting too much.
Krause, 31, said that she loved her Barbie dolls growing up and had about 20 of them along with a Barbie Dreamhouse. So when some of the merchandise started to roll in earlier this year, she bought Barbie-themed pajamas, a Barbie T-shirt, Barbie-trademarked pink lemonade, along with some other pink outfits.
Now she’s feeling overwhelmed.
“Barbie is supposed to be for everyone, but these nostalgic collaborations should feel a little bit more unique or a little bit more creative,” said Krause, who plans to focus on limited edition items.
Barbie’s first live action movie, an homage to the doll with some biting satire, comes at a time when Barbie sales have been up and down after slumping from 2012 to 2015, when it faced stiff competition from other dolls and was under attack for pushing unrealistic beauty standards to girls and lost some relevance. It enjoyed a big bump in sales during the depths of the pandemic when parents were looking to entertain their children.
Barbie now accounts for one-third of Mattel’s revenue and it has been diversifying the dolls with more skin tones and versions with prosthetic legs, wheelchairs and hearing aids. This year, it unveiled its first Down Syndrome doll.
As a result, according to market research firm Circana, Barbie has remained the top fashion doll for the past four years starting in 2019 and through June of this year in the U.S. as well in the combined 12 countries that Circana tracks.
So far, product marketing around the movie has done well.
Mattel’s Barbie that was specifically made for the movie and is dressed in a pink gingham dress, is No. 1 in sales for dolls and for the pre-school dolls and dollhouse category sold on Amazon, according to the retailer’s website.
Neiman Marcus noted that it launched its exclusive Barbie collaboration with Balmain last year and sold out of many items in the first few days. Based on the success of last year’s collaboration and the current Barbiecore cultural phenomenon, it has reissued the collection starting July 10, the retailer said.
Then there’s the mixed social media reviews for the “Pink Burger” offered by Burger King’s franchisee in Brazil. It’s offering a slice of melted cheese, bacon and a smoky-flavored hot pink sauce. The Pink Burger comes in a Barbie Combo, which also features French fries (dubbed “Ken’s Potatoes”), a pink shake and a pink-frosted donut.
“Has BK completely lost its creativity or is just too lazy to think of something better?” said one comment on Burger King Brazil’s Instagram account.
Restaurant Brands noted it is a limited-time partnership sold exclusively in the Brazil market and will not be available in the United States nor elsewhere.