Last weekend’s box office was a blast, proving that ‘Babenheimer’ is much more than just an internet sensation.
The Barbie doll shattered expectations, bringing in $162 million at the box office, making it the biggest opening weekend of the year.
Also airing that same weekend, Oppenheimer earned over $82 million at the box office, making it the fourth-largest weekend in North American history.
A big part of this history-making weekend was the meme that sprang up around the idea of a back-to-back double feature. The idea went viral on social media thanks to the humor behind the two films that sounded much different. One, set in the world of the bright pink toy series, and the other, a historical film about the development of the atomic bomb, share the same air date.
Film critic and CTV News contributor Richard Krauss said of the reaction to the “Babenheimer” boom, “That level of excitement is something I haven’t seen in theaters in a while.” “And I love that it was organic, not a marketing ploy.”
But while Verbenheimer certainly added to the hype, Barbie was already on track to record box office revenue before the meme even started.
“There is no place on the planet that is not pink,” said Mattel president and COO Richard Dixon.
The marketing for Barbie doll’s first live-action movie is intentional and seems to be everywhere.
If you count, there are over 100 different Barbie collaborations, from clothes to carpets to a night in Barbie’s dream house via AirBNB.
While some collaborations may seem obvious, such as a clothing line with Zara and cosmetics with NYX Cosmetics, there are other bizarre partnerships, such as a deal with Burger King Brasil for burgers drenched in hot pink sauce.
“This is probably one of the most partnered or extended brands I’ve ever witnessed, and it speaks to the strength or equity of the Barbie brand,” David Kincaid, founder of branding and marketing website Level5 Strategy, told CTV News. “Anyone who has the slightest concern about the strength of your brand or how it is presented in the market will not partner with you.”
Sheri Lambert, professor of marketing practice at Temple University, told CTV News that it helps that Barbie and the color pink are fun and escapist.
“Barbie itself is what the industry calls ‘imaginative play,’ so it’s all about imagination,” she said.
She added that the film is a different escape from playing with dolls because it takes us into Barbie’s world instead of creating it for her.
Kincaid noted that one of Barbie’s great advantages is how many different generations are involved with the long-standing toy brand.
“Great brands become great brands by fostering intergenerational loyalty,” he said. “And think about how many generations[of this movie]will enjoy 50 years from now. Parents, little girls, little boys—so when the movie opened this weekend, 40 percent of the audience was men. So Barbie is probably a bigger brand than most people realize.”
“People like to think about their childhood and when they do nostalgia marketing like Mattel does with this brand, people get really excited about it. It takes them back to the past, the happier times,” Lambert added.
And the strategies used to promote this movie could change the way movies are marketed if they have the brand life they need.
“I think we probably gave others a blueprint for where and how this could be done in the future,” Kincaid said.
Experts say this kind of marketing only works for brands with large followings and cross-generational loyalties, which is why movies based on popular toys like Hot Wheels and Polly Pocket are in the works.
“The formula of interest, relevance, purchases and loyalty is a difficult one to achieve for any brand, so if you can get the head start that these toys and action figures provide, I think it would be crazy for IP owners not to make the most of it,” said Kincaid.
Lambert added that it would be “very difficult for anyone” to replicate exactly what Mattel has achieved in marketing the film.
Mattel has spent years trying to reinvent the Barbie doll by releasing more inclusive and representative dolls, and this movie continues that effort, tackling complex themes with humor and plenty of color (mostly shades of pink).