A(nother) moment for Barbie.

You knew this one was coming.

Barbie. Barbie vs. Oppenheimer. Barbenheimer. Whatever name you call it, it’s the hot topic of the summer. With two of the most buzzworthy movies of the year hitting the box office – not to mention on the same weekend – marketers and PR practitioners everywhere have been furiously taking notes and drafting case studies. And after watching this seemingly omnipresent bubblegum-pink frenzy unfold, we’d like to share some thoughts.

Let’s first add to the ongoing applause for Barbie. Mattel and the team behind the film did everything in their power to get us to the movies, which, for many, has turned into a nostalgic setting given the decade-long surge of streaming services keeping us in our cozy quarters. We’re talking PR tactics that take us back all the way to the movie’s filming almost a year ago. Remember those behind-the-scenes photos that “leaked” and got everyone talking on social media? Yeah, so do we. And let’s not forget the enigmatic teaser trailer that, to date, has more than 13 million views on YouTube.

But things only got crazier from there. What followed was an infinity-pronged PR and marketing campaign that, to put it gently, would not let up.

Recently, it’s felt like anything pink is part of a branded Barbie partnership. From Barbie’s partnership with Airbnb to offer up free stays at a real-life Malibu Dreamhouse to welcoming a crew from Architectural Digest to film the star of the movie, Margot Robbie, giving a tour for the magazine’s “Open Door” video series, there’s no shortage of genius tactics. Mattel also partnered with Xbox, Ruggable, Homesick Candles, Forever 21, Hot Wheels, Béis Travel, and more to create limited-edition Barbie-themed merchandise. What a way for these brands to piggyback off the earned media train, huh?

But wait, that’s not all: there was a Barbie-themed boat cruise that set sail off Boston Harbor, a Barbie pop-up restaurant in Chicago, some of the Barbie cast appearing at West Hollywood’s annual Pride Parade, the World of Barbie experiential activation in Los Angeles, OOH billboards, and seriously so. much. more.

With plenty of tactics to unpack, maybe all this marketing wasn’t just to get people to see the movie. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t. According to an Axios interview with Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s global head of Barbie and dolls portfolio, she said, “Our goal for this summer and this year is for Barbie to be everywhere and for her to be ubiquitous. We want to re-engage fans who may not have been with us – the 20-something crowd and older.”

That takes us to Oppenheimer. From a marketing communications perspective, Oppenheimer’s PR strategy couldn’t have been more opposite of Barbie’s. Let’s just say their team took a low-key approach, and because of this blatant dichotomy, it ended up working to Oppenheimer’s advantage (*cue the public’s creation of the term, Barbenheimer*).

So what was the end result of these efforts (or lack of efforts)? As it stands, Barbie takes the Barbenheimer cake, bringing in more than $162 million within its first three days in domestic theaters, ultimately doubling Oppenheimer’s opening box office weekend dollars. And not for nothing, all the buzz from this box office battle not only got people in theater seats, but it also brought out a different (and beautifully intense) side of moviegoers. From group outings to DIY costumes, Barbenheimer weekend turned into a can’t-miss event that encouraged people to arrive in style and make it nothing short of memorable. We’ve seen something similar with Beyoncé’s Summer Renaissance tour as well as Taylor Swift’s Eras tour – the outfits have been *chefs kiss* and a newfound excitement for “showing up” to an event is redefining and elevating the fan experience.

In conclusion, here are a few of our takeaways:

  • Don’t scrap the big ideas (especially if you have a more than $100 million marketing budget)
  • There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned PR stunt – or in this case, stunts (emphasis on the “s”)
  • People love adding to the “experience,” as we don’t get to go all-out often
  • A little friendly competition could be great for your brand

PS: This isn’t the last of the Barbie-like movement. According to an exclusive with Variety, Mattel has 14 more toy-centric movies in development including Barney, Polly Pocket, and Hot Wheels. So don’t put your pencils down just yet!

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