Mattel, the parent company of Barbie, is gearing up for the release of its upcoming Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. In anticipation of the film’s premiere on July 21, Mattel has launched an extensive marketing campaign, ensuring that consumers will encounter over 100 Barbie collaborations, even if they don’t watch the movie.

Various retailers are getting in on the action. The Gap offers Barbie and Ken T-shirts, Hot Topic sells pink gingham Barbie cardigans, and Neiman Marcus features pink Barbie handbags from Balmain. Bloomingdale’s even has life-size Barbie DreamHouse installations, while Ulta Beauty offers hot-pink Barbie electric toothbrushes. Target and Amazon have Barbie pool floats, and Microsoft created a Barbie-themed Xbox.

Mattel’s strategy with the movie and these collaborations is to expand the Barbie brand beyond toys. With revenues of $5.43 billion in 2022, the company sees the potential for exponential growth through these franchise deals.

According to Richard Dickson, Mattel’s president and COO, they aim to get “everyone playing with Barbie,” not necessarily just with the dolls. This move aligns with the success of other fantasy franchises like Marvel, which have experienced record revenues by expanding their worlds. The toy industry’s growth rate is relatively slow, which led competitor Hasbro to produce a “Dungeons & Dragons” film.

Additionally, Barbie faces stiff competition from streaming giants and YouTubers who release merchandise tied to their shows and channels. By targeting millennials with trendy clothing items and appealing to nostalgia, Mattel hopes to attract adult consumers who may then purchase Barbie dolls for their children. The Barbie film is seen as a first step in elevating Barbie into a pop culture sensation, according to Dickson.

Mattel is also working on 14 other feature films. Collaborating brands have signed agreements with Mattel over the past 18 months. Some pay a flat licensing fee, while others provide Mattel with a percentage of sales ranging from 5% to 15%. Although the collaborations target all age groups, many skew toward teens and adults due to the film’s PG-13 rating.

With the Barbie Xbox Series S and DreamHouse-themed gaming console, Mattel taps into the gaming demographic and aims to inspire young girls in pursuing careers in STEM and gaming. Barbie’s influence extends to an Airbnb listing for a Barbie Malibu DreamHouse, which became viral. However, critics argue that Barbie is constantly on the defensive, and Mattel must continuously reinvent the brand.

Through the Barbie movie and its collaborations, Mattel seeks to reposition Barbie as a cool and relevant brand for adults. The vibrant colors, eye-catching patterns, and nostalgic appeal are intended to attract consumers and generate sales. For fans like Matthew Bruneau-Richardson, a 32-year-old independent filmmaker, and animator, the collaborations allow them to fulfill childhood dreams and break societal norms. Consumers, such as Jacqueline Pont, a college student, find the brand endearing and enjoy sharing the latest Barbie products with family and friends. Barbie collaborations evoke nostalgia for Sydney Skeete, a college student, but she plans to carefully consider her purchases before deciding what she truly wants.

Overall, the Barbie movie and its extensive collaborations have created a buzz, attracting consumers with a wide range of products and tapping into various demographics. Mattel hopes this multi-pronged approach will drive brand awareness and secure Barbie’s position in pop culture while expanding its revenue beyond the toy aisle.

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