To celebrate the release of the highly anticipated Barbie movie, BAV Group took a journey back through our three decades of data collection on the iconic Barbie brand to uncover the secrets of the brand's enduring success.
From her introduction in 1959 to today, Barbie has stood as a beacon of aspiration and limitless imagination. Since BAV Group first started measuring the Barbie brand in 1993, consumers have consistently recognized Barbie brand as a charming, fun, glamorous, original, and stylish leader. (BAV Group Syndicated 1993-Q12023 All Adults)
While exploring the magic that continues to captivate all ages, we see how Barbie's influence has remained constant, even as the world around evolved. Recent BAV Group data from Q1-2023 showcases a significant comeback for Barbie, with brand differentiation soaring to the 70th percentile, firmly placing her among the top 30% of the most differentiated brands in culture today. This resurgence, along with growing preference, reaffirms her place in the hearts of those she inspires. (BAV Syndicated 1993-Q12023 All Adults)
The success of the newest Barbie film serves as a testament to the power of an enduring brand like Barbie. The movie's opening weekend grossed an impressive $155 million, making it the biggest opening of 2023 so far and becoming the biggest opening for a film based on a toy since Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($115 million). (CNN and Hollywood Reporter)
Below are excerpts from a discussion between BAV Group's Chief Strategy Officer Laura Jones and Senior Brand Strategy Daniella L. Rodriguez where they discussed the enduring power of the Barbie brand and what it's meant to them personally.
What is your most vivid Barbie related memory ?
Laura: Even at a young age, Barbie was a companion to my adolescent exploration. I remember chopping off all my Barbie’s hair and staging her in elaborate photo shoots. Barbie allowed me to explore my own creativity and develop my own sense of style. I also remember my cousin getting a Barbie dream house for Christmas one year, I was so jealous of her!! Now, as a mom of two little girls, I am constantly inspired by the Barbie brand and the message of empowerment that it represents.
Daniella: My most vivid Barbie memory was when I bargained with my parents to get one after having my blood drawn. I remember choosing the pregnant Barbie because it had the coolest detachable belly piece. This happened in 2003 when they released the 'Happy Family' version of Midge, who was nine months pregnant with a detachable belly and a plastic newborn curled up inside. Later, I found out that this doll stirred great controversy. There were adults who felt that this doll was inappropriate for children and encouraged teen pregnancy. To me, Midge was a unique Barbie doll that would be fun to play with.
How has your relationship to or opinion of Barbie changed over the years?
Laura: To watch my girls experience the joy of playing with Barbies as I once did is a full circle moment for me. I even found my vintage Caboodle and gave it to them to store clothes in. That said, I’m happy to see the progress the Barbie brand has made with regard to inclusivity and not perpetuating stereotypes. For example, I was so excited to buy my girls the Ibtihaj Muhammad Barbie (two to be exact), which was the first hijab wearing Barbie. I incorporated this into a teachable moment where we read her memoir together and learned all about her struggles and triumphs, breaking all sorts of barriers along the way. To be able to celebrate and learn about different cultures through the once traditional but always iconic Barbie brand is proof that brands really can evolve and grow.
Daniella: As a 27-year-old reflecting on my childhood, I can't help but acknowledge the joy I experienced while playing with Barbie dolls. Those seemingly endless afternoons were filled with imaginative adventures. Like any wide-eyed child, I reveled in the blissful ignorance of the societal implications surrounding Barbie's existence. It wasn't until later, as I gained a deeper understanding of the world, that I began to question the underlying messages embedded in these iconic dolls. Barbie, with her perpetuation of traditional gender norms and unattainable body ideals, seemed to silently reinforce a hegemonic narrative that influenced young minds. Now, as I ponder the potential impact of a more progressive and socially conscious Barbie, I wonder how different my perception of self and others might have been had the dolls embraced diversity and encouraged empowerment from the outset. Despite these reflections, there remains a sense of nostalgia and fondness for the cherished moments spent with my Barbie dolls, reminding me that personal growth and evolving perspectives are a natural part of life's journey.
Why do you think the Barbie movie has been such a success?
Laura: While there is a lot of positive buzz, nostalgia and excitement for the film, it launches up against the broader backdrop of the SAG-AFTRA strike and declining theater attendance. Barbie's ability to be a blockbuster is definitely due to the strong word of mouth and earned media, since paid promotion of the film is not allowed during this time. Given its instant success, it may call into doubt the many millions of dollars spent by studios to market a film and we should expect to see movie studios try to recreate the magic of the organic "Barbenheimer" double feature that went viral on social media -- and turned out audiences in the opening weekend.
Daniella: I believe that the Barbie film's success is due to its ability to provide a healthy dose of nostalgia and camp. Nostalgia holds a powerful sway over audiences, as it evokes fond memories and emotions associated with the iconic Barbie brand. By tapping into the elements that made Barbie such a beloved toy for generations, the film has the potential to resonate with both long-time fans and new audiences alike. Additionally, the inclusion of camp, with its exaggerated and playful style, will further enhance the film's appeal. Camp has the ability to create a sense of fun, whimsy, and self-awareness that can captivate viewers and leave a lasting impression. The combination of nostalgia and camp in the new Barbie film not only provides a captivating experience but also offers a fresh take on the beloved character.
What Does the Data Say About Barbie?
Barbie's lasting strong brand equity holds the key to its continued triumphs. A brand with such enduring power and resurgent momentum can unlock future market potential and drive exceptional performance. Additionally, Barbie's growing Brand Differentiation ensures widespread awareness and consideration among consumers, setting the stage for her continued success.
As we celebrate the Barbie movie release, we marvel at the timeless enchantment of this iconic brand, ever-evolving and unstoppable in its pursuit of inspiring dreams and shaping limitless possibilities. The Barbie brand's leadership and commitment to evolution has emboldened its place in the market.