Barbie has made $1b at the global box office. Experts are crediting its ‘masterclass’ marketing campaign – ABC News

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Barbie has surpassed $1 billion at the global box office just three weeks after its release – and it’s on track to become the biggest movie of the year.

The film, produced by Australia’s Margot Robbie who plays the iconic doll having an existential crisis, hit what the internet has dubbed the “Barbillion” milestone this weekend.

Barbie has smashed box office records.(Supplied: Warner Bros.)

Now, Gerwig has become the first female filmmaker to surpass the billion-dollar benchmark as a solo director.

“As distribution chiefs, we’re not often rendered speechless by a film’s performance, but Barbillion has blown even our most optimistic predictions out of the water,” said Jeff Goldstein and Andrew Cripps, who oversee domestic and international distribution for the studio, in a joint statement.

Now, Barbie just needs to topple The Super Mario Bros Movie to become the most successful flick of 2023.

Barbie was already an iconic piece of intellectual property, but experts say those behind the film did not rest on their laurels, and they credit its “masterclass” marketing campaign for its global success.

The Barbie hype machine

Pictures of Airbnb’s Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu went viral when photos were released before the film’s premiere.(Reuters: Mike Blake)

There’s a Barbie Dreamhouse Airbnb in Malibu. There are Barbie gaming consoles, Barbie rugs, Barbie suitcases, Barbie burgers (complete with a mysterious pink sauce) and even a Barbie collaboration with an insurance company.

“A lot of fashion retailers have jumped on board as well,” Graeme Hughes, director of Griffith’s Business Lab, said.

“I don’t think there are too many shops that you would pass by these days without some sort of either pink or Barbie-branded items.”

Plenty of fashion and beauty brands have done official collaborations with the Barbie movie.(David Canales/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Mr Hughes says Barbie’s impact on the retail sector has been “significant”, adding the scale of Barbie’s marketing campaign has been “outside of the box, no pun intended”.

“It’s really a triumphant marketing campaign,” he said.

“I would say that it’s a marketing masterpiece.”

Warner Bros remains tight-lipped about just how deep the Barbie marketing team’s pockets are, but Variety estimates the company has spent roughly $US150 million (about $227 million). And that’s on top of the rumoured $US145 million production budget.

“It’s way, way out of the ordinary,” said Dee Madigan, creative director of Campaign Edge.

“It was almost as creative as the film itself. Having said that, if the film had not lived up to the hype I think there would have been a huge backlash.”

‘A life of its own’

Barbie’s marketing campaign started more than a year before its release.

Warner Bros president of global marketing Josh Goldstine said the first “electric” moment of the campaign was at CinemaCon last year, when the company released a single image of Margot Robbie, as Barbie, laughing in a pink Corvette.

“It was one of those moments that took on a life of its own,” Mr Goldstine told Variety.

The internet lit up when Warner Bros released the first image of Margot Robbie as Barbie.(Supplied: Warner Bros)

Two months later, the company released the first image of Ryan Gosling’s Ken.

What quickly followed were leaked images from the set, a situation which was hard to avoid considering the scene involved Robbie and Gosling rollerblading along Venice Beach in full view of the public.

When a second teaser trailer was released in April, so too were dozens of cast posters, with Robbie’s tagline being “Barbie is everything” and Gosling’s reading: “He’s just Ken.”

The company released a filter so fans could get involved, but the memes came thick and fast and became far more viral.

“There’s a real risk to some of that organic stuff because if the movie had been a bomb or people hated the marketing, people could use those assets to create bad memes,” Ms Madigan says.

“There’s a real risk in letting it go because you lose control of the brand a bit.”

‘Using pink was brave’

In an interview with Architectural Digest, production designer Sarah Greenwood revealed the film used so much pink paint to create Barbieland that “the world ran out of pink”.

Greta Gerwig told Architectural Digest she wanted Barbieland to be “very bright, and everything to be almost too much”.(Supplied: Warner Bros.)

With just as much pink injected into the marketing, Ms Madigan says the absolute commitment to the colour was critical.

“It was absolutely a masterclass and it’s because it was brave,” Ms Madigan said.

“They absolutely banked on the movie being great. Using pink was brave, as well as stretching it out that long. It’s very easy with a cynical audience to over hype things as well.

“I think we get to the point that when you’re doing it so over the top, it doesn’t become over-promoted, it becomes fun again.

“If you’re going to do this, just go all out. And that’s what they did.”

Forget Marvel – we’re entering the Mattel Cinematic Universe

Mattel will be hoping its other slated productions are just as much a hit at the box office as Barbie.(Supplied: Warner Bros.)

In a piece titled After Barbie, Mattel Is Raiding Its Entire Toybox, The New Yorker revealed Mattel has another 45 other projects in development.

That’s on top of the 13 it has already publicly announced, from a Polly Pocket movie directed by Lena Dunham and starring Lily Collins, to a Hot Wheels film by JJ Abrams.

But experts say Barbie’s success doesn’t guarantee every film about toys or products will be a box office blockbuster.

“I think that there is a risk for those that follow to be viewed as sort of infomercials,” Mr Hughes said.

“Barbie is quite a storied brand and I think they can play with the tongue-in-cheek [humour] of sliding between it being an advertising piece but also an entertainment piece.

“You lose the impact when you’re a follower in the space so it would be quite detrimental for other films to go down this pathway.

“I think there are only a few brands that could do it in this way and still have the commercial success.”

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