The Brilliant Breadcrumb Marketing of Barbie

Jesica Johnson Mackey • July 27, 2023

The beloved Barbie doll has taken the world by storm, this time outside of her box and on the silver screen.

It is not likely to find someone who hasn’t heard about the new film, mostly because Warner Bros. left no stone unturned when it came to marketing the highly-anticipated movie adaptation of one of the world’s most well-known dolls. The movie’s promotion has been widely regarded as one of the most creative and successful modern movie campaigns, especially after dominating the box office by grossing over $356 million worldwide on opening weekend.

Hot (Pink) Marketing Tactics

The tactics went far beyond typical cinema or plastic children’s toys. The movie had its first viral moment with the “This Barbie is…” posters and seized that moment by joining forces with PhotoRoom to create a free online poster generator

The blitz didn’t end with social media. More unique Barbie collaborations followed across multiple industries ranging from cosmetics and clothing lines to home goods and even gaming. By producing tangible products and interactive experiences like the creation of a life-size Barbie Dreamhouse available for vacation rentals, many people felt connected to the upcoming film.

The strategies implemented weren’t the only thing out of the ordinary. The more intriguing concept is that the buzz didn’t have the qualities of your classic fads that have a quick rise and fall. Rather, Barbie kept momentum and continued to gain popularity for months. Josh Goldstine, Warner Bros. President of Global Marketing, attributes this to the use of “breadcrumb marketing.” Each promotion added something new for the audience while never giving away the plot. With our population’s decreasing attention spans and rising love for bite-sized media content, the Barbie team’s clever decisions to keep the public interested in what they had to offer further proves the need for companies to think outside of the (doll) box when it comes to selling your brand. You don’t need a major blockbuster event or a multi-million dollar budget to take your marketing to Mattel level, but you can take cues from their actions to engage your following. 

The “breadcrumb marketing” of Barbie serves as a blueprint for companies to hack the code and get on the path to maintaining – and more importantly, gaining – interest in your product. While this idea may be contrary to traditional advertising methods, the ever-changing world of social media looks for allure now more than ever. Today’s consumers love the feeling of being “in the know” and tend to want to follow along so they don’t miss out on the most current updates. 

Have Your Own Barbie Moment

When looking to build anticipation for exciting new company announcements or events, you too can create a series of posts that leave a breadcrumb trail of details leading up to the big reveal. This will also allow you more time to grow your reach and increase conversation prior to releasing all the information. 

1) Create a sense of urgency by including a clear call to action, whether that be directing followers to a link to a website, product, other social channels or simply the next piece of content. This enables the users to feel they have the ability to interact and that the decision to learn more is theirs to make. You can even go the extra mile with this approach by having others place a few crumbs for you. 

2) Take a page out of Barbie’s book and get creative with fun, shareable content that followers can post to their accounts to contribute to your community, or even venture into thoughtful collaborations with other brands or influencer partnerships that drop some of the details for their followers to find. It’s no longer just about one big viral moment that can be quickly moved on from. 

3) Prioritize consistent engagement by carefully planning how to get your audience excited and eager to be on the lookout for your next updates. In Hollywood terms, consider these the teaser trailers before the movie’s premiere. 

Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail led them back home, but Barbie and Ken’s will lead your key consumers straight to you!

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