Home » Rebirth of Barbie: How the Release of the Movie Drove a ‘Pink Storm’ in the Market

Rebirth of Barbie: How the Release of the Movie Drove a ‘Pink Storm’ in the Market

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“Barbie” Movie Released, Sparking a “Pink Storm” in the Market

Beijing Daily reporter Ma Jing intern Chen Zimin

After the release of the live-action movie “Barbie,” a “pink storm” has erupted in the consumer market beyond theaters. Hundreds of brands have launched marketing campaigns to attract consumers, capitalizing on the resurgence of the once-forgotten Barbie doll. However, this new attempt has also stirred up considerable controversy. The ultimate test of whether this iconic toy IP, born in 1959, can continue to create value lies in the hands of time.

The Market Sets Off a “Pink Storm”

“Barbie cured my pink shame!” Ever since the release of the movie “Barbie,” wearing pink clothing to watch the film has become a trend. The representative color of the Barbie doll, which was once playfully called “Death Barbie Fan,” has now been infused with the meaning of “boldly pursuing oneself” by this movie.

On July 23, Liuliu, who had recently entered the workforce, walked into a cinema in Sanlitun. To her surprise, almost all the audience members were dressed in pink. “No wonder my friend told me to watch Barbie in pink!” she exclaimed.

Barbie’s popularity has extended beyond theaters, triggering a “pink storm” both online and offline. Fast fashion brands like Zara have launched a series of “Barbie-inspired” clothing, and fashion brands such as Basement FG and chuu have dedicated special sections or prominently displayed pink clothing in their stores. In these stores, many young girls can be seen holding pink clothes, ready to try or purchase them.

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In addition to clothing, pink daily essentials are also in high demand. MINISO has released over 100 new products co-branded with Barbie, including Barbie manicure stickers, Barbie scented bags, and Barbie Bluetooth earphones.

Barbie IP Makes a Comeback Against All Odds

This is a landmark transformation for the 64-year-old Barbie. In 2002, the “Economist” magazine documented its glorious history, stating that a Barbie doll was being sold every two seconds globally. The export of Barbie dolls to 150 countries helped Mattel, the parent company, secure the top spot in the toy industry.

However, with the rise of streaming media and the internet, electronic devices began to replace dolls in children’s playtime. Sales of Barbie dolls started to decline, causing Mattel’s growth to stagnate. The company’s average annualized revenue growth rate in the past decade was a mere 2%, with 7 out of 10 fiscal years experiencing negative growth.

In 2018, Mattel’s current CEO, Inon Krez, took the helm and spearheaded strategic adjustments. The company revived its film production department and partnered with Warner Bros. to bring Barbie to the big screen. Barbie also transformed from a doll into a franchise brand, signing licensing agreements with more than 100 brands.

Through innovative initiatives, Barbie has finally broken free from the shackles that bound it. According to Maoyan Professional Edition data, as of August 4, the cumulative global box office of the “Barbie” movie surpassed $831 million, temporarily ranking fourth in the global box office in 2023. Joint products launched by Barbie and cross-border brands have triggered a buying frenzy. On August 3, the MINISO Mini Program showed that all Barbie series products were out of stock, with shipments starting on August 31. In-store, clerks mentioned that Barbie series products had sold out and would be restocked in the future. On August 4, “Barbie Nail Art Stickers” were listed for pre-sale on the mini program.

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The movie’s success has directly impacted Mattel’s stock price, which has risen roughly 20% since the beginning of the year. Mattel’s market value has reached $7.26 billion, experiencing an increase of nearly $1 billion since the start of the year and nearly $200 million in the past month.

Extensive Cross-Border Collaborations Require Protection of Brand Value

Relying on movies to revive popularity is not a novel concept in the toy industry. Lego, with its 91-year history, has long ventured into film and television. In 2014, “The Lego Movie” brought the building blocks to life for the first time and propelled Lego’s sales ahead of Mattel, making it the world‘s largest toy manufacturer that year. Hasbro, another toy giant, has also made numerous attempts in the realm of toy film and television. The “Transformers” series, in particular, has accompanied a generation in their growth.

“Through repackaging and marketing, toy IP can be revitalized, leading to performance growth,” explained Yu Mei, director of cultural industry research at Co-Found think tank. The release of the “Barbie” movie shattered consumers’ traditional perceptions of Barbie dolls, allowing Barbie’s image to become more modern, diverse, and fashionable.

Nevertheless, while the brand IP extends its reach through cross-border collaborations, negative feedback has also emerged in the market. Some netizens have exposed flaws in Barbie’s co-branded products on social media platforms, raising questions about their quality.

Hong Yong, an expert at the China Digital Reality Forum, believes that Mattel should prioritize the protection of Barbie dolls’ image and brand value in terms of IP management. The company must ensure that the brands and products authorized for collaboration align with Barbie dolls’ image positioning, avoiding associations with low quality or negative implications. “As market competition intensifies, it is not only necessary to fulfill consumers’ demands for quality and fashion, but also to focus on sustainability and diversification. Launching products that resonate with contemporary values and diverse needs will attract a wider range of consumer groups,” Hong added.

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