Business Maverick


Mattel matters: Come on Barbie, let’s go party and make pots of money

Mattel matters: Come on Barbie, let’s go party and make pots of money
Canadian actor Ryan Gosling (left) and Australian actor Margot Robbie pose on the pink carpet at the European premiere of ‘Barbie’ in central London, Britain, on 12 July 2023. The film was released in cinemas on 21 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Andy Rain)

Barbie’s certainly having a party and you’re all invited, encouraged to live in her world and buy her swag.

It was the biggest debut yet for a female director, grossing more than $155-million at the domestic box office on the opening weekend, with sunny brand partnerships from homeware to hospitality, fashion to accessories, health to beauty, and even the media. (It passed $700-million on Sunday in global sales – Ed)

Ahead of Barbie’s cinematic debut on 21 July, Mattel launched more than 100 collaborations with various brands, on which the toy company either receives a flat rate or a 5%-15% cut, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Barbie’s certainly having a party and you’re all invited, encouraged to live in her world and buy her swag. There are Barbie Crocs, a Tangle Teezer, Burger King, hair straighteners, whitening toothpaste, inline skates, ice cream and a dazzling rhinestone claw clip from Kitsch. Natch.  

Hardcore Barbie fans are shelling out for “Barbiecore” magenta fashion, squeezing into latex mini dresses, ultra-high pumps, fluorescent accessories and flared pants.

Respectable tech firms are not immune from the hype around Barbie, which has included an incredible social media campaign, product placements and experiential design, and has also ensnared Google (type anything Barbie-related into the search engine and you’ll be greeted by a sparkling pink display of Google Easter eggs and gamified surprises), the Washington Post (which released a Barbie newsletter called Unboxed), and Xbox, which gave away a custom Barbie Dreamhouse console.\



Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling has done more for Mattel’s marketing efforts and content output than the combined efforts of the other 42 Barbie movies released over the past two decades.

Paired with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which raked in $80-million domestically over the same weekend, the movies have become a meme dubbed Barbenheimer.  

Marketers are now newsjacking content to insert their clients into the craze for all things Barbie, with “4 leadership lessons from the Barbie movie”; 13 Life Lessons That You Can Learn From None Other Than Barbie, and on LinkedIn, Leadership Lessons from Barbie.

In South Africa, Ouma Rusks has released a limited edition box brandishing the words “I look good in pink” and an Instagrammable “Ouma” glamour gran styled in fashionable hot pink.


A group of girls dance during an event for the film ‘Barbie’, in La Paz, Bolivia, on 22 July 2023. A ‘pink tide’ began in the Plaza Bolivia to walk together to the cinema to see the long-awaited movie about the worlds best-known doll. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Luis Gandarillas)

Retailers are certainly raking it in at the till point. Last week, Pick n Pay’s website was painted pink, it gave away 150 double tickets for customers to watch the movie and its asap! service threw in a free pink doughnut with deliveries. 

Takealot says its sales have spiked since Barbie movie mania hit the country, but couldn’t divulge the value of the sales, while at Toys R Us, sales have surged by 30%. 

Catherine Jacoby, the marketing manager for Toys R Us, told Cape Talk the retailer offers more than 110 products in the Barbie range. There has also been a big increase within the adult toy market, with 25% of toys globally bought by adults — for adults.

“There’s been a huge amount of collectors that are really pulling on nostalgic toys, to get through the tough times, reconnect with the inner child, and even the youngsters — ‘kidults’, grown-ups who are buying toys for nostalgic or comfort reasons to reconnect with their inner child.

Contrary to the stereotypical view of Barbie as blonde and blue-eyed, the doll’s diversity in recent years has added to her appeal, with different hair and types, “Barbie in a wheelchair, Barbie with a skin disorder and a deaf Barbie.”

Toy Kingdom’s Hylton Bannon told AFP that the first black Barbie doll debuted in 1980 and “has always done well” in South Africa.

With 42 films comprising the Barbie Cinematic Universe over the past 22 years, this franchise has legs. Mattel reportedly has another 14 films planned, including a Hot Wheels movie. DM


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