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Mattel’s Marketing Success: How Barbie Revived the Brand


In recent years, Mattel, the renowned toy manufacturer, has experienced a remarkable turnaround in its fortunes, thanks to a successful marketing strategy centered around its iconic Barbie brand. Under the leadership of CEO Ynon Kreiz, Mattel has leveraged the power of marketing to revitalize the Barbie brand and boost the company’s overall revenue. In this article, we will explore the key marketing initiatives undertaken by Mattel and examine the factors that have contributed to the resurgence of Barbie as a global phenomenon.

For several years leading up to 2018, Mattel witnessed a decline in its worldwide revenue, with annual net sales dropping from $6.5 billion to $4.5 billion between 2013 and 2018 (Statista). Recognizing the need for a transformation, Mattel’s CEO Ynon Kreiz initiated a series of innovative marketing campaigns to revive the Barbie brand and reverse the company’s declining fortunes.

One of the significant moves made by Mattel was to adopt a strategic franchise approach, expanding the Barbie brand beyond traditional toys. The company embarked on ambitious plans to develop movies and other forms of media featuring Barbie as the central character. This strategy aimed to create a multi-dimensional brand experience that would resonate with consumers across various touchpoints.

A key component of Mattel’s franchise strategy was the production of the “Barbie” movie, in collaboration with Heyday Films and Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment. The announcement of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach as co-writers, with Gerwig also directing, generated significant buzz around the project. This movie served as a catalyst for cross-promotion, allowing Mattel to capitalize on the film’s popularity to drive sales and brand visibility.

To complement the “Barbie” movie, Mattel created an official line of “Barbie” Barbies that depicted the characters from the film, including Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Barbie, as well as co-stars Issa Rae and America Ferrera. The dolls, featuring various film costumes, quickly became best-sellers, with three out of four versions of Margot Robbie’s Barbie selling out.

The success of the “Barbie” movie and the associated merchandising efforts played a crucial role in boosting the net sales value of the Barbie brand. In 2021, Barbie achieved its highest net sales value since the 2013 slump, reaching an impressive $1.7 billion (Statista). This substantial growth in net sales not only revitalized the Barbie brand but also had a positive impact on Mattel’s overall revenue.

The importance of the Barbie brand to Mattel is evident in the company’s efforts to safeguard its intellectual property. Mattel recently filed a notice of opposition, seeking to prevent Burberry from obtaining the “BRBY” trademark rights. This legal action demonstrates Mattel’s commitment to protecting the Barbie brand and maintaining its exclusive association with the iconic doll.

Mattel’s successful marketing initiatives have breathed new life into the Barbie brand, catapulting it to new heights of popularity and profitability. Through strategic franchise development, cross-promotion, and innovative product offerings, Mattel has repositioned Barbie as a global cultural icon and revitalized the company’s financial performance. The remarkable resurgence of Barbie serves as an inspiring case study for marketers, highlighting the transformative power of a well-executed marketing strategy.

First reported by AdAge.

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