Come On Barbie Let’s Go…to the Movies

“Cinema is a world of imagination.” – Marjane Satrapi

Let me ask you something. When was the last time you paid attention to what movies are out in theaters? Last year was a big year for cinema with everyone’s favorite Navy piloted movie Top Gun  finally getting its highly anticipated sequel, but how about 2023. Arguably the movie with the most buzz this year, is Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. It’s the hot pink, over the top adaptation of Mattel’s famous doll. It also serves as a great example for a major ad trend that marketers are seeing this year. Let’s dive in.

We have more access to movies, television shows, and live broadcasts today than ever before. With streaming services and smart devices constantly at our fingertips, it’s safe to say that what have you been watching is one of the most commonly heard questions around. In 2023, the rebirth of movies has been huge. A common theme amongst these movies is the prominent use of major brands. I’m not talking about product placement or integration. I am talking about the full-blown exploitation of major brands as the focus of movies. The even crazier thing is, consumers are craving this style of cinema.

In 2023 alone, movies such as Barbie, Air, Flamin’ Hot, Tetris, Blackberry, and Unfrosted: The Pop Tart Story are all slated to premiere or have already been major box office successes. Air, the origin story of the Air Jordan brand, hit theaters early this year to rave reviews. It also hit a few speed bumps along the way. 60% of Americans say they are “more interested in seeing movies that depict their favorite brands,” (Marketing Brew, 2023), but with Air, the majority of the audience said it felt more so like a Nike ad rather than a movie depicting a story. As alarming as that sounds up front, the redeeming quality is that even after stating that it felt more like an ad and less like a move, nine out of ten people said they were more likely to purchase Nike products after seeing the movie. I’d call that a successful campaign.

The boom in branded movies may be a surprising trend this year, but it’s not a new idea. There have been many movies over the years that have helped take household brands and bring them to the big screen. In 2016, The Founder, the film adaptation of how McDonalds came to be, was released. Ford v Ferrari sped into theaters in 2019 giving a peak behind the curtain into the fascinating world of racing. There was also Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game, which featured everyone’s favorite 1980s arcade game, Pinball.

So why are these types of movies so popular? For starters, it helps build trust and loyalty amongst consumers. People are buying your products for a reason, and if they can see that McDonalds was created out of sheer drive and determination, it may cause them to like your business even more and help to maintain their loyalty for years to come. It also gives an authentic, genuine feel to your brand, which in today’s day and age, is all people are asking for. Consumers are looking for authenticity and personality, so by showing your company’s origin story or even just having your brand as the predominant feature in a film, it helps to show a different side of your brand that a normal ad campaign can’t. 

Let’s look at Barbie. The Barbie movie, although highly anticipated (I know I personally can’t wait to see it), is much different from your typical movie adaptation of a brand. Rather than showing how a brand came to be or how it was revitalized, this film is a real-life adaptation of a fictional character that the mass majority of people have grown up with. It’s something that has never been done for this particular brand, so it’s rightfully got people excited for what’s to come. Mattel is even preparing for a giant boost in sales. Between the film itself and pop up locations in major cities, Barbiemania is quickly becoming a thing, and Mattel is preparing for a year unlike any other. The film’s stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling have also lended themselves to painting the brand in a more desirable light with their leaked set photos, candid interviews, and all around good looks (#iykyk). Every aspect of this film has been so delicately handled, that it serves as the perfect example of how you should promote your brand in film. It’s simple: don’t be too salesy, create a buzz about your film without going overboard, and always have fun with it. The Barbie movie is sure to be a success, and one thing we know is that their branding already is.

Every year a new, exciting, and unexpected trend comes along in advertising that not only takes you by surprise, but serves as a reminder to always think outside the box. This year there is a smattering of films set to premier that all center around various brands. Whether the movie is about how they started, where they’re going, or it’s simply an adaptation of that brand, it’s a great tool to start building your brand presence. 

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