She’s Barbie. And she’s one of the most iconic brands in the world.
With over 60 years of history, Barbie has been a cultural touchstone for generations of young girls - and women, to be fair. So what is it about Barbie's brand image that has made her such an enduring success?
In a nutshell, it's all about aspiration. Barbie as a doll represented what many young girls dreamt of being: beautiful, confident, and well-liked by her peers. However, as “ideals” for women changed over the years, so did Barbie.
Barbie's brand image has evolved drastically since she first hit the market. In the early days, she was usually portrayed as your stereotypical housewife. It’s important to note that this is what made Barbie popular at the time, in 1959 America.
Though as times changed politically, Mattel made a ‘conscious effort’ to make Barbie more diverse and inclusive. In fact, Mattel has always been sure that Barbie reflects what women deem desirable at the time:
This is what Barbie is great at - adapting with the aspirations of young girls and women in the present day. As a result, Barbie's popularity has continued to grow.
The response to marketing for the upcoming Barbie movie - by powerhouse director Greta Gerwig - is a perfect example of the brand’s cultural significance to this day.
While the hyper-surreal, dripping-with-pink world of Barbie has been maintained; the movie's trailers and posters feature a diverse cast of characters, all of whom exude confidence and empowerment. The message is clear. Barbie is for everyone.
However, the question still remains - how does a doll from 1959 still have one of the most recognisable brands on the market in 2023?
Mattel has been hard at work at Barbie’s brand image continually over the years, as we were saying above - but it goes beyond the doll.
Barbie is a cultural phenomenon, spanning media, merchandise and more. We mean come on, Pantone even recognises ‘Barbie Pink’ due to its significance in pop culture - as it should.
Rather than remain simply a doll, Barbie knows how to adapt to the times. For example, In 2007 when the online avatar space was growing, they released the Barbie Girls mp3s. These doll-shaped devices also gave owners online access to a virtual world of Barbie, where players could interact, play games and build a life within the game.
This showed Barbie’s ability to maintain their core ideology, whilst adapting their modality to align with the digital age. Clever stuff.
Through it all though, two things have always stayed consistent - the messaging, and that iconic shade of pink.
One of the most striking aspects of the upcoming movie’s marketing campaign is the use of these bright pink billboards. The billboards don't even need to mention the name "Barbie," they are instantly recognisable to anyone who knows the brand.
The movie is also partnering with a number of brands, such as Mattel Creations and Gap, to create exclusive merchandise - and not just for kids, but for adults who feel the nostalgic pull of the pink icon.
And then we have the messaging. Through all her changes, Barbie’s core messaging has always stayed the same. She is here to inspire young girls to be who they want to be. And she’s always remained fabulous while doing so.
Barbie's brand image is one of the most powerful in the world. Your brand image is a powerful tool that you can use to influence consumer behaviour. Just like Mattel has been able to use Barbie's image of aspiration to sell billions of dolls over the years.
When it comes to getting clear on your brand image, and making sure it too can stand the test of time - you need strategy. If you’re looking for an agency that can nail your brand strategy and image, swing us a message and get in touch.