Barbie Movie Marketing: Brand Collaborations and Cultural Conversations

Olivia Scott and guests explore the Barbie movie’s enduring impact, discussing its marketing strategies, brand collaborations, and cultural significance. Olivia, a UCF student interning with Bigeye’s strategy team, discusses the film’s exploration of femininity, empowerment, and brand collaborations. Bigeye team members Sandra Marshall, Rhett Withey, and Savannah Santiago weigh in on creative marketing, the success of brand collaborations, and Barbie’s appeal across generations.

Episode Transcript

Olivia Scott: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Savannah Santiago: That chunk of plastic has so many memories and emotions tied to it.

Rhett Withey: She’s not just talking as her character, but all of womanhood.

Sandra Marshall: It’s everything that a lot of us think all the time, but we’ve never been able to concisely verbalize. 

Olivia Scott: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. Fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. My name is Olivia Scott, and I have the pleasure of being your host today. I attend the University of Central Florida, and I’m currently interning with Bigeye’s strategy team. For this podcast, which coincides with Women’s History Month, I’m excited to dive into the world of the Barbie movie, exploring its advertising, brand collaborations, and cultural significance. But before we dissect it all, let’s rewind to Barbie’s origins. In 1959, Ruth Handler revolutionized the toy industry with Barbie, a doll embodying adult proportions inspired by the German Bild Lilli doll. Barbie quickly became a cultural icon, symbolizing aspiration and empowerment for generations of girls globally. Fast forward to today, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie offers a contemporary lens on the doll’s journey. We witnessed Barbie’s transition from the simple confines of Barbie Land to the complexities of reality. The film explores themes of femininity, empowerment, and the profound relationship between Barbie and her creator. Gerwig’s movie also sheds light on the evolving landscape of advertising and brand collaborations. So, we’re going to examine Barbie’s cultural relevance and explore how the movie’s portrayal continues to influence advertising narratives, challenging and reshaping perspectives of gender, aspiration, and empowerment in the modern world. Joining me today to talk about Barbie are three members of Bigeye’s team. Sandra Marshall, the agency’s Vice President of Partnerships, 

Sandra Marshall: Hi! 

Olivia Scott: Art Director Rhett Withey

Rhett Withey: Howdy! 

Olivia Scott: And Social Media Manager, Savannah Santiago. 

Savannah Santiago: Hey!

Olivia Scott: Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!


Olivia Scott: Thinking about how the Barbie movie was promoted, were there any standout creative concepts or messaging themes in the advertising campaigns that you believe contributed to the movie’s success at the box office? Let’s start with you, Sandra.

Sandra Marshall: I would say as a whole, the thing that was most standout was just the number of collaborations that the brand did. I mean, well before we even saw, if I’m remembering correctly, well before we even saw a trailer, We were already seeing brand collabs happening with Barbie to kind of generate the excitement. So I think in my mind, creatively, that was a really interesting marketing strategy was to start to build these relationships with brands, to tap into that nostalgic nature of Barbie to a generation, that grew up with Barbie, before we were actually ever seeing the clips from the movie, in trailers that were being released. I thought that was really cool.

Savannah Santiago: Building off on Sandra’s point, one of the things that I think they did really well about those brand collaborations is they, Didn’t just approach what was going to be easy. Um, you know, like collabing with some like a company to make clothes for Barbie or a company that is just clothing in general, maybe for young girls or women or whoever that may be they went above and beyond, and what they did that was so, so strategic and so creative is they approached it in a way of what do people use every day? How can we make that Barbie? What does her couch look like? What does her car look like? What ice cream is she eating? What candle is she burning? What perfume is she wearing? So that that was a really, really great play on their marketing team’s part. I’m just thinking outside of the box in a super creative way.

Rhett Withey: I think beyond just the marketing collaborations, remember they had that website where you could upload your picture, and you like became like, “I’m this Barbie” sticker. That was huge on social media, even to the point where it just became like a meme beyond the movie that was massive pre-release.

Olivia Scott: Yeah. What’s your take on the Barbie movie’s brand collaborations, and how do you assess their partnership selection and execution? 

Savannah Santiago: So, kind of, building off of that previous point, I just think that the strategy behind these brand collaborations just goes above and beyond what you would think on a, a surface level, they really went into, the emotional attachment or the emotional connection with some of these, So like I mentioned before, talking about a candle or perfume, what does that smell like? Bringing on, these connections outside of just, you know, being visually something really cool or something that is from their childhood. They just took it another step with these. So that’s just kind of my take on what they did really, really well. 

Sandra Marshall: Yeah. Savannah, I agree. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I know there was a lot of, you know, articles and PR coming out of like, is it too much? Are there too many Barbie collabs? But what I really enjoyed was what you were just talking about is it, they paired with brands that were unexpected. Like one of the ones that is sticking out is, they did, I think there was a collab with Airbnb, and it was like only really famous people were able to stay in this Barbie, true Barbie Dream House. But then I think it was like leading up to the premiere of the movie where it opened up to where everyday people could apply to stay at the Barbie Dream House. I know Vans did sneakers for Barbie. Like you were saying, the in-home items were awesome. They were bringing Barbie into, I think they paired with Ruggable. So my take on it was definitely, especially from a marketer’s perspective, it was really fascinating to watch the types of not just clothing or apparel, makeup, those items, but also lifestyle brands.

Olivia Scott: Yeah, definitely. 

Rhett Withey: I’m going to counterpoint that a little bit with a lot of the brand collabs that Barbie did, I think were kind of expected, even with like Ruggable and stuff, they were cool. And like Airbnb, like, yeah, that’s cool. But like a lot of Barbie is that she can do anything. And that was the kind of the point of the movie. And you’ve got a lot of Barbie dolls that are like Barbie the astronaut, Barbie, the … this person, but they could have pushed it farther with Barbie collab with Advanced Discount Auto Parts, you know, like, or Barbie collab with traditionally super ultra male brands would have been pretty cool. Like Barbie spark plugs. I’m I missed out on the Barbie spark plugs. they could have had that.

Sandra Marshall: Barbie spark plugs would have been pretty awesome, Rhett. I agree!

Savannah Santiago: I only want them if Barbie can do my oil change. That’s it. Non-negotiable. 

Rhett Withey: Barbie collab with Jiffy Lube. Like she’s a grease monkey. 

Olivia Scott: Well, we’ll have to put that out for the next movie. The Barbie movie was released last year. Why do you think it continues to resonate with audiences and remains a topic of conversation?

Sandra Marshall: I think award season has really brought it back into mainstream, specifically the quote-unquote snub. 

Rhett Withey: Yeah. Margot Robbie did not get nominated for Best Actress. They were nominated for seven or eight Academy Awards and then won one of them.

Sandra Marshall: And how that played into a part of the storyline, I think reignited some of the themes and some of the you know, messages that were portrayed in the movie. It was kind of showing real world, real life examples of kind of what they talked about in the movie itself.

Olivia Scott: Yeah, that’s a good take on it. 

Savannah Santiago: Sandra, I think that was a really great connection there between just a a real-life example of what they were talking about in the Barbie movie, especially in,her speech, basically talking about that things are difficult for, women, or it’s hard to be a woman and just going on talking about, societal norms and discussions and empowerment around that. I think that was, just a good, Example, 

Rhett Withey: I think the award snub doesn’t really hurt it too much because watching the Academy Awards,when it was on, people were most excited about Ryan Gosling performing the, “I’m just Ken” song. And that performance had more production value than any other performance during the Oscar. And then afterwards has been the most re-shared part of the Oscars. So I don’t feel like it hurts them at all that they didn’t win any awards. Because it’s just been such a cultural, impactful movie that you only see like once every 10 years or so. Like I think the last time a movie had this much buzz, like people dressing up going to it. Making it an event to go see, seeing it multiple times, it was probably Avatar when it first came out, this is like a once in every decade type cultural impactful movie.

Olivia Scott: Well put. In what kinds of ways do you think the marketing of the movie influenced broader cultural conversations or trends related to gender representation, diversity, or empowerment?

Savannah Santiago: So I think a lot of these conversations were already being had, but the vast reach of the movie and its success really heightened these conversations and brought them into even a brighter light. So one thing it does well is speaks to young women everywhere, saying the sky is the limit. Don’t let society limit your dreams. Kind of all of that and I feel like Sandra out of all of us can probably speak to this more than any of us with a young daughter who loves Barbie and she’s just such a stellar young girl. She’s so fun.

Sandra Marshall: Thanks, Savannah. She’s pretty awesome. 

Savannah Santiago: She is.

Sandra Marshall: Yeah, I, it’s funny because I think a lot about, since the movie, I think a lot about what my daughter’s perception of Barbie and the Barbie brand is, in her little six-year-old, brain, versus what mine was when I was a young girl. And, when I was playing with Barbies, yes, Barbie could be a lot of different things, but I don’t think that was talked about or really driven home in any surrounding, Barbie advertising or any conversation at that point like it is now. So to Savannah’s point, I think, these conversations are happening, but I think the influence in Barbie pegging it and really calling it out and really, I think America Ferrera’s speech in that movie was a really key moment, really driving home the difficulty that women face in a lot of areas of society, but that now with the brand’s message of you can be anything and, you know, really trying to drive the message home of inclusivity and empowerment and, you really can do anything. I think that, really has helped to broaden the conversation, make people more aware that perhaps weren’t in the conversation before. I also think that, coupled with what you see on the store shelves now with the actual Barbie product, that has changed immensely over the years, when I’m shopping with my daughter now in the Barbie aisle. And so it was nice to see that, the way that the movie was marketed and opening up some of those conversations even more. It’s actually being seen on the store shelf as well with the variety of Barbie body types and skin colors and careers that they’re being sold as.

Olivia Scott: Awesome, yeah. 

Rhett Withey: So, from the male perspective, I have a little bit different view, obviously, on the film. Yes, it’s a huge, like, women empowerment, you can do anything type thing. But also, eye-opening for guys watching the movie as well. I’ve definitely mansplained The Godfather to Countless women, and I’m so sorry. And that like realization of okay, I’m kind of a jerk, but at the same time, Ken has his epiphany as well, that he has his own trials and tribulations on what society expects for him to be a quote man, right? What it is to be a man. And he has his own frustrations with that. And at the end of the movie, it’s not all women power, we can do anything, topple the patriarchy, but an understanding between Ken and Barbie that they have their own frustrations and they have their own feelings towards almost the same thing, but on opposite planes. I think it was great for men to be able to resonate with that as well. That you don’t have to be super macho Ken, you can be like your regular self, The Michael Cera kid.

Olivia Scott: Yeah, you don’t have to have your own mojo dojo casa house.

Rhett Withey: Yeah, you don’t have to, just because everyone expects you to. But at the same time, if you do, understand that she might be frustrated by that. And that’s okay. As long as you guys can talk it out and have an understanding about it.

Olivia Scott: Awesome. Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 



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Olivia Scott: Welcome back. I’m Olivia Scott, and I’m discussing the impact of the Barbie movie with Sandra Marshall, Rhett Withey, and Savannah Santiago. How important is it for brands like Barbie to align their marketing efforts with values related to sustainability, inclusivity, and social responsibility? Let’s start with you Savannah.

Savannah Santiago: I think Barbie had a pretty vast audience. It was hitting, moms that used to play with a lot of these dolls growing up and now it’s in their children’s hands.  There are different generations that it’s appealing to, but specifically talking to that younger generation, they’re definitely more malleable with what they see is online, what they’re hearing, what they’re talking about with their friends, hear from their friends. So there’s so much information online that they’re taking in, not only that, but, I also think, and this is a great thing, that younger consumers are often more conscious of social and environmental issues and they want to have this sense of belonging to something that’s greater than them, bigger than them, just a movement of some type. So, you know, this can be great when it’s powerful movement, but it also puts so much responsibility into the hands of a brand to be sure that they’re being honest and transparent and authentic and they’re not leading young people down a path of lies or a path of maybe something that’s not the greatest thing to stand up for. In this case, standing up for equality is great so that is not the case for the Barbie movie. There was lots of great things to take away from it, but yes, just going in that it’s super important for those marketing efforts to be aligned there.

Sandra Marshall: Yeah, I absolutely agree with Savannah and everything she just noted. I think one thing that’s so amazing is not only are, you know, these generations like, especially Gen Z and Millennial, they’re becoming known so much for their social activism and their desire to really create positive change in the world. But one of the things I think is most compelling is they’re not afraid to be vocal about it. And they’re vocal about wanting to align with brands who share these efforts and not only are they vocal about that, but they really hold these brands to the test of, “Are they genuine?” and, “are the brands genuine in their social responsibility?” So, yeah, I think it’s incredibly important and it’s really, I just think amazing that we’re seeing this grow, generation after generation.

Olivia Scott: Definitely. 

Rhett Withey: It’s so funny that like the Barbie movie is not the first movie to ever touch on these subjects, but it’s the first to like resonate. Right.And the reason it resonates is because of the. Hunk of plastic that is the toy that Sandra and Savannah, you were saying that like reaches across generations. Like the one thing that every mom has in common with their daughter is that they played with a Barbie at some point. So they use that as the launching point to have these greater conversations. Oh, it’s really, it’s just really interesting.

Olivia Scott: Yeah. In what ways do you think the Barbie movie franchise appeals to both younger audiences and adults who have a nostalgic connection to the brand?

Savannah Santiago: I think what Rhett just said talking about, and I mean it is essentially a chunk of plastic, I mean he’s not wrong, but that chunk of plastic has so many memories and emotions tied to it, so I think that entirely is why it appeals to both, a younger audience and adults, and when I say younger audience, like yes, it does appeal to children that,maybe don’t have. the purchase decisions, quite yet, but there’s still that tie between those children and, you know, young adults and even some middle aged and older adults who maybe played with Barbies with their own children. I just, it stretches across so many generations. 

Sandra Marshall: Yeah, I think one of the things that, Those of us that are a bit older, but it’s actually something that I can sit down and put like at the core, it’s a children’s toy, right? it’s something that I can actually sit down but share it with my daughter. Like, we’re sharing memories with this. I’m passing down my Barbies and some of my Barbie furniture and Barbie clothes, and I’m playing with my daughter. I mean, there’s age appropriate toys, but there’s not a lot of toys, at least in my experience with my parenting, where I enjoy playing with a toy with my kid just as much as they enjoy playing with a toy and creating stories together. So it’s, Talk about an emotional attachment. Yes, it’s all the memories from when I was playing, but it’s an opportunity to bond with my daughter and, you know, you know, if I had a son with my son, creating stories together and just sharing those memories. I mean, legitimately playing together. It’s really amazing.

Olivia Scott: Oh, that’s so sweet. Rhett, do you want to add anything to that?

Rhett Withey: you know, as I noticed on the shelves, that was funny. when you’re Target, you know where the Barbie aisle is because it’s, the aisle is all pink and they’ve got all the Barbie stuff. But then, you know, there’s also Barbies from the Barbie movie. So there’s like two parallel brands. You’ve got regular Barbie, right? Just Barbie. And then there’s Barbie, the movie Barbie. I don’t know if that’s necessary, but they did it and they’re making crazy money on that. Like double dipping on Barbie. On the actual doll itself, you get Barbie. Or the Barbie movie Barbie. 

Olivia Scott: Well, they sure know how to market. Sandra, as a parent, what were your impressions of the themes and messages portrayed in the Barbie Movie? 

Sandra Marshall: I mean, I feel like there were a lot of themes and messages throughout the movie and watching it. Obviously, as a woman, I resonate with many of those and I liked seeing that they were being brought into mainstream media, through the Barbie movie that was going to be super popular to get conversations going, contribute to conversations. But, at this particular life stage, I think what really, really, resonated with me, and what really got me was the ending of the movie, where there’s that really strong, I think it’s the creator of Barbie herself, right? At the end, and she’s talking with Margot Robbie, and she has a line, think it’s “We mothers stand still so that our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.” And that message was, I mean, talk about a powerhouse of emotions that kind of flooded through in the end because, you know, we go through all these things as we’re growing up and all these experiences and, culture and society and how that impacts decisions we make and how we feel and all of the, conversations that are in the movie. But it was the thought of now I have a piece of my heart that lives outside my body, who is also a woman who’s going to go through all of these very same scenarios in a much different time in our culture and society. And I start to put that mom hat on and it’s like the best thing I can do is just try to guide her in the best directions possible. So I think, for me personally, that might not be everybody’s major impression, that mom moment, but that was a huge one, was thinking about what I had just seen throughout the movie, and now thinking it through the lens of my daughter’s eyes was pretty powerful.

Olivia Scott: Rhett, what are your thoughts as a father watching that movie?

Rhett Withey: So, I know my experience in life is different than other people’s experience in life, especially as a dude. I wonder, like, what the balance is between what’s the right age for the particular themes in Barbie? Sandra, I know your daughter is six, seven-ish. I see it as, hey here’s a therapy session of like, if your daughter’s older, like, yes, we’ve all had these shared experiences, whether you’re 20 years old or your mom is 60 years old, right? But if you’re a 30-something mom sharing it with your 8, 9, 10-year-old daughter, is it more of a warning, or is it a, this is what I had to go through so you don’t have to go through this? 

Sandra Marshall: Yeah, do I think it’s more of a warning based on the age of the child?

Rhett Withey: Yeah

Sandra Marshall: You know, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I, I guess that’s to come for me. When she’s, you know, when my daughter is a little bit older and I have no idea what our frame of mind will be at that point, but yeah, you know, it’s gonna come, but what can I do as a mom to like best set her up for success? 

Rhett Withey: Right, what did she take away from the movie? Like what did she like about it? Was it just like, I like the bright colors, and the car chasing was fun? Did it resonate with her at her age, the same themes that you are seeing?

Sandra Marshall: No, not at all. In fact, we actually were hesitant to sit her down and focus on watching the movie just because we had heard that there were some adult undertones, but we had no idea what to expect. She ended up popping in, but it was so far over her head at this point. She didn’t really understand the themes and the messaging, but I’ll tell you what, she loved the “I’m Just Ken” dance number, so [laughter] so for her, it was the music and the dance numbers that really resonated. Will it be interesting to see her watch this and talk with her after she watches this when she’s a preteen and a teenager? Absolutely. Like then I think there’ll be much different types of discussions. There’ll be much different guidance or insights that maybe I’ll be telling her directly rather than just keeping in the back of my mind as she’s younger.

Olivia Scott: Yeah. How does America Ferrera’s speech challenge traditional gender roles and expectations, both within the context of the Barbie movie and in broader societal discussions about empowerment and equality?

Savannah Santiago: Going back to one thing I said earlier was the Barbie movie, and specifically her speech is saying things that they have been talked about, but just not in quite as much of a light or on a stage like this. Really her speech kind of said it all. I don’t feel like I can say anything that would make her speech any better than it was. It really just hit the nail on the head. I wish I could tell you. What she did for gender roles, but it really was just. Something she put into words that was really hard for a lot of people to say.

Sandra Marshall: I 1000 percent agree with how you just said that, Savannah.

Savannah Santiago: It’s so hard. You’re like, how do I say what I didn’t even know how to say? And she said it all. 

Sandra Marshall: It was so beautifully written, and delivered, on screen. I think it’s everything that a lot of us think all the time, but we’ve never been able to concisely verbalize. 

Savannah Santiago: Yeah. And honestly, I mean, even parts of it, I didn’t even know I was thinking it and then she said it and I was just thinking to myself, “Wow. Yeah, she’s kind of right. She has a point there. And the writers did a really great job with that. Like you said, it was delivered with so much passion. And I know that she felt a lot of those words when she was speaking them too. You could just feel it and see it on the scene. 

Rhett Withey: I know a lot of the angle for a lot of men with this movie is the machismo, right? Of like the eye rolling of “Oh my gosh, here we go again with whatever,” right? And I feel sorry for those guys that doesn’t connect with them because I felt a lot of empathy in that scene and if you can’t with somebody in this moment and when she’s not just talking as her character but all of womanhood then that I feel sorry for the guys that can’t understand that basic premise.

Olivia Scott: Well put. Sandra, Rhett, and Savannah, thank you very much for being guests on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Savannah Santiago: Thanks for having us. It was great. 

Sandra Marshall: Thanks for having us.

Rhett Withey: Cool, next week we’ll talk about Ninja Turtles.

Olivia Scott: Sounds good.

Savannah Santiago: Okay, Rhett.

Sandra Marshall: Count me in!

Olivia Scott: Thanks again to my guests this week from Bigeye. Sandra Marshall, the agency’s Vice President of Partnerships, Art Director, Rhett Withey, and Social Media Manager, Savannah Santiago. You’ll find a full transcript of our conversation and links to resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at Just select Insights from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Olivia Scott. Regular host Adrian Tennant will be back next week. Until then, goodbye.

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