In 2023, the world celebrated The Year of Barbie! But it was back in 2022 that sneak peeks popped up on social of the doll’s first-ever major motion picture, created by Warner Bros., starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken. Photos surfaced of the pair roller skating in Barbie-core outfits down the Venice, California boardwalk. The Barbie movie buzz was so big leading up to the premiere, namely because the Barbie doll has been a cultural icon for the better half of a century.
Mattel’s beloved doll originally burst onto the scene back in 1959, immediately capturing the hearts of little girls and doll enthusiasts alike. What was her unique appeal? Unlike the baby dolls that preceded her, Barbie was an adult career woman who could wear stylish clothes, make up, and do anything she set her mind to! Lo and behold, many generations later she has managed to stay relevant to the young girls of today.
With the release of Greta Gerwig’s iconic Barbie movie, Tubular hosted our long-time clients and friends at Mattel to discuss how they built the Barbie brand name to be the digital empire that it is today. Mark Phillips, Mattel’s Lead YouTube Strategist, sat down with us to explain how they have managed to grow Barbie into the unrivaled #1 Doll Brand on YouTube.
If you missed the live Barbie webinar, you can watch the recording here: The World of Barbie: Unboxing Mattel’s Digital Succes
Here are the 4 key highlights from the Mattel x Barbie Webinar:
1. Competitive insights inspire Mattel’s content strategy
“We use Tubular to see what’s working, and what’s not. We look at what other brands in the space are doing. [We] identify white spaces—places where we can maybe zig when other people are zagging. We’re looking for content formats and themes that have high search volume. Insights are definitely something we’re constantly evaluating, looking at, and pivoting where we think it makes sense.”– Mark Phillips, Lead YouTube Strategist at Mattel
Mattel maintains the #1 Doll Brand on YouTube. This is a big deal because YouTube is a premier destination for kid’s entertainment. With the advent and widespread usage of SmartTVs, kids around the world are using YouTube as a favorite entertainment and streaming service.
Amongst all the doll shows on YouTube, the Barbie channel reigns supreme by employing a competitive content strategy. The Mattel YouTube team looks at how other kids’ entertainment channels are achieving success.
Phillips shared that using Tubular data, they discovered that their competitors were winning views with female-marketed superhero characters. Phillips reported that they used this insight to reimagine Barbie as a superhero and gain a competitive advantage.
2. Social helps drive Barbie sales
“Views & Watch Time on YouTube are our primary KPIs that we find tie closest to sales. Kids are watching YouTube on TVs more than ever. So you might get fewer views, but you’re getting longer watch time because kids are watching 30 or 60-minute specials. These KPIs drive love for the brand and that makes kids want to engage with the characters, get the toys, and act out fun scenarios that they see in the content.”– Mark Phillips, Lead YouTube Strategist at Mattel
Kids entertainment is a different beast than most categories on YouTube and is used similarly to Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services. Most children’s shows post full segments on YouTube so that parents can entertain and educate their kids on tablets, cellphones, computers as well as Smart TV. It makes sense that Mattel puts a high value on watch time because it points directly to brand loyalty.
Kids watching an hour of Barbie on YouTube every day would also want to have the physical toys in their toy boxes.
3. Barbie the Movie spurs new trends with older audiences
“The core Barbie doll audience is kids ages 3-8yrs, but this year has been so interesting and exciting… audiences have really expanded in very exciting ways. It’s almost like we went from 3-8yrs to 3-80yrs.”– Mark Phillips, Lead YouTube Strategist at Mattel
The Barbie movie reignited the love of the iconic doll brand for many older girls, teenagers, and adults. The movie was not just making waves on social media — it was causing colossal tsunamis!
In the move premiere weekend alone, videos about the Barbie movie amassed over 1.2 billion views on TikTok. The most viewed video of that weekend received 18.1 million views in 3 days. @NotStraightNate’s video was a movie reaction video stitched with Billie Eillish’s song “What Was I Made For?” from Barbie The Album. He writes how the Barbie movie had much deeper undertones about human existence and motherhood than he expected it would.
Other trends included Ken’s popularity, Barbie-core fashion, and Robbie and Gosling hitting red carpet premieres.
Needless to say, Mattel’s social team had a lot of work to do to keep up with the new massive Barbie audience. So how did they do it?
To keep up with the massive social buzz around the Barbie movie, Mattel opened operations of a new YouTube channel,Barbe Life. Rather than create new content, the team focused on repurposing clips from the film, UGC, and the HGTV show Barbie Dream House Challenge.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of these clips and splice them into as many pieces of content as possible, they focused on short-form video. One episode of Barbie Dream House Challenge could produce 10 YouTube #shorts rather than one or two longer videos!
When it comes to creating original content, the Mattel team veers away from fleeting viral trends as it can sometimes take 6-8 months to produce content. Instead, they use Tubular’s category insights to identify topics that always resonate such as music videos, friends & family, etc.
The key to keeping up with a movie as big as Barbie? Short-form videos and repurposing relevant content.
4. Insights empower Mattel benchmark partnership success
“The social team and the influencer team use Tubular when they’re researching creators that would make a great long-term partnership with Barbie from an analytical, viewership, and reach perspective.”– Mark Phillips, Lead YouTube Strategist at Mattel
One of Barbie’s most successful partnerships is with @AforAdley who has been featured in past Barbie music videos on YouTube. Their collaborations have performed so well that they included her in their Barbie Dreamhouse music video where Adley can be seen as an animated character dancing and singing with Barbie and friends:
Today, those music videos have amassed over 20 million views because they can cross-pollinate Barbie’s audience with Adley’s.
Access to in-depth data helps you identify influencers are most aligned with your brand, but it also helps you benchmark how partnerships have benefited your audience. Mattel can use Tubular insights to measure the rate of change of how much Barbie’s audience overlaps with Adley’s.
Mattel uses Tubular to help stay ahead of its competition, form the best possible creator partnerships, and create content that drives viewership as well as sales.
When the Barbie movie premiered in the summer of 2023, the social and digital teams were tasked with keeping up with a colossal amount of new audiences and interests. They used insights to inform their strategy and make the task of keeping up on social just a little bit easier.
Since 1959, Barbie has always been an iconic brand name— but Barbie the Movie revamped the doll in a whole new way, reigniting love in teen and adult audiences. Building Barbie’s digital audience means mastering the art of kid’s entertainment while also keeping up with social media conversations and interests around the new movie. The Tubular team is so proud to support Mattel in one of its biggest years to date!
If you missed the chance to hear Mark Phillips and the Mattel team live, you can watch the recording below.