Since the Barbie movie was officially announced last year, there has been a tirade of comments calling it "man-hating" and how it "pushes an agenda", but the film leant into this and used it to its advantage. Of course, it's now the 14th highest-grossing film of all time.
Alicia Van der Meer, Digital Marketing Manager at Monumental, discusses the power of self-awareness, the issues with tokenism, the power of being hyper-targeted and how the Barbie movie has engraved a new way of working in influencer marketing.
Whilst the Barbie movie taught us many things - nostalgia sells tickets and Margot and Ryan are as dreamy as ever - it’s given influencer marketing teams a valuable lesson. Authenticity shines through every time.
Despite being hailed as a “man-hating” film with extreme feminist views, it has since gone on to become the 14th highest-grossing movie of all time… and still counting.
This overwhelming success is perhaps delivered by the fact that director Greta Gerwig and the entire cast understood their main target audience - women and girls. In fact, the audience was 66.2% female and significantly younger, with 74.6% under the age of 29. In stark contrast, the film’s blockbuster counterpart, Oppenheimer, had an audience that was 70.7% male and 52.9% over 30 years old.
Again, we ask the question: why did it work SO well?
The bottom line is that the representation was delivered in a non-tokenistic way, and it didn’t feel as though it was just ticking a box.
The stats indicate that, in reality, the film wasn’t so “man-hating” after all, with around 33% of the audience being male. However, this rhetoric only helped to catapult the film to stratospheric heights.
For influencer marketing teams around the world, the diversity - not just for women, but the LGBTQIA+ community and minority ethnic groups too - speaks volumes and delivers some valuable lessons. Aside from the increased relatability and wider audience reach, here are three of the key takeaways from the success of the film.
The power of self-awareness
The Barbie movie's triumphant journey offers a profound lesson in the power of self-awareness within the influencer marketing landscape. In much the same way, influencer campaigns can carve their own paths by staying true to their core brand values - pulling inspiration from the film as it managed to turn the tide of “man-hating” backlash by confidently embracing its unique perspective.
It made fun of itself, didn’t take itself too seriously but, importantly, didn’t lose any integrity throughout the entire 1 hour 54 minute run.
Let’s not forget that feminism is not about tearing men down, it’s about lifting women up. And that’s still true for the Barbie brand today as it was when it was created over 60 years ago.
The key takeaway is that authenticity is a formidable differentiator in an already saturated market, and amidst ongoing conversations about crucial topics. Whether it's about empowering minorities, ensuring accessibility, or enhancing visibility, brands that are self-aware and genuine in their approach resonate more deeply with their audience.
Being hyper-targeted can only be a bonus
Just as the Barbie movie catered to a specific, passionate audience, influencer campaigns that meticulously address a niche market can yield exceptional results.
The film's focus on under-represented audiences demonstrated that reaching out to previously marginalised segments can generate a wave of appreciation and foster rich loyalty. In influencer marketing, acknowledging and elevating voices that have been overlooked historically can open up new avenues for brand growth and fortify existing ties to minority groups.
The film's achievement prompts a crucial question for marketers: if a campaign results in the loss of certain consumers, did the brand truly want them as customers in the first place?
It underscores the importance of authentic, aligned connections with your target audience, even if it means letting go of those who don't fully resonate with your message.
Let’s take a look at a Gen Z audience, for example. A study by McKinsey found that 66% of Gen Z’ers believe communities are created by causes and interests, not by economic backgrounds or educational levels, with other research indicating that 40% of Gen Z people are likely to boycott a brand if it doesn’t align with their core values.
On the flip side, a separate study - Leveraging the Value of Emotional Connection for Retailers by Motista - revealed that, by having an emotional connection to a brand, a customer’s lifetime value is increased by 306%.
Additionally, as the social media landscape continues to evolve, especially with algorithms on TikTok that are interest-based, it’s a great chance for brands to align directly with relevant creators. These creators typically have a loyal following and can be open and honest with their tight-knit micro-communities, meaning they are committed to their connection with that person.
If brands understand this shift in consumer behaviour, especially with a Gen Z audience that is super engaged, it’s not just an opportunity, but a strategic move for long-term brand success.
Tokenism is a big no-no
Merely showcasing under-represented communities as part of a tick-box exercise is not just insincere but also detrimental to a brand's image. Consumers are discerning and can see through such disingenuous efforts.
When influencer marketing initiatives lack genuine commitment and connection with the communities they aim to reach, it often ends in disappointment and damaged brand reputation.
Take the example of Bud Light and their recent collaboration with transgender content creator, Dylan Mulvaney. Immediately after the partnership was announced, both Bud Light and Dylan began to receive an influx of transphobic comments. The real shock was, following a period of silence from Dylan, she posted a TikTok that revealed the brand never publicly defended her and their partnership, or even reached out to her at all.
In the video, Dylan says, “For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them, is worse than not hiring a trans person at all,” which sums up the sentiment wholeheartedly. If companies aren’t all in, then don’t bother.
Influencer marketing teams need to be fully invested, championing their creators and ensuring they are completely on their side. It’s much more than hiring a creator here and there, a true diversity strategy will require engaging with expert partners with the knowledge and skillset to authentically engage with minority communities, a partner like Monumental for example.
“Man-hating” is a strong phrase, but the Barbie movie used it to its advantage - unapologetically standing by its product, people and followers. This has helped to catapult the brand to new heights - the film increased Mattel’s third-quarter sales by 16% - and even introduced a new way for cinema to move forward.