Brands are queuing up for Barbie – a short-term fad?

Brand experts weighed in on how brands can determine if a partnership is genuinely relevant or valuable, the risks of being associated with a trending but unrelated concept, and more

Sakshi Sharma
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Brands are queuing up for Barbie – a short-term fad?

As Greta Gerwig's movie ‘Barbie’ is set to release globally in theatres today, various brands have been tactfully utilising Barbie's iconic intellectual property to enhance their marketing endeavours. However, brand consultants believe that although some brands were pioneers in this approach, others seem to be merely following the trend without substantial commitment and it’s a short-term fad rather than a lasting trend.

While this may cause a temporary boost in sales, it is unlikely to leave a long-term impact on consumers, according to the brand consultants.

In pursuit of capturing Gen Z's attention, brands worldwide including Bumble, Nyx Cosmetics, Fossil watches, Aldo,  have embraced the colour pink by incorporating it into their strategies. Various brands in India as well, such as Fossil watches, Gap, Nyx Cosmetics, Aldo, and Baskin Robbins, are offering their Barbie collections to consumers.

Are brands capitalising on passing fads or strategically integrating lasting elements?

Vivek Srivastava

Vivek Srivastava, Founder-Director, Integrated Brand Heuristics, said, “Typically these are movie-related hikes and all in the flavour of the month. So, currently, we all talk about this movie, there will be another one after some time. So, these are all things that are majorly happening, maybe to get some traction on social media, etc. The real test of any such tie-up is to analyse whether it impacts the sale in the long run. But I don't think brands look at it in that sense. The brand Barbie is quite a strong brand in itself and if somebody else is trying to ride it, it's largely a tactical move. My basic take is that these are all short-term spikes that brands end up achieving.”

Furthermore, he went on to say that for brands, it's just about riding a wave. This is more about the temporary spike or maybe the brands don't want to be left out of this.

“When brands do this, a huge amount of money is involved and they have to pay royalties and rights. So nothing comes for free. The earlier brands who started following this trend must have taken a call based on some kind of an alignment but other brands who started following the trend, later on, are just trying to be there and are doing it out of fear of missing out,” Srivastava added.

Nisha Sampath

According to Nisha Sampath, Brand Consultant and Managing Partner, Bright Angles Consulting, Barbie had a huge influence on the older generation, as she was a true cultural phenomenon when they were growing up. In contrast, Barbiecore is a short-term fad rather than a trend. It will lead to some temporary blips in sales but is not likely to achieve a long-term impact on consumers.

As it’s a global fad and the movie appeals to Gen Alpha and younger audiences (especially girls), brands hope to gain a positive rub-off in the minds of this demographic, for today and for the future. The partnership should not just connect the brand to the audience, but should also synergise with the values and positioning of the brand. Otherwise, it is just an opportunistic association, she added.

Lloyd Mathias

On the other hand, Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Angel Investor, believes that the Barbie doll was launched more than 60 years ago and for a whole generation, especially girls, it's been an emblem of their childhood memories and nostalgia. Every girl growing up in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s has a memory of her first Barbie doll or the Barbie doll that she aspired to. It's an iconic brand franchise and a lot of brands would like to climb off the bandwagon.

“The collaboration between Barbie and popular brands creates a very strong synergy that's going beyond movie quotes. For example, for a lot of males who are possibly not going to see the movie, I think they are seeing a lot of hype around Fossil watches, etc. So, I think a lot of these brands are attracting attention. It's moving beyond the old franchise and that's really the power of why this is going to be such a huge moment,” he added.

The important thing for a brand is to see whether there is real value in the association. Having said that, a brand should do something that is actually relevant to the market. Brands should look at creating something that takes off from the franchise, from the movie, or some of the things that they have used. So, that's when it creates a strong synergy. It should be something that triggers nostalgia or triggers an association with the movie.

Risks of being associated with a trending but unrelated concept

Sampath said that primarily the risk is of wasted marketing spend which could have been better utilised in activities that are synergistic to the brand.

Srivastava believes that in order to determine the relevance of a partnership, one has to first look at what the brand's goal is and what is the target group.

“You have to look at what is your core brand persona, what is your brand's DNA and how would it get supplemented by this partnership opportunity whatever it may be. Also, would it ultimately lead to an enhancement of your brand's appeal and then thereafter your brand's sales footprint? That's the way to evaluate if anything of this nature is relevant to your business because just doing it because others are doing it is not wise marketing,” he said.

While speaking about how brands can determine if a partnership is genuinely relevant or valuable, Mathias said that there is an element of subjectivity. One is to recognise the fact that this movie and this release is not real yet but it might produce a good product tomorrow. Another thing is that a franchise like Barbie lends itself to a lot of brand associations.

Sampath said that brand custodians should evaluate any partnership not as a tactical opportunity alone but also with a long-term lens of brand equity. They should ask themselves a simple question – what value will this partnership add to my brand?

“Trends and fads pick up quickly and also die quickly in today's times. One movie may not be enough to build a trend, it will require a sustained effort. Indeed, the whole Barbie franchise needs to be re-invented to be relevant to today’s times. We are just beginning to move away from the stereotype that pink is a girly colour, for example. So I feel that what we are seeing is a short-lived fad,” she added.

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