The Youth Lab


It’s finally 💕Barbie 💕day, the highly anticipated release date of Greta Gerwig’s film phenomenon. Ms Barbara Millicent Roberts has always been iconic, shaping pop culture for the last 64 years; reflecting, dividing and re-uniting society from the seat of her pink convertible. Leading up to release day, online discussion has hit peak pink fever, with Youth audiences equally connected, divided and transfixed by her aura. Today’s 52INSIGHTS is all about The Barbie Effect!


There has been mega hype around the Barbie film, featuring Margot Robbie starring in the lead role. Barbie was created at the height of the 1960’s, an era steeped in consumerism, and so has always been considered a symbol of mass consumption and somewhat ‘plastic’ superficiality. However the modern Barbie has undergone a transformation; now she is part ‘Shero,’ part Instagram positivity girl, part jet-setting socialite and part relatable woman of the world. We see this reflected throughout the film narrative on Barbie’s journey to self awareness. Through the decades Barbie has navigated her way from 2D stereotype to 3D character and now, to 4D mindset. In the Barbie film we meet many different types of Barbie, all equally but differently Barbie. This hits a perfect note of authenticity for so many young people, making Barbie feel uniquely relevant; as a mindset, an attitude and a mood.

“Modern Barbie energy is one of sheer joy. Whether you relate to full-on pink glamour or your own blend of joyful expression, the beauty of it is that it can all be Barbie energy. The hype around the Barbie film is a lightning rod for all that energy - which comes at a time when young people are seeking outlets for fun and creativity. Lynsey Paisley, Head of Integrated Creative Strategy


“I was definitely a ‘Barbie girl’ when I was younger. I don’t think the physical features of the franchise concerned me much at the time. I was more appreciative that Barbie could have everything and that a man was just an accessory to her life, which is the life I want to live now...” Niamh, 24, The Love Network


Like Barbie herself, the promotion of the film has been one-of-a-kind. As the ultimate marketing story of 2023, the film tapped social-first hype and personalised tech to continue the conversation with fans (and soon-to-be fans) from teaser, to pre-launch and release day. The promotion of the Barbie film is a masterclass in understanding and leveraging brand cues in culture - which for Barbie, include the iconic logo / typeface (see on branded AI filters and stickers) and of course, the colour pink itself (which featured so heavily in the production of Barbie that it’s rumoured to have caused a worldwide shortage in pink paint….)

The film’s joyful, playful advertising is the perfect reflection of Barbie herself - and that is ultimately, why it works so well. The brand marketing around the film is a personification of Barbie’s values; to have fun, to be a good friend, and to enjoy life in all its fancy glory (with plenty of nostalgia and imagination thrown in.) The film’s promotion is not ashamed to be true to itself, and Youth audiences totally and instinctively get this.

The Barbie movie is an exciting opportunity to indulge in nostalgia with my friends now as young women we get to be big kids again and enjoy a new Barbie product. I know nothing about the movie storyline I’m trying to go in blind in order to build excitement.Emily, 25, The Love Network

Read more about the development of the Barbie marketing story and brand purpose here.


As with life, the Barbie conversation is not all love hearts and pink glitter. It’s impossible to ignore Barbie’s inter-generational legacy of unrealistic, dangerous body standards. Even with modern gender, size and ethnic diversity considerations in the contemporary Barbie world, the sheer volume of conversation, analysis and buzz around the film (which started in earnest last year) verges on exhaustive for some. From deep analysis of the cinematic style and art direction, through to the cast ‘slumber parties’; from the lead actors' wardrobe to the subtext of their premiere poses. Add to that the wave upon wave of product tie-ins and merchandise - and it’s left some young people with mixed feelings.

‘I would not say I’m super excited to watch it, however the hype around it gives everyone a lil bit of FOMO. Cultural impact that it might cause is yet a mystery, but hopefully the movie will break the stigmas and stereotypes that older gen z still had to face.’

Lisa, 23 [Berlin], The Love Network


The conversation around the Barbie film launch is in stark contrast to another high profile title also being released today; Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer starring Cillian Murphy. With its hard-hitting historical context, black & white visual language and so much on-screen smoking - it couldn’t be further away from Barbie’s pink glow. It has been said that Oppenheimer is in fact benefitting from that pink-halo glow as Barbie drives a wide, mainstream audience of all ages into cinemas (who will now likely see both films.) This weekend is expected to see record numbers of film goers because of ‘Barbenheimer’ and is a much needed boost of energy for the industry. It has certainly inspired waves of meme’s and social content around the unusual pairing and timing!

“Social media has been flooded with memes, jokes and commentary on “Barb-enheimer” as people pick sides or plan their schedules for a double feature. It’s unlikely that the two films would have received so much external hype without this competitive element. Though the deal between Nolan and Universal limited their control over the clash, it might actually bolster the film’s success.” Elle Palmer, Farout Magazine


Both films are being released amid a tumultuous period in US film history with actors now joining SAG-AFTRA union writers in strike action - led by another iconic, powerful and influential woman in Fran Drescher (President of the SAG-AFTRA union). Many ancillary areas of the industry are also supporting those on strike, all calling on studio executives to bring in fair pay structures amid a rapidly changing publishing and production landscape. With many studios concerned about the pipeline of content over the coming 18 months, messages have gone out to social media and digital content creators not to use this opportunity to ‘break’ strike lines. While they are not union members, there is a feeling in the content community that it would just be a morally ‘yucky' thing to do during action which if successful, should largely benefit all kinds of film and production in the future.


Culture-first branding is a win: Barbie has been a culture driver for 7 decades, always finding new ways to reinvent herself to drive relevance in a changing world. Particularly in the case of legacy or heritage brands, activating through culture can really fast-track relevance with younger audiences. Find your place in culture and let your creativity flow.

Brand, know thyself: The magic of the Barbie film’s marketing success has been in bringing key brand values to life, all the while leveraging unique and ownable cues to drive salience and distinctiveness. Even for Barbie, this has proved to be an iterative journey over time “[In the past] We weren’t talking about the purpose behind the brand, why Barbie matters, why she exists…all of those building blocks strengthened the foundation and got us to a place where we were ready for the big stage and a massive project like [the Barbie film]” says Lisa McKnight at Mattel.

Appealing broadly is smart: More conversation = more ways to appeal to as much of the available audience as possible. As the Barbie trailer says, “If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.”

The recently launched Sounds of the Summer campaign for Lucozade Energy is a great example of appealing widely in a culture-first way, as Sara Philpot, Senior Brand Manager Lucozade Energy describes: “We were looking for a bold, disruptive platform idea to activate throughout the Summer, and THINKHOUSE delivered big with an innovative music-themed concept that lives all throughout the media mix. Every Summer moment is best served with your fav playlist and the ice cold taste of Lucozade Energy, so by appealing widely we can ensure that everyone can find their refreshing boost this Summer.”


CREATIVE IRELAND CELEBRATIONS: We’re still celebrating the news THINKHOUSE has been named by Creative Ireland as one of 43 recipients of the €5.8 million Creative Climate Action Fund II - Agents for Change. The project will put Ireland at the forefront of a global climate movement and act as a catalyst for deeper systemic change required of creative commercial industries. Laura Costello, Strategy Director of Purpose & Planet, THINKHOUSE and Ireland Lead at Purpose Disruptors said: “We’re hugely grateful to Creative Ireland and the Irish Government for accelerating our ambition to foster alternative visions of the future, leveraging the impact of the advertising and communications industry. This moment signals a clear recognition of the ways in which our industry skills can be harnessed to support Ireland’s Climate Action Plan. Many visions of the future informed by the climate and biodiversity crisis are getting caught up in distracted dystopian narratives. The Good Life Ireland 2030 project is an invitation for Irish citizens and the creative industry to imagine better and emotionally connect to the future in new ways.”