The Barbie movie finally hits cinemas this week and, strangely, it feels like one of the most anticipated films in history. That's perhaps partly because, as the world's most famous doll, Barbie already had a huge branding machine behind her. But the build-up to the film has also involved some strange (and not always intentional) boosts.
The Barbie build-up has given us the biggest meme of 2023, a whole genre of mashup poster art, a wonderful double entendre and a very suspicious looking burger. Here are our highlights from a rollercoaster few months in which Barbie was everything (see our pick of the best movie posters of 2023 so far for more film art gems).
01. The Barbie movie character posters
wow EVERYONE is in this new Barbie movie pic.twitter.com/gM6L1SaHHfApril 4, 2023
The Barbie movie marketing machine got off to a great start when, intentionally or not, it created the biggest meme of the year with its character posters. All they showed was each character with a brief description, the actors' names and the film title on a glittery background, but their simplicity, and the fact that there were so many of them, made the designs ripe for online appropriation. The internet immediately set about creating Barbie-style character posters for anyone and everyone.
02. The French Barbie movie poster
There's a hilarious trend for French movie titles to employ a kind of simplified English in which everything is either 'sexy' or 'very bad'. Strangely, the French release of the Barbie movie, is not called 'Sexy Girl Based on a Doll' or even 'Very Bad Blonde' but simply Barbie. That seems like a missed opportunity, but a genius copywriter did at least have some fun with the tagline on the poster.
On the face of it, the French Barbie poster features a translation of the film's English tagline "She's everything.... he's just Ken." But the French moviegoing public was left in stitches because of the double-entendre in the phrase "Lui, c’est juste Ken" 'Ken' is a colloquialism for a four-letter word that starts with 'F' while in the spoken language 'c'est' sounds the same as 'sait'. So "She can do everything. He just knows how to—" well, you get the idea. An accident? I think someone knew what they were doing.
03. Barbenheimer posters go viral
Studios spend a lot of time choosing the release date for a film, and the release of the Barbie movie was clearly timed to fit the northern hemisphere school and college summer holiday period. Bbut one has to wonder if they also saw the potential of pairing it with another hugely anticipated but extremely different cinema release.
The decision to release Barbie on the same day as Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, a thriller about the scientist often credited with inventing the atomic bomb, provoked to a viral sensation, as people set about creating some quite stunning mashup posters imagining a movie called Barbenheimer.
04. Barbie takes on Burberry
This was one brand battle we didn't see coming. But with Barbiecore reaching its peak, the world's favourite anatomically impossible doll didn't want anyone to rain on her parade – and we know Barbie wouldn't be seen dead in beige. Mattel was not impressed with the British fashion brand Burberry's attempt to trademark a BRBY mark for clothing, bags and other products. In its opposition submitted to the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Mattel says Burberry's proposed trademark is "visually similar" and "phonetically identical" to Barbie and could mislead consumers.
05. The Burger King Barbie meal
oi burger! oi Barbie™️! oi burger! 🍔💖 conheça o Pink Burger, a primeira revelação do Combo BK Barbie™️, q chegou direto de Barbie Land™️ pic.twitter.com/Vt2cWhedMkJuly 11, 2023
With Barbiemania reaching fever pitch last week, Burger King Brazil leapt on board with a marketing collaboration that may have been a step too far. A burger with bubblegum pink sauce? Hmm, I think I'll pass. But despite some people referring to the product as a 'Pepto-Bismol burger', the Burger King Barbie combo seems to have been a hit among fans on social media in Brazil. The combo also includes a pink shake, pink doughnut and 'Ken fries' (plan potato fries because, after all, "Lui, c’est juste Ken").