The Barbie Movie has been ruling cinemas by making a record-breaking debut on its opening weekend, with over $162 million in ticket sales. Let’s explore how this cinematic venture has impacted Mattel, the company that created the iconic barbie doll. The Barbie Movie did not just revive Mattel‘s business, it skyrocketed their stock performance and proved to be a complete game-changer for the then underperforming brand.

The toymaker brand had been facing challenging times amidst a competitive market. However, the release of the much-anticipated Barbie Movie transformed the company’s trajectory and reestablished its brand presence. According to Mattel’s CEO Ynon Kreiz, the brand has been banking on the box office success of the movie to help drive doll sales in the second half of the year. They recorded a strong performance in July following the buzz around the film.

The Origin Story

Established in 1945, the globally recognised toy company quickly rose to prominence with its innovative and extremely loved toys. Mattel Inc. has been a pioneer in the industry for decades. When they introduced the Barbie doll in 1959, it turned out to be their most iconic creation. Barbie became an instant cultural phenomenon in terms of fashion dolls that millions of children worldwide were fascinated by.

Over the years, Mattel received a lot of flak for setting the wrong beauty standards for children. It was perceived as though the brand was pegging girls specifically as superficial with this perfect body and demeanor while not considering other body types and skin tones. Mattel listened to everyone’s problems and the dolls underwent various transformations, adapting to changing times and promoting diversity and inclusivity. The conversations shifted from the typical Barbie Land to real-life situations like being with friends, getting jobs and more things that happen in the real world. Despite these efforts, they faced challenges in recent years and were struggling to keep up with digital entertainment and other competitors.

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Mattel’s Struggles

In the early 2020s, Mattel faced a series of setbacks that directly impacted its financial performance and stock value. With the rise of digital toys and entertainment options for kids, traditional toy manufacturers were facing stiff competition. With children’s play patterns shifted toward online gaming and virtual experiences, Mattel’s revenues were deeply affected.

The company also faced difficulties with supply chain disruptions and rising production costs. These challenges resulted in a decline in Mattel’s stock performance, which in turn raised concerns about the company’s ability to stay relevant in an evolving market.

The Barbie Movie, The Saviour

Mattel needed to do something substantial to revive the brand that was dying a slow death. Mattel President and Chief Operating Officer, Richard Dickson, has been credited with helping resurrect Barbie during his many years at Mattel. When he joined in 2000, he focused on cutting down the number of licenses for Barbie and eliminating custom orders by retailers that required additional inventory. After leaving the company and coming back in 2014, Dickson was the driving force for reviving Barbie and its declining sales. Adding more body styles and more diverse ethnicities to the Barbie collection, and implementing the Mattel Playbook under him helped grow the power brands of Mattel.

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To resurrect the Barbie brand, Mattel embarked on an ambitious cinematic venture – The Barbie Movie. The movie chose to take a fresh take on the iconic doll, featuring a compelling storyline, stunning visuals, relevant play on nostalgia and positive messages promoting empowerment and self-expression that resonate with today’s audiences. From the movie promotions till it hit the theaters, the film has been showered with widespread praise from both critics and viewers, children and adults, alike. What makes The Barbie Movie’s triumph even more noteworthy is that it boasts of the best box office opening ever for a film directed solely by a woman. Not to mention all the city wide press this movie has created. Post his ground-breaking success with Barbie, Richard was poached by clothing retailer Gap Inc. to serve as the company’s next CEO.

The Impact On Mattel

Following the movie’s release and success, Mattel experienced a significant surge in its stock value. Investors responded positively to the box office performance of The Barbie Movie, recognising it as a game-changer for the company’s prospects. The rise in stock value was not only indicative of renewed investor confidence but also a testament to the movie’s ability to revive the brand’s image and profitability. The movie’s ability to evoke a sense of nostalgia and connect with adult audiences was an unexpected marketing advantage for Mattel. This newfound appeal translated into increased interest in Barbie-related products and memorabilia.

The success of the movie opened up newer avenues for Mattel to capitalise on merchandising and licensing opportunities. With the movie’s characters and storyline tugging at the audiences’ heartstrings, Mattel saw an opportunity to introduce a wide range of spin-off products and tie-ins. Collaborations with other companies for limited-edition Barbie merchandise, like clothing, accessories, and collectibles, made for an additional revenue stream and reinforced the brand relevance.

Cinema-Driven Future Strategy

The success of The Barbie Movie marked a turning point for Mattel, reviving the company’s performance and further bolstering the brand’s status. This entertainment-driven approach proved that modern storytelling through engaging narratives can end up being vastly be impactful on a company’s performance, sales, growth, product development and future. Consequently, Mattel might prioritise partnerships with filmmakers, screenwriters, and animators to create compelling content that makes viewers transition from the toy world to the toys in the real world.

The Mattel Cinematic Universe

With Barbie being the first toy to have a standalone movie, Mattel plans on creating it’s own cinematic universe taking other toys as well. Mattel is slated to release a Disney Princess film towards the end of this year and another one in early 2024, with a Hot Wheels movie in the works for 2025. And they are in active development of Barney, Magic 8 Ball and Uno movies respectively. Kreiz said The Barbie Movie’s success will serve as a template for collaborations on other Mattel-owned IPs. Although, this isn’t the first time a brand created a movie out of its toys. Hasbro, the biggest competitor of Mattel, did it first with Transformers.