Case study: Behind-the-scenes of Barbie's blowout 60th birthday

Mattel celebrated with pop-ups, pink skyscrapers and a line of new products.

Company: Mattel
Campaign: Barbie's 60th anniversary
Agency partners: Weber Shandwick (Global PR), R/GA (event execution for NYC Barbie Pop-up), I Am Other (talent for NYC Barbie Pop-up), T1 (talent for Barbie Be Anything Tour), Mojo (shopper marketing for Barbie Be Anything Tour), Mitchell (US PR for Barbie Be Anything Tour), Advantage (event execution for Barbie Be Anything Tour)
Duration: March 9

It’s not every day that Barbie turns the big 6-0. To celebrate, Mattel went all out. In addition to releasing a line of new dolls, the toymaker lit up famous landmarks around the world in Barbie’s trademark pink, threw events across the U.S., and had Barbie herself document the festivities on social media.

Planning for most of Mattel’s major campaigns begin 12-to-18 months before the event.

Because the anniversary year was so important, "we started even further out," said Marissa Beck, Mattel’s director of global communications.

The first step was nailing down the new line of products that would launch in celebration of Barbie’s 60th, which included a special anniversary doll, new career dolls (including a firefighter, astronaut and political candidate) and 20 dolls modeled on real-life inspiring women, such as Yara Shahidi, Naomi Osaka, Kelsea Ballerini and Adwoa Aboah.

The goal was to amplify Barbie’s purpose: to inspire the limitless potential in every girl, while also celebrating "the icon that Barbie is," Beck said. "She is not only a brand, she is a character."

At the end of 2018, before any of the birthday events kicked off, Mattel invited reporters from 20 outlets to its headquarters in California for a "full-day immersive program" that focused on its new line of products and shared details from its initiatives focused on empowering girls.

For example, Mattel wanted to draw attention to its Barbie Dream Project, an ongoing program that, in partnership with New York University, is researching why, starting from the age of five, girls start to doubt that "their gender is as capable and that they can be anything they want to be," Beck said.

As part of this program, Mattel has committed to honoring at least 10 female role models each year, and announced it would donate $1 from every doll sold over Barbie’s birthday weekend to like-minded organizations.

Mattel also threw celebratory events for its fans across the country, including an immersive pop-up experience in New York City and a Be Anything tour held at 34 Walmart parking lots across the country.

The birthday girl herself documented the festivities on social media, including on the Instagram channel @barbie.

"She traveled to New York, she went to the lighting of the Empire State Building and went to her own party," Beck said. "That’s the channel where we wanted to bring to light the first person narrative for the character."

Barbie also vlogged about the events on YouTube, where she dedicated her birthday to the issue of gender equality.

"That was another way we were reaching our youngest fans with a purposeful message tied to her birthday," Beck said.

Barbie’s 60th birthday garnered 3,896 media placements globally, including 938 in the U.S. The list of outlets was diverse, ranging from Allure to New York Magazine to Page Six to Parade Magazine to Vogue U.K.

More than 4,000 people visited Barbie’s New York birthday pop-up event, including influencers such as Shahidi, Grammy winner H.E.R., Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui and Candace Bushnell.

On March 9, her actual birthday, Barbie was a trending topic on Twitter in New York City.

Across platforms, she gained 75,000 new followers thanks to the campaign, which received 4.5 times the global digital engagement on social as other large-scale Barbie campaigns.

By donating $1 from each doll sold over Barbie’s birthday weekend, the company raised $250,000 for its Barbie Dream Project. The company plans to announce the organizations that will receive the donations in the upcoming months.

"The overall goal was to be everywhere on Barbie’s birthday week, engaging with our fans and celebrating with them online and offline," said Beck.

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