What the ‘Barbie’ Movie Taught Influencer Marketing About Man-Hating

While the “Barbie” movie taught us many things—nostalgia sells tickets and Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are as dreamy as ever—it’s given influencer marketing teams a valuable lesson: authenticity shines through every time.

Despite being hailed as a “man-hating” film with extreme feminist views, it has since gone on to become the 14th highest-grossing movie of all time—and still counting.

This overwhelming success can perhaps be attributed by the fact that director Greta Gerwig and the entire cast understood their main target audience—women and girls. In fact, the audience was 66.2 percent female and significantly younger, with 74.6 percent under the age of 29. In stark contrast, the film’s blockbuster counterpart that premiered on the same day, “Oppenheimer,” had an audience that was 70.7 percent male and 52.9 percent over 30 years old.

But why did it work SO well?

The bottom line is that the representation was delivered in a non-tokenistic way, and it didn’t feel as though it was just ticking a box.

The stats indicate that, in reality, the film wasn’t so “man-hating” after all, with around 33 percent of the audience being male. However, this rhetoric only helped to catapult the film to stratospheric heights.

For influencer marketing teams around the world, the diversity in the film—not just for women, but the LGBTQIA+ community and minority ethnic groups, too—speaks volumes and delivers some valuable lessons. Aside from the increased relatability and wider audience reach, here are three of the key takeaways from the success of the film.

The Power of Self-awareness 

The “Barbie” movie's triumphant journey offers a profound lesson in the power of self-awareness within the influencer marketing landscape. In much the same way, influencer campaigns can carve their own paths by staying true to their core brand values and pulling inspiration from the film, which managed to turn the tide of “man-hating” backlash by confidently embracing its unique perspective.

It made fun of itself and didn’t take itself too seriously. But importantly, it didn’t lose any integrity throughout the entire one hour and 54-minute run.

Let’s not forget that feminism is not about tearing men down; it’s about lifting women up. And that’s still true for the Barbie brand today as it was when it was created over 60 years ago.

The key takeaway is that authenticity is a formidable differentiator in an already saturated market and amidst ongoing conversations about crucial topics. Whether it's about empowering minorities, ensuring accessibility or enhancing visibility, brands that are self-aware and genuine in their approach resonate more deeply with their audience.

Being Hyper-targeted Can Only Be a Bonus 

Just as the Barbie movie catered to a specific, passionate audience, influencer campaigns that meticulously address a niche market can yield exceptional results.

The film's focus on under-represented audiences demonstrated that reaching out to previously marginalized segments can generate a wave of appreciation and foster rich loyalty. In influencer marketing, acknowledging and elevating voices that have been overlooked historically can open up new avenues for brand growth and fortify existing ties to minority groups.

The film's achievement prompts a crucial question for marketers: if a campaign results in the loss of certain consumers, did the brand truly want them as customers in the first place? It underscores the importance of authentic, aligned connections with your target audience, even if it means letting go of those who don't fully resonate with your message.

Tokenism is a big No-no

Merely showcasing under-represented communities as part of a tick-box exercise is not just insincere; it’s also detrimental to a brand's image. Consumers are discerning and can see through such disingenuous efforts.

When influencer marketing initiatives lack genuine commitment and connection with the communities they aim to reach, it often ends in disappointment and damaged brand reputation.

Take the example of Bud Light and their recent collaboration with transgender content creator, Dylan Mulvaney. Immediately after the partnership was announced, both Bud Light and Mulvaney began to receive an influx of transphobic comments. The real shock was that following a period of silence from Mulvaney, she posted a TikTok that revealed the brand never publicly defended her and their partnership, or even reached out to her at all.

In the video, Mulvaney says, “For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them, is worse than not hiring a trans person at all,” which sums up the sentiment wholeheartedly. If companies aren’t all in, then don’t bother.

Influencer marketing teams need to be fully invested, championing their creators and ensuring they are completely on their side. It’s much more than hiring a creator here and there; a true diversity strategy will require engaging with expert partners with the knowledge and skillset to authentically engage with minority communities.

“Man-hating” is a strong phrase, but the “Barbie” movie used it to its advantage by unapologetically standing by its product, people and followers. This has helped to catapult the brand to new heights—the film increased Mattel’s third-quarter sales by 16 percent—and even introduced a new way for cinema to move forward.

Alicia Van der Meer is Digital Marketing Manager at Monumental.