Brands - The New Hollywood Stars


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Barbie: This Summer's It-Girl

The Warner Bros. release of Greta Gerwig's “Barbie” movie has caused quite a stir, as Mattel's iconic doll makes her live-action film debut. With a smashing opening weekend box office of $155 million in the USA (the largest of 2023 to date and the largest for a female director!), the audience response showed that filmgoers will turn up for fresh characters and original stories. Millennials have embraced the Barbie fever, showcasing their Barbie-inspired outfits on TikTok with more than 570 million views under the #Barbiecore hashtag.

The buzz around the movie is no accident - Mattel's Barbie division invested a staggering $100 million in marketing this year alone, according to Media Radar, signaling the company's transformation from a toy manufacturer to an intellectual property-focused enterprise. In this blog, Hollywood Branded discusses how brands are capitalizing on brand-based movies and positioning themselves as the stars, tapping into nostalgia and their own IP to drive sales and foster emotional connections with audiences


Rebuilding The Marketing Model

Brands like Mattel are realizing that if they can get people to spend 90 minutes with their IP while watching a movie, it could have a positive effect on sales. The strategic shift was initiated by Ynon Kreiz, Mattel's CEO since 2018. The company faced a challenging period, reporting a significant operating loss due, in part, to the impact of the Toys 'R' Us bankruptcy on its revenue. Kreiz's long-term vision shifted away from retail and towards maximizing the value of Mattel's intellectual property through franchise management. The aim was to breathe new life into their beloved brands, which, in addition to Barbie, include Hot Wheels, Thomas & Friends, and Uno. Their strategy involves translating these brands to the big screen, targeting a new audience, and capturing their imaginations.

"The Barbie movie is a showcase for the cultural resonance of our IP, our ability to attract and collaborate with top creative talent, and the capabilities of our franchise management organization. This also speaks to the potential of Mattel Films and the significant progress of our strategy to capture the full value of our IP,” Kreiz said.

Barbie MerchandisePhoto credit: Mattel

A New Form Of Commercial Content

This approach is not entirely new, as the convergence of storytelling and toy companies has been happening for years. However, with the decline of traditional advertising methods for toys, companies are turning to their own content to establish direct connections with younger audiences who are now spread across various digital platforms.

Moreover, adult nostalgia plays a significant role in driving interest in these movies. By tapping into this sentiment, companies like Mattel can attract a new generation of fans while fostering deeper connections with those who have fond memories of their products.

It's Been Done Before

Creating movies based on existing intellectual property is not without its challenges. Producing feature films with Hollywood stars can be expensive, but companies are finding ways to structure deals to recoup costs and drive product sales.

For example, Build-A-Bear Workshop's “Honey Girls” film led to a significant increase in transaction values, showing the potential for these tie-ins to positively impact sales. And multiple films and television series inspired by Hasbro-owned IP have been produced since the mid-1980s, most notably the "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" film franchises.

Honey Girls

Photo credit: Build-A-Bear Entertainment

From Shoes To Snacks

It's not just toy companies exploring this avenue; even non-toy brands like Nike, Frito-Lay, and Kellogg's are seizing the opportunity to share their stories through movies. As long as there is a genuine love for the brand and a pre-existing story arch, almost any intellectual property can be adapted for the big screen. 

However, not all brand-based movies are destined for success. The key lies in creating compelling characters and engaging stories that resonate with the audience. Hollywood studios also see the benefits of tapping into established brands, as the brands themselves often promote and market the movies, lowering the studios' risks.


Photo credit: Fandango

Enter With Caution (And A Really Solid Script)

While Mattel's “Barbie” movie is poised for great success, other companies must approach this strategy carefully, as a poorly received movie tie-in can have adverse effects. If executed thoughtfully, brand-based movies can elevate a company's IP, strengthen emotional connections with customers, and boost sales.

In conclusion, the rise of brand-based movies is a compelling strategy that resonates with audiences and presents a unique marketing opportunity. As more brands explore this approach, we can expect to see an evolution in how storytelling and intellectual property converge to bring cherished characters and stories to life on the big screen. However, this path requires careful consideration and a genuine connection with the audience to ensure success.

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Eager To Learn More?

Well we have more to tell you! Just click on any of these past blog posts to read more about the power of entertainment partnerships.

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