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Why Barbie's selfie generator is going crazy viral

Why Barbie's selfie generator is going crazy viral

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The new Barbie movie by Greta Gerwig is arguably a Millennial's dream come true. Starring Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, the film has been making waves on the Internet ahead of its release on 21 July 2023 particularly as a new trailer and set of posters launched for the movie. 

Alongside the new promotional content for the film, the Barbie team has also released a selfie generator that gives fans the opportunity to insert pictures of themselves straight into Barbie Land. An AI generator will automatically remove your photo's background for you and then you can adjust the placement of the photo, the color of your sparkly background and the tagline that is shown above the photo. 

Since its release, fans have been taking to social media to share their own personalised Barbie posters and much in the same way that Bondee went viral when people began sharing avatars of themselves on socials, the movie has also been gaining popularity with the influx of user generated content.  

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This is particularly notable because last year, when news of the movie began circulating, netizens were quick to critisise the film of its casting choices and commenting how potentially cringy it might be.

The tide seems to have turned now that we have seen so much more of the upcoming movie in part also because Barbie is a timeless brand that resonates across all age groups and audiences, said Kimberley Olsen, the co-founder of Yatta Workshop in a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE. 

"Whether you’ve owned one, bought one for a friend, or even watched your sister obsess over them as a kid, everyone has a Barbie memory. People have already been sharing leaks of the Barbie movie set and cast since last summer, so people have been hyping themselves up for more details. If you ask me the movie sells itself because of the Barbie name," said Olsen.

True enough, according to media intelligence company CARMA, conversations on social media about Barbieland have peaked since the launch of its latest teaser this week. Sentiments remain positive at 31.6%, with only 4.3% of comments being negative. The Barbie selfie generator also saw a huge spike in usage and volume since its release, with conversations being overwhelmingly positive at 67.2%, said a CARMA spokesperson. Social listening company Meltwater added that it saw a 23350% increase in mentions this week.

"Netizens love the selfie generator, with comments such as 'I’m having too much fun with the Barbie Selfie generator. More movies need marketing stuff like this.' And 'Um the #Barbie selfie generator has no business being this fun'," noted CARMA.

The meme-ish nature is what's driving virality

One key reason why the posters are working so well is due to its meme-ish nature, explained Mark Lee, the co-founder of Fishermen Integrated. Emphasising that perfection is not the goal here, Lee noted that what matters in terms of the virality of this marketing activation by Barbie is mainly that it is fun to do and fun to share. He said:

The UGC posters are the ones which are gaining a lot traction as its very meme-ish in design and it has witty lines which people can just take and modify to their use.

Rudy La Faber, creative director, Mediabrands Content Studio (MBCS) agreed with Lee, and said that in terms of going viral, this is classic meme format which is driving the uptake. It has a simple image with text slapped on.

“Most importantly, it’s easy to recreate, because who cares if it doesn’t look perfect? The simpler it is to participate in something, the more likely people are going to want to give it a go,” Faber said.

Adding on, Jude Foo, the general manager and partner at Nine:TwentyEight noted that the posters might be going viral simply because it doesn’t look that polished. "So, it’s believable that it was actually created by the one sharing it," he said.

He continued by saying that the Barbie brand might also resonate with a slightly older target audience group as they grew up with the brand. "So, the visuals do represent what Barbie was like for them when they were young," he said before noting that this is the same reason why people like retro-themed nights and throwback events. 

The play for nostalgia

While the posters are not of the highest quality in aesthetics, there are a few "holy grail" themes when it comes to getting your content to stick or to go viral on social media which the Barbie team is clearly tapping on, said Olsen. In this instance, nostalgia plays a key role. She said,

People love nostalgia, and there’s no better example than Barbie.

Nostalgia instantly takes people back to positive memories of their childhood.  "In this case, the feeling of owning the latest Barbie and for some, how it created a positive impact while growing up," she said. She continued by saying that the team, by releasing Barbie imagery for the movie and feeding fans with high profile cast members with different personalities and characteristics and then immediately releasing the selfie generator the next day helped to maintain the hype. 

"Timing is key when it comes to maintaining the hype of a trending topic, and they know what their audience wants. I mean who wouldn’t want to try turning themselves into a Barbie? It just takes one person to twist the concept into something funny and relatable, and then the ripple effect happens, and everyone wants one of their own," she said.

Adding on, Dorothy Fong, the founder and CEO of IDOTYOU suggested building on the momentum of the selfie generators by considering building AR filters directly into social media platforms such as IG Reels and TikTok to create funny and interesting UGC videos that can be stitched together to create more branded content for the movie.  "I would say, if they can cleverly use these UGC content and turn it into a Barbie movie trailer that will be very interesting," she added.

Content 360 is back on 10-11 May 2023 in Singapore. A hugely popular event over the years, Content 360 brings the most influential content creators to inspire you. Across two days, you can connect with 300+ brightest minds in the industry and learn how to overcome challenges to make your content stand out among the crowd. Tickets are on sale now, register today:

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