"Barbie" is a stakeholder hit: Mattel reputation data
Corporate Reputation24 Aug, 2023
Whether or not you’ve seen it, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the latest cultural phenomenon that is the Barbie movie. Barbie’s reputation precedes her — after all, she’s been in the business of everything since the start of her expansive career in 1959. Now, Barbie is adding “billion-dollar blockbuster star” to her resume, but it’s the corporate reputation of Mattel (the owner of the Barbie brand) that’s seeing the benefits of her newest venture.
RepTrak measures corporate reputation in near-real time, measuring current public sentiment with data-driven insights. We wanted to see just how much the film is affecting Mattel’s reputation, and how Barbie’s massive marketing campaigns are impacting Brand Scores. What we see will have you thinking pink.
The Barbie movie has been a project in the making since 2009 when Mattel originally made a deal with Universal Pictures. Plans went unfulfilled until July 2019 when it was announced that Greta Gerwig and her partner Noah Baumbach had officially signed on to write Barbie for Warner Bros. starring Margot Robbie.
The public got a first look of the set when photos were released in late June of 2022, showing Barbie and Ken rollerblading around Venice Beach, California. The timing of the photos’ release correlates with a near-6-point jump in Mattel’s Reputation Score, that went from a Strong 71.5 in July to a Stronger 77.4 in August. It’s clear that the public was excited, and Mattel was already reaping the reputational benefits.
The film was set to premiere on July 21, 2023, and over the course of the year Mattel’s reputation had some falls, but consistently rebounded when Barbie movie news broke. The Spring and early Summer months of 2023 saw a steady climb for Mattel’s Reputation. Yet, a slight decline was seen during the release month of the film, their Score dropped 0.9-points from a 75.4 in June to a 74.5 in July.
Before its release, little was known about the plot of the Barbie movie. But now that it’s here (no spoilers, we promise), Mattel’s July dip in Reputation Score could be attributed to how movie-goes are interpreting the toy maker after seeing how it’s portrayed in the film.
Let’s take a closer look at what stakeholders are thinking about Mattel post-premiere.
Jump into the driver's seat and put it into reputation drive.
Reputation Driver and ESG Scores
RepTrak’s insights don’t focus on Reputation alone, our data suite is dynamic for a reason. Building a strong reputation comes from nurturing a variety of reputational elements. Our model breaks down these elements, offering companies hyper-specific data on where they need to focus their efforts to please stakeholders. RepTrak’s Reputation Drivers offer tangible rationale for why people think a certain way about a company.
From June to July, all of Mattel’s Drivers decreased — with the exception of Citizenship. Factors that influence this Driver are: Environmentally Conscious, Positive Influence on Society, and Supports Good Causes.
Compared to 2022, Positive Influence on Society was the only Citizenship Driver Factor that increased over 2023 and is the only Driver Factor at a Strong Score. This Score increased one full point from June to July alone, starting Q3 at a Strong 74.1.
It’s possible that Mattel’s self-referential role in the film is igniting both positive and negative stakeholder reactions. While Mattel’s Reputation Score slightly decreased from June to July, their ESG Scores rose in a similar manner to that of their Citizenship Driver.
Environmental-Social-Governance is a measure of an organization’s specific ethical efforts. Like Drivers, ESG Scores are also broken down into Factors. And in 2023, Mattel's top ESG Factors closely resemble those of Citizenship.
A Time magazine article notes: “there are currently 175 different Barbies, with different combinations of body shapes, skin tones, and hair types.” The film does not shy away from Barbie’s more controversial histories, such as the brand’s lack of diversity. It calls attention to unfavorable opinions of the brand, while at the same time highlighting the work Mattel has done to be more inclusive in its products. The diverse casting of Barbies, Kens, and humans is a big-screen reflection of internal progress for the company — which is clearly resonating with stakeholders as a positive influence.
At RepTrak, we always say that it’s never kenough to just “do the right thing,” you have to communicate those efforts with stakeholders if you want to see reputation improvements. The Barbie movie was an innovative corporate campaign to display just how progressive the brand has become. However, the play on Mattel “suits” and company culture within the film (while it lent itself to the movie), isn’t a very appealing corporate environment.
Stakeholders are having a positive response to what the Barbie brand is putting out there. But Mattel will need to differentiate itself in the “real world” from its Barbie Land portrayal and keep communicating what they’re doing for society.
Remember, Barbie has her own house, car, career, and money.
The aesthetics of the film cater to a playful nostalgic pink-plastic that has transcended the cinema and permeated everything from experiences to consumer goods. This hyper-feminine pink frenzy has culturally been dubbed “barbiecore” — which companies from nearly every industry eagerly embraced.
Brand and Reputation are not synonymous. Brand is the unique promise your company makes, developed from the inside out. Reputation is how you fulfill those promises, developed from the outside in. In addition to Reputation, RepTrak measures Brand, and in 2023, Mattel’s Brand Scores are two points higher amongst women than men.
The movie wasn’t marketed to children, the presumed current users of Barbie products, but rather to adult women. A Forbes article from 2022 reads: “Globally, women drive the majority of consumer spending through a combination of buying power and influence; and in the U.S., they control the majority of wealth.” A McKinsey & Company stat further specifies: “U.S. woman have $11 trillion in assets, a number that is expected to grow to $30 trillion by 2030.”
The Barbie movie prompted a marketing sensation unlike any other — because brands across industries targeted women with Barbie branded (or even Barbie-esque) products. Brand Scores in the U.S. even saw a one-point jump from June to July, similar to Mattel’s ESG and Citizenship boost.
Mattel’s partnerships embraced the power of a woman’s dollar — aligning a plot point of the film and the history of Barbie with real social and economic values that resonate with Mattel’s current stakeholders. Our 2023 Q1 Current Events Data revealed that, globally, 36% of consumers would boycott a company whose actions conflict with their values and beliefs, and 35% regularly buy from a company that does reflects their values and beliefs.
It’s Barbie business if you still in doubt.
Mattel’s CEO has announced plans for the company’s own “MCU” or “Mattel Cinematic Universe.” He’s pointing the company in direction that evolves past traditional childhood play and is focused on creating cultural experiences. We can’t wait to see what the next films will do for Mattel’s reputation, and if other companies will follow suit.
There’s no doubt that in 2023, the business of Barbie is good for Mattel, its brand partners, and stakeholders. In the ever-evolving landscape of reputation, the Barbie movie serves as an innovative and fresh example of how big-screen storytelling can shape public perception of companies. Mattel's reputational ups and downs highlight the complex interplay between corporate identity and stakeholder engagement. As the pink legacy continues, the resonance between Barbie's plastic world and real-world progress underscores the importance of transparent communication and meaningful actions to build a lasting corporate reputation.
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