Small business box office social media trends
FILE PHOTO: Barbie-themed merchandise is displayed at a mall in Glendale on July 17. REUTERS/Lisa Richwine/File Photo

It is Barbie’s world, and U.S. small businesses hope their social-media marketing can help them cash in on it.

From Malibu makeovers to striped dog bandanas to hot pink cocktails, many small business owners latched on to Barbie-inspired products to get more eyes on their websites and social media accounts as part of the U.S. release of “Barbie,” the movie that’s become a box-office sensation.

Mattel’s iconic doll brand partnered with big companies including Inditex’s Zara, Airbnb and Google to launch licensed merchandise and products.

But as Mattel-licensed Barbie marketing and products flood big companies’ stores, hotel suites and social media posts, small firms also seek to capitalize on the hype.

“Small businesses may look at the Barbie promotions and dream of that kind of budget and mass brand awareness,” said Brianne Fleming, an adjunct marketing instructor at the University of Florida. “But there’s still an opportunity … while everyone is talking about Barbie.”

business box office social media trends
Features on the special “Barbie” menu recently featured at the downtown Grant Grill. Photo credit: Courtesy, U.S. Grant Hotel

As of Thursday, the hashtag Barbie had been used 14.1 million times on Instagram and had 50.5 billion views on TikTok, making it a prime target for small brands searching for more visibility.

Anima Iris, an online retailer based in New York City that sells handmade purses, on Monday launched a 30% off sale for all its pink handbags with Instagram captions including “We’re all about that Barbie Life” and “Hi #barbie. What are you wearing to the #barbiemovie premiere?”

Once the firm saw the excitement around the Barbie movie, it wanted to jump on the opportunity, owner Wilglory Tanjong said. The firm’s post, which features Tanjong using a voiceover from the Barbie movie, is one of the brand’s most-viewed and most liked videos on TikTok.

Stoutridge, a New York-based vineyard and distillery with a weekly email newsletter, blasted out a “spur of the moment” Barbie-inspired hot pink cocktail recipe on Wednesday after only taking an hour to create the drink, said owner Kimberly Wagner.

The cocktail, known as “The Barbie,” is a mixture of Blue Curacao, grenadine syrup and club soda.

MoonFire, an arts boutique based in Dallas, Texas, hosted a Barbie-themed collaboration in person with ten small businesses selling hot-pink Barbie-inspired products. The shops offered free cocktails, flash tattoos and a life-sized Barbie box. Its TikTok video for the event drew more than 100,000 views.

Swag Pup Co, a pet retailer, promoted its Barbie and Ken-themed bandanas for dogs on social media. Owner Mica Garbarino said a “vintage” black-and-white pup outfit sold out within the first few days – faster than her typical pup apparel.

To be sure, even bigger brands without official Barbie licenses are taking advantage of the pink-themed trend.

For instance, the Grant Grill Lounge at the U.S. Grant, part of the Marriott family, in downtown San Diego offered a special menu through Sunday.

It included cocktails like the “Live Your Dream,” made with Patron Silver and Prickly Pear Fruit Puree, snacks like the “Hi Barbie, Hi Ken Sliders” made with Fried Shrimp and Pinkglow Pineapple Slaw, and for dessert, the “Malibu Barbie Milkshake.” 

Swarovski’s Soho location in New York City is now decorated with bubble gum pink walls behind its neon pink swan logo. A search for “Barbie” on the company’s website returns rose-gold jewelry and pink-gemmed rings.

J. Walker Smith, a consultant at research firm Kantar, said that no matter the size of company, it is important to be on-trend. Getting behind the Barbie momentum “is a very good idea.”

“Small businesses are never in a position to create big mega-trends – very large businesses can do that. So, for small businesses, the strategy is to be a quick follower,” he said.

Smith said small brands taking advantage of the Barbie marketing momentum will scoop up more “than just young people” and will grab the “prime marketing target” of women who are in their 30s and 40s.

These women “directly control a disproportionate amount of spending” and they indirectly serve as influencers and gatekeepers to children and teens, according to Smith.

(Reporting by Kailyn Rhone and Arriana McLymore in New York City; Editing by Josie Kao and Nick Zieminski)