Did Barbie Mania Reach China?

Barbie Mania China

You wouldn’t believe it, but did you know Barbie Mania has made a grand entrance to China? Like you, we were curious to understand this new fascination that’s taken over the Chinese marketplace.

After reaching $1.2 billion globally at the box office within just a week of its release, Barbie’s popularity is clearly skyrocketing. But is it also true for the Chinese market? Let’s take a look!

Key Takeaways

  • Barbie mania has made a significant impact in China, with searches and purchases of Barbie-related products increasing significantly.
  • The success of the Barbie movie at the box office in China has contributed to the popularity of Barbie.
  • Chinese netizens have mixed opinions about Barbie’s influence, with some seeing feminist undertones and empowerment, while others view it as perpetuating gender stereotypes.
  • Barbie has capitalized on feminism and gender equality movements to drive sales in China through collaborations with local brands and influencers.

Is Barbie Movie a Big Thing also in China?

Barbie doll was never a big trend in China, as the country has its own toys and own culturally significant icons. Yet, to the surprise of the movie makers and China watchers, the movie exceeded everyones expectations.

Chinese females rushed to the movie theatres to watch the movie that celebrates women’s rights and ‘she economy’, and the Barbie-mania also arrived in China, with girls looking for pink, Barbie-inspired outfits on Taobao.

This success did not come fast, though. At first, people in China were slow to watch this movie. But by the second weekend, things changed. More and more folks came to see Barbie on screen.

Her appeal was just too strong!

Barbie Mania China
Source: NY Times

Limited movie availability didn’t stop Chinese women

Contrary to expectations, the “Barbie” movie is making waves in China. Despite it being an American film at a time when Hollywood’s appeal in China is waning, and its feminist undertones in a region where women’s rights are under scrutiny, this movie found its niche.

Its uniqueness stands out. Although it occupied a mere 2.4% of the country’s screenings on day one, its prominence grew exponentially. The buzz about “Barbie” was palpable on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, and it boasts a stellar 8.3 rating on Douban, outshining other live-action movies. Within a week, theaters increased showtimes nearly fourfold, indicating its unexpected popularity.

Increase in searches and purchases of Barbie-related products

The “Barbie” movie phenomenon is not just limited to the big screen; it’s influencing fashion trends globally. There’s been an astounding 7,900% rise in “Barbiecore” searches, as per Google trends.

In China, where Barbie isn’t typically mainstream, this wave is clearly visible. On Xiaohongshu, the hashtag “Wearing pink today” saw over 8.38 million views. Movie-goers are sharing photos of themselves in pink Barbiecore attire. This style surge isn’t fleeting either; it’s swiftly replacing the “dopamine dressing” trend. Taobao data reflects this, showing a 760% rise in Barbie-related searches in just five days.

Notably, “Barbiecore outfits” searches skyrocketed by 1,146%. Official Barbie merch wasn’t left behind, surging over 800%. And in a blend of tradition and trend, pink cheongsams, the Chinese classic, are now in vogue, showcasing China’s unique take on Barbiecore.

Barbie Mania China
Source: Jing Daily

Influence of the rising ‘she economy’

China’s “she economy” is big and it’s getting bigger fast. More women are spending money. They want brands that speak to them. The Barbie movie did just this. It was a hit, even though people in China don’t care much for Hollywood anymore.

We see more Chinese women buying Barbie stuff now. Prizes, clothes, you name it! We think they like how Barbie does not say sorry for her pink look or personality. She upholds American values which many find cool.

There are also not many movies speaking about women’s rights in China, so it’s no coincidence that Chinese women rushed to the cinema to finally find something that resonates with their values and problems.

Yet some question the way Hollywood sweet talks China through its films like the recent map scene in the Barbie movie.

Social and Cultural Impact

Chinese netizens are divided on whether to embrace Barbie’s influence, with some seeing feminist undertones and empowerment, while others view it as perpetuating gender stereotypes.

Divide among Chinese netizens on whether to consume or not

There is a divide among Chinese netizens regarding whether or not to consume products associated with Barbie Mania in China. This debate centers around the social and cultural impact of Barbie and its significance in Chinese society.

Some netizens believe that consuming Barbie products is important for various reasons, such as promoting gender equality and empowering women. They argue that Barbie can be seen as a symbol of feminism and progress.

However, there are also skeptical netizens who question the values promoted by Barbie and its influence on body image and consumerism. These differing viewpoints reflect the complex nature of the issue surrounding the consumption of Barbie products in China.

Barbie Mania China
Source: NY Times

Feminist undertones and empowerment

The Barbie movie released in China has sparked discussions about patriarchy and feminism in the country. Despite women’s rights and political representation backsliding in China, the film has been described as feminist.

It explores themes of female empowerment and critiques of the patriarchy, making it a significant movie for gender equality. Chinese fans have praised the movie for its representation of women on screen and its focus on gender equality.

Barbie, once just a beloved doll, has now become a feminist icon, reshaping societal narratives on women’s roles. This shift is reflected in how people perceive Barbie not only as a toy but also as an embodiment of empowerment for girls everywhere.

The “Barbie” movie has ignited a unique dialogue on women’s empowerment in China, providing a glimmer of hope to Chinese feminists. Lately, China has seen the arrest of feminist activists, an official push towards conventional gender roles, and the dismissal of significant sexual harassment cases. While state media paints feminism as a potential Western tactic against China, social platforms seem to have a biased stance, censoring male-directed insults but permitting derogatory remarks about women.

Barbie Mania China
Source: NBC News

Influence on fashion trends and consumer behavior

Barbie Mania in China has had a significant influence on fashion trends and consumer behavior. The rise of Barbiecore and Kencore, fashion trends inspired by Barbie and Ken dolls, is proof of how these iconic toys have shaped the way people dress.

Collaborations between Barbie and popular brands have also contributed to this influence, creating a demand for Barbie-themed clothing and accessories. Chinese consumers, especially young fashionistas, are showing an increasing interest in subculture fashions influenced by Barbie.

This trend not only reflects changing consumer preferences but also indicates the growing impact of subcultures on mainstream fashion.

The Marketing Storm

Barbie has capitalized on feminism and gender equality movements to drive sales in China, collaborating with local brands and influencers and employing targeted marketing strategies.

Profiting from feminism and gender equality movements

Some argue that Barbie has become a feminist icon, while others criticize the doll for perpetuating outdated gender norms and unrealistic body image. Despite this divide, the film has gained popularity in China, satisfying a desire for better female representation and gender equality on screen.

By understanding these trends and consumer sentiments, we can find ways to align our marketing strategies with these movements and capture the attention of Chinese consumers who are seeking more inclusive and empowering content.

Barbie Mania China
Source: Jing Daily

Collaborations with Chinese brands and influencers

We have noticed that Barbie has been collaborating with several Chinese brands and influencers to enhance its presence in the market. Here are some important collaborations to note:

  1. Collaborations with famous Chinese fashion brands like Gucci and Fendi, creating limited edition Barbie dolls wearing their iconic designs.
  2. Partnering with popular Chinese beauty influencers to promote Barbie-themed makeup lines, attracting a large following of young consumers.
  3. Collaborations with renowned Chinese toy manufacturers, such as Haier Brothers and Pop Mart, to create special edition Barbie dolls exclusively for the Chinese market.
  4. Working with influential celebrities like Yang Mi and Li Bingbing, who have endorsed Barbie products through social media campaigns and appearances at high-profile events.
  5. Creating partnerships with online shopping platforms like Tmall and JD.com, offering exclusive deals and discounts on Barbie products during special promotions.
Barbie Mania China

In fact, Mattel’s journey with Barbie in China hasn’t always been smooth. In 2009, they launched a grand six-story flagship Barbie store in Shanghai, boasting over 1,600 dolls. Yet, within two years, it shut down.

Even with dolls mirroring iconic Chinese figures like actress Fan Bingbing and ballet dancer Tan Yuanyuan, Barbie’s brand couldn’t connect with the locals, as they lacked the nostalgic bond with the cartoon or the toys that Western audiences had.

So maybe this time, thanks to the Barbie movie and the buzz around it, thanks to its feminism thematic, the Barbie will finally get to the hearts of Chinese consumers.

Strategies to target Chinese consumers

To successfully target Chinese consumers, there are several strategies that can be implemented:

  • Understand the Chinese consumer market: Research and analyze the preferences, needs, and behaviors of Chinese consumers to tailor marketing efforts effectively. This is what Mattel did right, trying to place Barbie in Chinese culture, yet, it never caught on before.
  • Localize marketing campaigns: Adapt marketing messages, visuals, and language to resonate with Chinese consumers. Consider cultural references, local traditions, and values to make the brand relatable.
  • Leverage social media platforms: Engage with Chinese consumers through popular social media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin. Create engaging content and collaborate with influencers to increase brand visibility.
  • Capitalize on partnerships: Collaborate with popular Chinese brands or influencers to tap into their existing customer base and gain credibility in the market. This can help create a positive association with the brand.
  • Emphasize quality and safety: Highlight the quality and safety standards of Barbie products to gain trust among Chinese consumers who prioritize these factors when making purchasing decisions.

When it comes to Barbie, now it’s too early to say, but we are indeed very curious about the long-term impact the movie made on the sales and recognition of the iconic doll in China.


Barbie Mania has definitely reached China, as evident from the increased searches and purchases of Barbie-related products and the box office success of the Barbie movie. The rising ‘she economy’ has also played a significant role in fueling this phenomenon.

However, there is a divide among Chinese netizens on whether to embrace or reject Barbie’s influence, with some seeing it as empowering and others questioning its impact on gender equality.

Regardless, the marketing storm surrounding Barbie in China shows how Mattel has successfully tapped into feminist movements and collaborated strategically with local brands and influencers to target Chinese consumers.

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