Barbie-mania Colors Chinese Wardrobes Pink As Movie-Related Searches Spike On Alibaba

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Barbie-mania Colors Chinese Wardrobes Pink As Movie-Related Searches Spike On Alibaba

  • Searches for “Barbie-style outfits” leap 1,146% on Alibaba’s Taobao

  • Searchers are mostly women, people born after 2000

Photo credit: Warner Brothers

Standing just 11.5 inches tall, Barbie is taking markets by storm.

Sweeping across the globe on a wave of social memes and sell-out shows, “Barbie The Movie” has become not just a box-office juggernaut but a hot retail trend.

Movie-goers in China have poured out of theatres and scoured Alibaba Group’s e-commerce platforms, the largest retail commerce business worldwide, for the iconic doll and her signature pink outfits.  

The average daily Barbie-related search volume on Alibaba’s Taobao app leaped by over 760% between the movie’s release on July 21 and July 26 compared with the previous week. Among the phrases typed into Taobao’s search bar, “Barbie-style outfits” soared 1,146% over the same time frame.

First introduced by Californian toy company Mattel in 1959, Barbie has since become a global brand. Greta Gerwig’s movie, based on the Mattel icon starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, crossed $350 million in U.S. receipts on Sunday.

Barbie doll sales on Taobao jumped in lock-step with the movie’s success. Since the film was released, the daily average volume of people entering the official Tmall Barbie flagship store has swollen by more than 400%, and sales have nearly doubled.

Chinese consumers snapped up Barbie-themed products ranging from camisoles, skirts to dresses, with a total increase of over 350% in the volume of searches. Pink cheongsams, close-fitting and high-necked dresses, also performed well on Taobao as shoppers sought a local traditional twist on the Barbie theme.

Pink Cheongsam Gains Populatity On Barbie Movie
Pink cheongsams are a popular local twist on Barbiecore. Photo credit: Alibaba Group

According to Taobao’s data, the average daily search volume for “Barbie-style suits” alone increased by over 300% between the movie’s release and July 26.

Hunts for official Barbie collaborations soared by over 800%. Mattel regularly teams up with top designers to create a Barbie, Oscar de la Renta being the first in 1985 and, more recently, Chinese couturier Guo Pei partnered on the 2023 Barbie Lunar New Year Doll.

Barbie is the Keyword

Advertisers keep a close eye on keywords most relevant to their businesses so they can place adverts and run campaigns promptly and efficiently. Changes in search volumes associated with keyword phrases, such as “Barbie style,” can signal a shift in consumer sentiment and fashion.

Taobao furnishes merchants with insights into the national zeitgeist so they can hop on trends as they appear. Entertainment has long proved a trigger for shaping prevailing tastes: merchandise sales associated with the 2019 movie “The Wandering Earth”, China’s fifth highest-grossing film of all time, generated over RMB100 million ($13.99 million) on Taobao, while sales of the classic Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” was widely searched on Taobao in the wake of the 2023 Chinese TV drama “The Knockout”.

Taobao, China’s largest digital retail platform, in terms of gross merchandise value for the twelve months ended March 31 per researcher Analysys, said 87.87% of the searchers on its platform for “Barbie style” were women.

Cultural excitement generated by the movie shows that Barbie has become a cross-generational touchstone.   

Taobao could put numbers on the idea. In terms of age, the Barbie fans were mostly people born after the year 2000, followed by the cohort born between 1995 and before 2000.

Taobao, which means “search for treasure” in Chinese, said demand for Barbie merchandise, from rose-pink slippers to delicate earphone cases, signaled a “change in national sentiment”.

The marketplace identified a shift from the “lazy style” of casual wear that became popular during pandemic-induced lockdowns, to the more effervescent and happy mood created by Barbie’s favored hot pink.

Sustainable Barbie

In the six days after Barbie made the biggest opening for a movie based on a toy anywhere, the number of searches for “Barbie” on Alibaba’s used-good marketplace Xianyu, also known as Idle Fish, rocketed 682%. Barbies of over 50 occupations suddenly became popular on the consumer-to-consumer platform.

Many searches for pink suits, dresses, roller skates and other accessories on Xianyu included the string “the same style as the movie”.

There are over 50 Barbie models for sale on Xianyu, including doctors, astronauts, firefighters and athletes. Photo credit: Alibaba Group

Outfitted with career paraphernalia, the doll has become a model for financial self-sufficiency worldwide. Barbie’s CV includes airline pilot, astronaut, doctor, Olympic athlete, and a US presidential candidate.

During the movie, Helen Mirren as the narrator says: “Because Barbie can be anything. Women can be anything.” It seems women in China are taking the message to heart.

Since the movie’s release, Barbies dressed as professionals have become more popular than the classic Barbie model (stereotypical Barbie in the movie). The most popular role model is the astronaut Barbie doll, with up to 2,000 netizens marking the pioneering model ‘want’ in one day.

Discover what else is trending among Chinese consumers

Chinese ConsumersConsumer Trendsmovies
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