January 12, 2024
Brian Winterfeldt and Emily Murray

Barbie: The Ongoing Evolution Of An Award-Winning Brand

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Following a drastic downturn in theater attendance during the Covid-19 pandemic, 2023 marked a significant uptick in the cinematic film experience for the first time in several years. At the center of this resurgence was the groundbreaking Barbie film, inspired by the iconic Mattel brand, directed by Greta Gerwig, and starring Margot Robbie as the titular character. Far from being a simple children’s film about a doll and her friends, Barbie brought to the forefront of our global consciousness a broad spectrum of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues and inspired audiences of all ages, genders, and walks of like to reflect on their place in the world. Barbie demonstrated that a woman-helmed film immersed in DEI themes can be immensely profitable, as well: the film grossed over $1.4 billion (USD) globally.

Awards season in the entertainment industry is now upon us, during which various industry associations recognize the prior year’s top achievements from filmmakers, actors, musicians, and others involved in developing the creative works we all enjoy consuming. The 2024 awards season began on January 7, 2024 with the Golden Globes; Barbie received 10 nominations and won two awards, including in the new Cinematic and Box Office Achievement category. Barbie has received four Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominations, and is expected to receive at least several Academy Award (Oscar) nominations when those are released later in January.

The success of Barbie illustrates the immense power of branding that is not only strong at a static moment in time, but that evolves with the needs and expectations of consumers. In a world where most toys are passing fads that fade from popularity after a few short years, Mattel’s proactive attention to the Barbie brand over the course of more than six decades has ensured Barbie’s longevity across generations. The film has further introduced new consumer audiences to the Barbie brand, such as young people who typically prefer digital media to analog toys and adults who may have set Barbie aside since their childhoods.

Barbie has also inspired some of Winterfeldt IP Group’s key industry activities in recent months. We hope you may have been able to join us for the recent INTA Leadership Meeting in Houston, Texas, during which our Founder and Principal, Brian Winterfeldt, moderated a panel on "The Barbie Brand and DEI" with Mattel executives Michael Moore and Kim Culmone. If you registered for the Leadership Meeting but missed the panel, INTA has now made course materials available for the session. World Trademark Review subscribers can also read our recent article, “Barbie’s movie ‘makeover’: the story of an ever-evolving brand,” available at https://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/article/barbies-movie-makeover-the-story-of-ever-evolving-brand. We offer our warmest congratulations to Mattel and to the Barbie filmmakers for your extraordinary achievements, and our most sincere thanks for inspiring us to think about the relationship between trademarks and DEI in new ways!

As trademark and brand protection professionals, we understand that our clients’ long-term success is contingent upon their ability to implement progression in response to consumer trends and expectations, particularly in connection with increasing diversity of the consumer base, while at the same time keeping the original brand qualities distinctive and recognizable. Barbie - both the brand and the film - is a shining example of the thoughtful integration of DEI with a brand’s identity, resulting in increased brand recognition, critical acclaim, and groundbreaking financial success. This success, across so many levels of the creative and business worlds, reminds us that it is always a good time to assess whether our brands are taking steps to remain relevant and competitive. If we may provide support with these assessments, particularly in connection with your 2024 brand protection goals, we would be delighted to collaborate with you.

To learn more about Winterfeldt IP Group's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the legal industry and broader community, please reach out to us at trademarks@winterfeldt.law or to any of the following team members:

Brian Winterfeldt, brian@winterfeldt.law

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