What can we learn from Barbie and Taylor?

By Victor Torregroza

We crave special face-to-face experiences, now more than ever. 

Now that COVID is part of our lives, we’ve become more selective of how we spend our time and with whom.  Time is more precious than ever.  We accept the necessary complexities of travel such as queues and tight spaces.    Once arriving at our destination, we want seamless experiences and joyful, high-quality face-to-face interactions. 

It’s amazing that 2 powerful icons brought humans all over the world roaring back to movie theaters and stadiums all around the world—Barbie and Taylor Swift.

Barbie drew millions of people to movie theaters generating over $1B and bringing pink joy to fans all around the world.  Mattel reignited the dormant nostalgia of a beloved childhood icon, bringing Barbie to new fans.

During COVID, we didn’t know if movie theaters would survive.  They are. 

The movie roll-out dipped its experiential toe in plastic Pink—simple, bold, and a standout symbol of Barbie.  The plastic pink-themed movie roll-out generated tons of social media attention and pink-hued memorable moments, stirring anticipation and buzz for the film.  At one point during the making of the film, they almost wiped out an entire company’s stockpile of that particular pink hue.  But they stayed on theme, integrating plastic Pink as an eye-catching anchor for the roll-out. 

And then there’s Taylor.  Taylor Swift singlehandedly ignited the return to colosseums and stadiums all around the world.  She packed stadiums with a very different approach than Maximus Decimus Meridius. 

Her Eras tour pulled on nostalgic, musical heart strings, generating emotional highs and everlasting memories. She reportedly gave  $100,000 bonuses to the truck drivers who transported her important concert equipment across the U.S. totaling about $5 million. As exhibitors, we all appreciate that our careers are in those trailers!  This act by Taylor underscores the importance of our partnerships with our carriers, services providers and exhibit agencies.  

Taylor cast a spell on me and I became a Swiftie, downloading my first Taylor Swift album, Midnights.  

We crave joyful, special, face-to-face experiences, no matter how large or small—quality counts. 

What can we learn from Barbie and Taylor?  Here are my thoughts. 

  1. Put on a Bold Red Lip – Yes!  Embrace Innovation and make a standout presence!  The last few years as a hobbit, (but on my bicycle as much as possible break the monotony of the desk) taught me how precious life and time are.  In my marketing projects,  I strive to provide a valuable business experience—ensure our guests’ business goals are achieved as well as ours.  I also pay extra attention to providing a joyful, memorable experience.   Once we’ve completed the business of the experience, pay equal attention and care to designing what they’ll experience as a mother, a father, a brother, uncle, aunt, sister, godmother—-a HUMAN BEING.  At a recent tradeshow, we used music to showcase new technologies, talent and to share joyful experiences, still rooted in technology and business.

  2. Consider Nostalgia – If it applies to your brand or business, refresh an old favorite forward.  It can pertain to your brand, culture, geography.  I’m a fan of musical experiences tied to tech.

  3. Basic etiquette matters more today than ever – Barbie and Taylor are kind and embrace their fans with a good nature, smiles and love.  As we venture back into society, our etiquette muscles are rusty, underutilized from the Ctrl-Alt-Delete God put upon us during the COVID years.  Now that we’re out and about, consider basic etiquette to improve our social experiences.  Put down that illuminated screen when you’re crossing the street, in the store, or just out.  Enjoy the world around you.  I noticed this especially at a recent show; throngs of people, crooked heads looking down at a piece of glass, marching forward slowly ignoring the experiences and people all around them.  As exhibitors we should keep those smart devices in our pockets, invest in simple etiquette training—listening, eye contact, introductions, and the business of qualifying your guest to ensure you deliver on the business solution they’re looking for.
    • Put the smart glass in your pocket
    • Smile
    • Listen
    • Engage
    • Don’t Multi-task!

  4. Anchor your experience with one bold visual idea – Like Barbie with Pink and Taylor with her iconic Eras tour stage design or wardrobe, conceive a single bold idea or visual to stand out for people to engage with and take those glass devices out of their pockets to snap a memory.  We did this at a recent event, anchoring our exhibit around a park, with a tree of innovation and customer stories.

There is no rule book for what we’re going through now in the face-to-face industry.  We’re writing new methods now.  It’s exciting to be back in the wild, wild west of face-to-face marketing! 

Let’s go!