The "Governor Barbie" campaign, launched by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, was more than just an innovative approach to brand building, but a significant step toward redefining and challenging stereotypes associated with female politicians. The objective was to leverage the social media traction Barbie was gaining around the release of Greta Gerwig’s movie while reshaping the narrative surrounding the image of female leaders. This was accomplished by dressing up a Barbie doll to resemble Governor Whitmer and having “Governor Barbie” take the helm as Michigan's leader for a day through engaging content across platforms like Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Threads, and Facebook.
Recognizing the dual nature of Barbie's representation in society, from its early days marked by sexist clichés to its contemporary roles like a robotics engineer and presidential candidate, the Whitmer team utilized the doll as an emblematic tool to rewrite perceptions about women in power. While associating a female politician with a toy that was once seen as a symbol of limiting stereotypes carried inherent risks, the campaign was designed as a clarion call to women and young girls everywhere: to underscore that they didn't have to fit into any predefined mold to lead. It aimed to inspire and embolden young women to chart their own unique paths, reassuring them that being true to oneself is the key to real success. "Governor Barbie" became more than just a fleeting trend; it symbolized a larger movement advocating for the breaking of stereotypes and the celebration of individuality and authenticity in our government.
“Governor Barbie” represented a tongue-in-cheek approach to governing that sought to juxtapose the seriousness of political action with a playful and popular cultural icon, making the political process more accessible and memorable to the public. This innovative form of communication helped draw attention to the Governor’s agenda, using Barbie to spotlight her major legislative initiatives such as the education bill signed into law that week or her efforts to ensure Michigan is #1 in developing electric cars.
Lastly, the campaign had a strong subtext of challenging societal norms for women in leadership. Whitmer is known for her unique, fuchsia-dominated wardrobe that flies in the face of the conservative "dark suit, white top" convention for women. The “Governor Barbie” content embraced this defiance of norms, using the hot-pink suit-wearing Barbie as an icon who is unapologetically feminine and fiercely committed to her work.
“The hype around the Barbie movie and the broader cultural moment tapped into the same embrace of femininity and power that Governor Whitmer has owned from day one. We took the moment and ran a social media campaign to show “Lil Gretch” doing what girls do best: lead. The photography and strategy was aimed at capturing some of the governor’s greatest accomplishments as well, like fixing the damn roads, and being an inclusive state for all people. By combining these visuals with policy achievements, the cultural moment and a dynamic principal, we were able to reach millions of people and inspire them to embrace their own power.” - Julia Pickett, Digital & Creative Director
Massive Social Media Numbers
“Governor Barbie” blew our expectations away, dominating in organic social media and earned media. The content is the highest-performing social media for Governor Whitmer over the last two years with the top posts on sites like Instagram producing a 39% lift over a typical post.
The social media numbers were staggering for the one-day campaign:
A sentiment analysis conducted by Governor Whitmer’s team deemed that the results were overwhelmingly positive.
Excellence in Earned Media
One estimate of the earned media value of the “Governor Barbe” campaign developed for the Whitmer team determined the value to be well over the $500,000 mark, given the time it was allotted in major publications such as the New York Times and Fox News.