What Franchise Marketers Can Learn From Barbenheimer

Barbenheimer marketing

Barbie Movie Buzz and Oppenheimer Madness Prove That Out-of-the-Box Marketing Strategies Work

First there was Bennifer and then there was Brangelina, but who would have predicted that today’s hottest name-blended super couple would be inspired by Mattel’s beloved Barbie doll and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer? Barbenheimer even has its own extensive Wikipedia page. The rise of Barbenheimer came fast and furious in anticipation of the releases of two summer blockbuster films: Barbie and Oppenheimer. So what’s driving this hyped-up social media craze? Clever marketing and fresh content have a lot to do with it, says Associated Press. 

Of course, creativity sparks more creativity. Videos, memes, and more have been created and AI-generated to celebrate both movies. This free publicity supercharges excitement and sends people to the movies in droves, something we haven’t seen in a while. The cover image above, for example, is a screenshot from an AI-generated Barbenheimer trailer created by Curious Refuge. The company is leveraging Barbenheimer buzz to show off what it can do, and at the same time, it’s promoting the movie — a win-win for all.

But the real winner in all this Barbenheimer craze is the box office. The pandemic took a major hit on the movie industry, and while it has slowly been recovering, Barbenheimer gave it a huge push. According to CNBC, Barbie and Oppenheimer generated a combined $244.5 million during their first three days in theaters — $162 million for Barbie and $82.5 million for Oppenheimer. The Barbie movie, in particular, is poised to set box office records thanks to its fun vibe, female empowerment themes, timeless popularity and out-of-the-box marketing.

But this level of marketing genius doesn’t have to be limited to blockbuster movies. Franchisors can use these same tactics to create excitement around their brands. Here’s how Barbenheimer got attention:

Making it Personal and Fun: Barbie’s Selfie Generator

Franchise brands can take advantage of a whole new world of creativity with AI, just like the Barbie movie did. Warner Bros created an AI-based Barbie selfie generator that went viral. What Barbie fan wouldn’t want a personalized movie poster with a sparkly blue or pink backdrop? According to marketingdive.com, the interactive barbieselfie.ai filter has been used over 13 million times since its April third release. 

With Barbie’s selfie generator, fans can make movie posters of themselves like these. Photo: Warner Bros.

Barbie fans everywhere had a blast creating personalized Barbie posters, but more importantly, they also helped promote the movie. The generator has been used to create countless memes, fueling Barbie buzz everywhere. 

Sparking Curiosity: Oppenheimer’s Countdown

Everyone loves surprises, and franchises can entice fans by keeping them guessing. Oppenheimer used an element of surprise with its trailer release and a well-executed marketing plan. This involved a live announcement on Twitter and a live video on YouTube, complemented by a countdown leading up to the trailer launch. This approach perfectly synced with the movie’s theme – the real-life atomic bomb testing storyline. According to Screenrant.com, the end of the countdown occurred at the exact time and anniversary of the first explosion of an atomic bomb (the Trinity test on July 16, 1945).

Once the countdown ended, Universal Studios went the extra mile to treat fans to even more excitement. They released longer trailers that introduced the cast members and gave a glimpse of the film’s overall tone, sparking further Oppenheimer madness.  

Photo credit: Universal Studios

Building Partnerships: Pinkberry, Burger King and More

Strategic partnerships can create win-win relationships for both franchisors and movie promoters. Franchise brands, including Pinkberry and Burger King, have spread the fun with special pink and sparkly Barbie-themed menu items. Hotel chains also got in on the action with over-the-top themed hotel rooms and suites. The Barbie marketing team went all-out on partnerships with countless collaborations in practically every industry, from clothing and food, to accessories and more. 

Creating FOMO: A Masterclass in Marketing

No one wants to feel like they are missing out, and marketers can use that fact to their advantage. Franchises can leverage FOMO marketing to entice customers and attract franchisee candidates. Barbenheimer did a masterful job of creating FOMO to sell movie tickets. According to a CNBC article, Barbenheimer’s record sales were fueled by a sense of urgency, which the box office has been lacking in recent months. “The historic box office combination of Barbie and Oppenheimer arrived at a time when even the most dependable franchise movies have failed to lure in audiences,” says Sarah Whitten of CNBC.

Barbenheimer Marketing and Beyond

If technology and creativity can turn two separate movies into one, super-charged, over-hyped name-blended super-couple, imagine what they can do for one franchise brand. Barbenheimer proves that the possibilities are endless for marketers in every industry.

Cover photo screenshot: Curious Refuge

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Jill Abrahamsen’s career spans more than 25 years in editorial, design, and marketing roles. As the editorial director of IFPG, she serves as editor-in-chief of Franchise Consultant Magazine and FranchiseWire. Through both platforms, Jill helps franchisors spread the word about their brands and reports on the latest franchise news and trends. A skilled storyteller, Jill communicates franchisor’s messages through feature articles and franchisee interviews.

Jill is an accomplished writer, editor and graphic designer. Her extensive experience includes key roles with major consumer publications, including Boating, Popular Photography, and Design NJ magazines. As founding editor-in-chief of Franchise Dictionary magazine, Jill developed her passion and fascination for franchising which continues to grow in her role at IFPG.
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