Bigger Than the Box Office: The Rise of Minions Marketing

What was it about this launch that had brands and moviegoers alike wanting to join the Minions mania?

Recently, you may have noticed that there has been yellow as far as the eye can see and suits in every cinema. Minions, Minions everywhere. It’s been a minute since we’ve seen a cinematic success of this magnitude and a marketing bonanza of equally epic proportion.

Mega marketing budgets and expansive (almost endless) partnerships are often part of the launch strategy for major theatrical releases, but this one felt a little different. A little bigger. A little more like a cultural tidal wave than a promotion for two hours of animated delight.

What was it about this launch, and this film, that had brands and moviegoers alike wanting to join the Minions mania?

Bigger than the box office

Ladies and GentleMinions, welcome to pop culture icon status. The Minions have caught the attention and affection of what seems like just about everyone.

It’s a franchise that continues to create lovable hits with no sign of stopping, with sustained fandom for kids and kids at heart and experiences well beyond the silver screen. It evokes memories for older generations and forms brand new ones for first-time viewers.

It’s a simple, pure, authentic kind of smile-inducing giddiness that brands spend as many dollars as they do years trying to cultivate and foster. This is why it is no surprise that brands from every category were eager to be a part of this latest installment of the Minions franchise.

Partnership marketing is fundamentally about affiliation. And without knowing where the box office numbers would land, brands knew that partnering with this movie affiliated them with all the joyful attributes and feel-good emotional benefits that come with it.

Ubiquity is a strategy when your goal is pop culture domination

If you have more awareness than you could ever buy, a popular if not wildly beloved IP and no shortage of interest in going to see the movie as indicated by the social sphere, why paint the proverbial town yellow and go bananas on partnerships?

In marketing, we know that you cannot be everything to everyone. It’s the guiding principle that ushered in the age of personalization, hyper-targeted ads, deeper segmentation and dismissed the one-size-fits-all approach.

But when you really do appeal to everyone, how do you ensure you’re authentically speaking to each audience and building equity for the franchise in a way that is brand-right and fan-first? You bring in partners who speak to that audience the best way they know how and, together, you create a co-branded ecosystem that shines.

And in this case, we saw exactly that. Any franchise that can pull off a Bathing Ape collaboration, a co-branded ZipRecruiter spot and stacks of IHOP pancakes deserves to take a bow.

Typically, the spectrum of high-end to high-access brands would dilute or discredit one partnership over another, or the campaign would appear to be lacking a partnership strategy. But in this case, the beauty in ubiquity is that everyone was invited to the celebration because the party was truer to form with everyone joining in their own way.

This doesn’t mean partnering with everyone. Don’t forgo brand standards. But it does mean opening the aperture when the goal is to blanket the market and take over the world—and say it with the conviction of Gru! The strategy here feels so clean and so clear for the movie, the franchise at large and the partners that opted to be a part of this wave of Minions mania.

One size doesn’t fit all, so right-sizing the partnership strategy to ensure all applicable audiences are captured comes down to understanding how each opportunity and tactic super-serves the highest goal. In this case, go big, get creative, be authentic and show up everywhere a Minions fan may be.

A well-orchestrated NBCU symphony

NBCUniversal tapped into its internal partners in a big way and was not shy to activate across its diverse set of platforms and programs. Integration into American Ninja Warrior, a remake of The Office opening credits and lighting up 30 Rock in all yellow barely scratches the surface.

NBCU went all in to promote the upcoming release in what was a masterful effort by their Symphony team. Each and every custom integration felt undeniably on brand—nothing forced, nothing sponsored, nothing dripping in round-peg-square-hole quicksand, but genuine creative due diligence to preserve the integrity of the IP and create harmonious content.

Why is this so important? Because it protects the brand. It’s when integration transcends commercialization, even though we all know this is meant to sell us.

The expert execution across NBCU properties in the lead-up to opening weekend demonstrates that you can produce clever, creative, cross-promotional content and garner the reach and scale that comes from being able to leverage portfolio platforms ranging from Peacock to NBC to Bravo.

Which came first, the internet or marketing?

A little over two weeks since its opening, Minions: The Rise of Gru has grossed $400 million globally and is still climbing. Much of the buzz around the opening weekend came from TikTok and the GentleMinions, something akin to a Rocky Horror Picture Show interactive theater-going experience for the Gen Z fan.

It’s a sign of longevity that comes from a combination of deep fandom and a thoughtful strategy immersing the franchise in the pop culture zeitgeist, including an all-encompassing partnership strategy that puts the brand everywhere a potential fan may be.

Marketing isn’t a zero-sum game. There is no one right way to do it. You can have a successful partnerships strategy and have trendy social media buzz. Those two things can both coexist without diminishing the other because they are not in competition with one another. They’re two sides of the same brand love coin expressed in different ways.

So, what can we credit the success of this Minions Marketing masterpiece to? Demand generation by way of mass celebration. Not so evil, but altogether genius.