Culture Clash: How Barbenheimer Became A Marketer’s Dream

Culture Clash: How Barbenheimer Became A Marketer’s Dream

Few of us like conflict, and if you’re British like me you’ll probably avoid it at all costs. When it comes to marketing, however, a conflict can spell big bucks for everyone involved – and with Barbie alone topping $1 US billion in sales, Barbenheimer might be the most profitable conflict of recent times. 

Back in 1995, cult bands Oasis and Blur made history when they both released singles on the same day. With the working class say-it-how-it-is band Oasis pitted against the pretentious, university-educated Blur, the clash perfectly captured social tensions at the time. 

Everyone from actors to politicians were asked the question: ‘are you team Oasis or team Blur?’

Naturally this had a big impact on sales. 

As editor of NME Steve Sutherland said at the time: “It did feel like people were going into record stores and buying a record to try and beat another record, which is amazing.”

Whilst Blur won the battle with 270,000 sales vs Oasis’ 220,00 – both were two of the top-highest singles of the year. And this was before social media. 

Source: NME –

The success of Oasis and Blur, however, pales in comparison compared to Barbie.

According to Val Morgan, Barbie has made $60m in the Australian box office and is the 9th highest-grossing Aussie film of all time. There have been 3.2m admissions to date in Australia. 

For Val Morgan’s managing director Guy Burbidge, the social media phenomenon of Barbenheimer was one of the most interesting things about Barbie and Oppenheimer’s success.

“We talk a lot about the power of cinema to create big impactful cultural moments. What was interesting about this one, is there’s quite a lot of social behind it. Barbie was marketed everywhere and Barbenheimer became a real social phenomenon and I think has contributed to the success of both titles”.

“The internet picked it up and created this movement of people watching both films back-to-back and debating which film to see first. We haven’t really had that for quite some time as a combo, which is really interesting”.

In one viral Tweet a user described people seeing Barbie first as ‘wild’ adding, suggesting a new schedule.

Meanwhile a number of social media posts comparing the two films and asking viewers to pick their favourite have gone wild, one TikTok titled ‘What do you rather?’ had more than 30 million views and five thousand likes. 

In a world where there is increasing polarisation between the genders, Barbie – which is unashamedly pink and feminist – has in many ways become a key point in the online gender clash. 

In one article the NBC described Barbie as ‘becoming a new litmus test for dating men’. 

“It’s like the new question on a first date or your dating profile: ‘What are your thoughts on the Barbie movie?’” one TikTok user said. “Because if a guy really doesn’t want to see it or he’s not open to talking about it or, what’s even worse yet, if he’s seen it and he thinks it’s not a good movie or he doesn’t get the point, I think it’s kind of a no-go.”

Predictably, there were many men on the internet enraged by the movie with one saying “the feminist agenda will kill us all.”

Marketing For The Barbie Film

For Burbidge, it’s “hard to quantify” the financial benefit of Barbenheimer however the trend helped generate “that extra bit of excitement and has lead to both titles exceeding box office forecasts significantly”.

“It’s really a nice addition”, he said of the trend – adding they’ve “marketed the film brilliantly”.

Another thing that Barbenheimer has brought to the big screen is variety, Burbidge said.

“We’ve had the brilliant Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One release earlier in July, and then we had two equally phenomenal films, Barbie and Oppenheimer release only a few weeks later. They’re all quite different. They all appeal to different audiences”.

“Barbie has proved to be a four-quadrant film in terms of demographics. From young all the way through to old –  it’s a timeless brand. And then Oppenheimer surprised us. It’s played a lot younger than we thought it would initially. But I think will start to settle at that 25-54 demographic. Then you’ve got Mission Impossible which caters to broad audiences.”

“Having the depth of quality content is the recipe for drawing audiences into cinemas. It’s not always all just superhero movies, for example”.


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