Last week, "Minions: The Rise of Gru" set a box office record for Independence Day Weekend, grossing a whopping $125 million. How did a 12-year-old franchise, absent five years from multiplexes, make movie history? By mobilizing an army of “minions” on social media.
TikTok gave birth to the #Gentleminions craze, a hashtag with over 121 million views in less than two weeks. Groups of teens—mostly, but not always, boys—attended showings of "Minions" dressed in formalwear inspired by lead character Gru. They brought bananas, the Minions’ favorite snack, to eat, and occasionally throw. And they created such a ruckus that some cinemas banned the gentleminions, or (more constructively) set up special screenings just for them.
The result? According to PostTrak exit polling, teens made up a third of "Minions "moviegoers, an incredibly high turnout for an animated film rated PG. And nearly nine in ten moviegoers were under 25, a remarkable feat for a family film typically geared toward kids and their parents over the age of 25. Those who attended liked what they saw: General audiences gave the film 4.5 stars, just one notch below kids’ five-star rating.
The Gentleminions fad represents the perfect formula to get teens to see a family film. It turns moviegoing into an event, complete with costumes and props. It creates an “IRL” hangout that can’t be digitally replicated or done at home. It turns a movie that could be considered “babyish” into something cool for a teenager to attend. It taps into the nostalgia that teens feel for a favorite childhood franchise.
And, perhaps most importantly, it inspires teens to organize huge groups of friends to attend the cinema, selling reams of tickets instead of just a handful, and converting “somewhat likely” or fence-sitting attendees into those “very likely” to attend.
How can brands better mobilize their own armies of minions?
*Start with a song. When "Minions" producers approached Lyrical Lemonade about creating a trailer, founder Cole Bennett suggested the perfect artist to contribute a song: rapper and TikTok phenom Yeat. Although his catalogue is more R-rated than PG, Yeat grew up with "Minions," and his sound echoes theirs. Sure enough, his song “Rich Minion” became an instant smash, causing the trailer to blow up, and fueling a TikTok meme. Since TikTok is such a musically driven medium, any viral challenge begins with the perfect song or hook.
*Then, find a first mover. On June 30, Australian teen Bill Hirst posted a TikTok of himself and his friends dressed in suits to attend opening day. The video got 30 million views in just a few days, and inspired others to literally follow suit. Once your brand’s theme song goes viral on TikTok, see what users do with it, follow the hashtags and challenges they create for it, and encourage others to join in. Don’t try to start a trend or force the fun; see what first movers organically develop on their own, and amplify their efforts.
*Give reasons to go out. Two and a half years into COVID, everyone is going stir-crazy, especially teens and young adults who statistically are the least-threatened by COVID but have suffered the worst consequences of quarantines and societal lockdowns. Give them reasons to get together in large groups, go out, and do something special (and social media-worthy), and they’ll show up in droves. Gentleminions just gave them a good excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway: Go out in public with a large group of friends and blow off some steam.By following this playbook, your brand can activate its own minions, and drive them bananas.