Minions Take over the Globe: Universal Experiences a Historical Peak

To date, Universal has had its highest-grossing year in history, not only due to the success of the films Jurassic World, Furious 7, Pitch Perfect 2, and Fifty Shades of Grey but also due to Minions. Minions, described as yellow pill-like creatures, are recognized as a global brand and appeal to people of all ages.  Universal Pictures has made a massive marketing push in conjunction with the release of the Minions Movie this past weekend, which made $115.2 million in its opening weekend (in the United States). The promotional campaign for the Minion movie, according to The Guardian, is Universal Studio’s largest and most comprehensive to date.

Minions first became popular when they were featured in the film titled Despicable Me. Once Minions gained popularity, Universal responded by marketing the Minion character across many genres. Part of the appeal of Minions is due to the fact that no one knows what they exactly stand for and the creatures can be utilized in a variety of ways, such as for memes or as emojis. Additionally, Minions do not speak a certain language, but rather a kind of gibberish, which helps marketers create worldwide appeal for these creatures.

Part of Universal’s promotional campaign for the new Minion movie included partnering with McDonald’s, General Mills, Amazon, Tic-Tac, as well as many other major companies. These partners delivered around $593 million in ads and promotions, according to Bloomberg. Of the partners spending, less than half was used for TV or print ads. The remainder of the $593 million was the estimated value of promotions, such as McDonalds featuring Minion toys in their Happy Meals or Amazon agreeing to create yellow Minion boxes to deliver goods purchased to customers. Furthermore Universal has created large billboard advertisements across the globe including New York, the UK, France, Australia, and Mexico.

yellow Amazon shipping box featuring Minion characters.
Amazon has changed their packaging to feature Minions. Source: Ad Week.

The Internet, specifically social media, has played an integral part to the global success of Minions. Minions have become a household name. A data company, Zefr, has found there to be over 26,000 videos uploaded to YouTube that feature Minions. These videos have generated an astounding 653 million views.  Moreover, the Minion trailer, for the new film, had over 220 million views. Through use of social media, such as the creation of a “Minions” Facebook page, Universal has provided its audience with shareable content that does not seem like marketing.

Minions, when they were first featured as a small character in a Universal film, were not expected to be as popular as they have become today.  The involvement of a multitude of brands for the marketing of Minions has helped lead to Universal’s historical box office records. Even though the movie has been released, Universal will continue to market Minions in all facets of its operations, from the inclusion of Minions into  theme parks to future films featuring the little yellow creatures.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • Based on the information above, do you think Minions will continue to appeal to such a large audience? Why do you think the Minion character has been so successful?
  • Research other film companies’ promotional strategies. Do these companies use social media or other methods to promote future films?
  • What other partnerships would be beneficial to Universal?