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Why Barbenheimer is a wake-up call for all brands

Barbenheimer is an internet cultural phenomenon that began trending on social media before the simultaneous theatrical release of the films Barbie and Oppenheimer. Taking learnings from the phenomena, Shivaji Dasgupta, Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, writes that instead of blindly being in a war zone, brands can earn greater joy by choosing the collaborative route

If Christopher Nolan had not been a Warner Brothers alumnus, then the Oppenheimer head-on would not happen. But it's absolutely brilliant how a potential tradeoff became an inspired collaboration, each minding its own turf.

In case you have been busy elsewhere, Barbenheimer is a spontaneous movement to watch the two movies, deeply contrasting genres, in back-to-back binge mode. A theatrical interpretation, most certainly, of OTT viewing behaviour where ‘sleep’, as famously articulated by Netflix, is the only sincere competition. Globally, the tale of the physicist is surpassing the revenues from the travails of the doll, but that is not quite the point. Collaborative competition is helping both achieve their truest potential.

Exactly why, this is an enviable disruption for brand marketers, besotted by the metaphorical universe of battlefields. As long as a valuable caveat is maintained when the category operates on ‘Consideration Set’ mode and not fierce loyalties. The latter being Coke versus Pepsi and the former is represented by dining, personal care, durables, technology and so much more. I will elucidate farther.

Imagine deeply competitive scenarios in consumption, restaurants competing fiercely in Cyber Hub Gurgaon. Then a South East Asian entity chooses a strategic alliance with a Spanish ensemble, instead of spilling blood for the customer. Else consider Uniqlo and Nike, accomplished impresarios both, embarking on customer-centric affiliation. Shop for jackets in the fashionista shinkansen while the mobility, literally, is taken care of by an American classic, Pearl Harbour be damned.

The basic consumer insight is ruthlessly simple. Each of us wants a conglomerate of experiences in our selected passions or even necessities, driven deeply by the carnage of covid and the opportunity of liberalisation. In certain cases, habitual and not indulgence, we are held hostage to a solitary candidate, the Cola Wars being fine evidence. Elsewhere, democratic human nature insists on a portfolio of candidates and not the obligatory entity. The possibilities are endless, for collaborative competition which is win-win, like the airline alliances including SkyTeam and OneWorld.

Domino’s Pizza for lunch and Pizza Hut dessert as saccharine. Pernod Ricard as the lunchtime percussionist and Diageo as the dinner muse. The Kia EV as the conscientious carrier while the BMW 5 Series as the flamboyant demonstration. Kingfisher for the routine occurrence and bespoke Bira as the exceptional indulgence. Vistara for the corporate excursions and Indigo for the family vacations. Taj each time you seek exclusivity and Neemrana whenever the ask is authenticity. Barbenheimer can become a legit business strategy, based on fraternity and not adversity. For the common profit, not just good.

Interestingly, in the B2B space, this thinking is already in place. Most leading airlines use both Airbus and Boeing and this includes the mega orders of Air India. Multiple consulting and outsourcing firms are deployed by leading corporations globally, and growth is never assigned to single entities. When companies wish to raise funds through an IPO or otherwise, the consortium route is normally applied, to avail of the diversity in expertise. There is actually no reason why B2C customers will act otherwise, humans that they both are and not yet machines.

Barbenheimer is thus a valuable wake-up call for businesses across territories. Instead of blindly being in a war zone, greater joys can be earned by choosing the United Nations' path of profitable cohabitation. Perchance, we may have stumbled upon a bright new idea and Hollywood, quite predictably, is an able instigator.


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