What’s Our “Barbenheimer” Moment?


Image: Kaleb / Adobe Stock

Earlier this month, a rare phenomenon captivated the pop culture landscape with the same-day release of two blockbusters — Barbie and Oppenheimer — from competing studios, which came to be known as “Barbenheimer.” Though their subject matter and tone couldn’t be more different, these films will be forever linked for two reasons.

One, two studios releasing blockbuster-caliber films on the same day is a rarity. It makes sense: a studio would prefer to enjoy the “exclusivity” of an opening weekend to itself as opposed to sharing the spotlight. But what if it was a brighter spotlight?

Clearly, counterprogramming was effective in this instance. Having the films released on the same day meant the promotional circuits ahead of each film’s premiere were also timed similarly — and the casts and crews of each respective film joined in promoting the other, further fueling the hype.

But the most influential aspect of this sensation was the organic engagement it received from Average Joes and Janes. Social media ignited interest in these films of such contrasting subjects. (If you like memes, there were troves of them created ahead of the films’ July 21 release.) Without such strong interest from the public, these films may have still experienced a strong draw at the box office — but there’s no question word-of-mouth played a critical role in sustained interest in these films ahead of their release.

The results from opening weekend speak for themselves. It was the first time one movie opened to more than $100 million (Barbie) and another opened to more than $80 million (Oppenheimer) in the same weekend. Time Magazine concluded, “‘Barbenheimer’ didn’t just work — it spun box office gold.”

This captivating phenomenon got me thinking — as silly as it may read in writing — how can our industry create a “Barbenheimer”-type movement?

Promote, Then Cross-Promote

As noted above, one of the successes of “Barbenheimer” was the existence of counterprogramming. There’s no bigger stage in our industry to promote and cross-promote than SHOT Show.

There are more exhibitors, more attendees and more excitement to start a new year on the front foot by discovering “what’s new” during SHOT Show week than at any other time of the year. And, many manufacturers still time their new product releases around SHOT Show. It causes an even greater ripple effect when firearms manufacturers partner with holster, optics, magazine, ammunition and even clothing companies to create a coordinated product line launch.

There are ample opportunities to cross-promote during SHOT Show week — as we’ve seen exhibitors share their space with up-and-coming companies or join together for product giveaways, with each promoting the other.
However, here in August, it has to be said: SHOT Show 2024 is more than 150 days away.

Thankfully, in very short order, there’s a natural opportunity to promote shooting sports participation: as August is National Shooting Sports Month (NSSM). If you’re a range, do you have an event planned? It’s not too late, and you can even join in with NSSF’s official website (shootingsportsmonth.org) to promote it.

Are there other ranges or gun stores in your area you’re on friendly terms with? Why not set up a bingo-type promotion to encourage guests to visit both facilities and shoot a target, make a purchase, tag/follow the store/range on social media or take a selfie at the facility and win prizes from local partners?

A rising tide floats all boats, right? Small things like this can create more of a bond with your community and encourage growth — which brings me to the final point here.

True Power

Word-of-mouth marketing still has immense power — it can create a boisterous buzz or a black hole of negativity. If you can get customers highlighting their positive experiences at your facility (either on social media or with their friends) then you’re bound to see good things come from it.

The fall hunting and year-end buying seasons will be here imminently. Take the time during these slow periods to think through how your brand can creatively connect with consumers and create enthusiasts.

If a lesson can be gleaned from the “Barbenheimer” hype, it is consumers are hungry for unique experiences and connections. Your facility already offers both in droves — let them know!

We want to hear how your store is doing! editor@shootingindustry.com.