Image from Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures is currently experiencing a fascinating boom in earned media.

Earned media is content and material created by others about your business outside of paid advertising. It’s essentially the organically generated free publicity and exposure generated from others through news segments, reviews, word-of-mouth, and most recently for Universal Pictures, TikTok.

Their new movie, Minions: The Rise of Gru, has spawned an interesting new trend among teens, #GentleMinions. Teens sporting full suits and formal wear are turning out in unprecedented numbers to see the new film, and are sharing every step online. 

TikTok user @bill.hirst’s video was one of the first to reach viral success with over 36 million views on TikTok. The official #MinionsBoogie tag used for paid partnerships with TikTok creators to promote the film has just over half a million more views. There are seemingly countless other videos garnering views into the tens of millions such as user @archie.barber’s group of 30+ suit-clad “Gentleminions”, and Youtube creator @mrbeast’s group that bought out the entire theatre to capture this content. 

Universal Pictures and its animation division, Illumination Entertainment, have fully embraced the trend and have been engaging with and resharing the user-generated content this trend has created. Theatre chains such as Cineworld and Cineplex are also using the trend to appeal to the boom in media attention from an unexpected audience.

Demographics for the film have shifted drastically since the last Despicable Me installment in 2017 with the percentage of opening weekend ticket sales in the 13-17 year-old segment jumping from just 8% of the total to a whopping 34% as noted by The Hollywood Reporter. It has been a smash box office success with an over $125 million domestic opening weekend

While earned media can be difficult to conquer, it can prove to be highly successful and influential as it has been for Minions: The Rise of Gru. What do you think of the trend? Has it inspired you to rethink your strategy for gaining earned media for future campaigns?