Film and cinema play an essential role in the cultural conversation and broader trends, not only for America but also for the world at large.

During the height of the pandemic, TV (especially for streaming juggernauts like Netflix) took up this mantle, but now, movies are back in a big way and brands need to pay attention if they don’t want to miss out on key trends. Movies are still influencing consumers, and whether it’s through product placement, licensing agreements, or simply staying culturally relevant by understanding the influence, advertisers need to adapt strategies to stay relevant.

The Return of the Blockbusters: What Does it Mean for Brands?

The breakthrough in summer blockbusters is here and advertisers across various industries can see its effects. This year, only two movies - The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Barbie - have crossed the $500M domestic box office threshold (a feat only accomplished by Top Gun: Maverick in 2022), with Barbie anticipated to be the highest grossing film of the year as it finishes its theatrical run. 

As we think back to the effects of COVID-19, it forced brands and advertisers to quickly pivot their strategies across all industries, but especially entertainment. The global pandemic not only forced production to shut down, causing a delay in film releases, but it also impacted movie theaters tremendously. This quickly forced brands to think about entertainment at home which made consumers switch their viewing habits to be “at home.”

While COVID-19 affected people in various ways for several years, the “return to normal” behaviors did not switch back right away. Consumer behavior has changed for almost all brands as online shopping has grown exponentially, food delivery and online ordering saw record-breaking numbers, and people are now streaming at home more now than ever. These consumer behavior changes have significantly impacted the entertainment space as it was a struggle to get viewers back in theaters. That is, until Top Gun.

Released in 2022, Top Gun was the pivotal movie theaters that got consumers back in the theatre. Though there were just 18 more domestic releases in 2022 vs 2021, Top Gun, which was the year’s highest-grossing film, helped the domestic box office finish the year at 64% over 2021 numbers.  According to a Forbes article, Top Gun: Maverick accounted for 23% of the domestic summer movie line-up. That is partially because it earned around $500 million more than even the rosiest projections. Even more recently, the proclaimed Barbenheimer, Barbie and Oppenheimer duo, set record-breaking numbers with the biggest box office weekend since 2019.  

How Brands Can Adapt to the Return of Blockbusters

Small and large companies alike can participate in the return of the blockbuster, but tapping in at the right moment and resonating with your key audience is critical to success. Here are our top recommendations for brands looking to use their marketing efforts to tap into the key cultural moments that films can provide.

Keeping on Top of Trends

Simply paying attention to what’s gaining traction across paid and organic media channels is the lowest barrier to entry, as it just requires your performance marketing team is keeping its finger on the pulse.

Influencer Marketing and High-Value Brand Ambassadors

For years now, influencer marketing has been one of the highest-rising segments in terms of share of media spend, projecting $4.6B in 2023 according to Retail Touch Points, which is nearly double of that just 5 years ago. Brands of all sizes have been using everything from micro-influencers to big-name celebrities to promote their products to great success, and the entertainment industry is no different.

Influencers have started to attend movie theater premiers and red-carpet events to create buzz around the new movie release. Influencers will create content or livestream the event and share it on their socials as a paid partnership with the studio or brand. In addition, TikTok influencers have started to partner with studios and streaming brands to support new releases or their offerings.

Peacock has done a great job of partnering with influencers to highlight new movie and tv series releases. They’ve done a unique take on influencer partnerships as they not only tap into movie reviewers, they’ve also tapped into other TikTok creators like Tyshon Lawrenece with more than 18.7 million followers.

It’s important for brands to consider influencers as part of their strategy as these digital creators have a strong pull on their audience's purchase behavior. Word of mouth advertising is so important, which is why influencers are a strong value for brands as they allow them to further engage with a new audience, building trust and loyalty simultaneously. When considering influencer marketing, it’s important to partner with influencers that are already speaking about your brand or industry to ensll+ure an authentic relationship. Influencers span beyond just purchase decisions within CPG and retail brands; they also have a strong hold on the entertainment industry, B2B space and beyond.

Product Placement

Sometimes, major brands will explore avenues such as product placements to reach key consumers and connect their products with the film. There are many ways to do this, as film productions have many points of contact. Everyone from producers to set directors can be an “in” to get your brand featured on camera. These contacts can help you understand the best opportunities to naturally tie in your product within the narrative of the film. Code3’s Direct Media department can help brands connect those dots via our extensive contacts in the entertainment industry, guiding you in the process from making initial inquiries to signing final contacts.

Licensing Deals

Product placement isn’t the only way to tie in your brand with the release of a major film. Licensing Deals, defined here as business arrangements where a brand will use the creative IP of a film often to promote their own product, is another great option to leverage the popularity of a movie long after it has left the box office.


Bevel collaborated with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ahead of the film's release. This relationship was a perfect match, as Bevel is a grooming brand with products designed specifically for black men. This audience strongly overlapped with the target demographic of the film, which made the partnership seem authentic and not forced. The result was a great activation that generated a lot of awareness for the brand and a great-looking new product that continued to sell long after Black Panther left theaters.

Making the movie business work for your brand doesn’t have to be a mystery. Code3 can help brands understand how to take advantage of the massive effect that films have on consumer spending habits and taste, no matter your brand's budget. We also help our clients stay ahead of trends in various ways. Every month, we send our clients a Weekly Trend Report highlighting key trends showing what’s new and gaining traction across media platforms. Contact us today to learn how our team of marketing professionals can help.

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