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From Bluey To Branding: How Imitation Became a Key Marketing Opportunity For Bunnings

Bunnings has been loving their new nickname since the infamous Bluey episode “Hammerbarn” aired in Season 2 back in 2020. As one of several Australian businesses imitated in the popular kids cartoon, an opportunity arose that has created an incredibly viral marketing campaign that is happening as we speak.

Hold Up, Who Is Bluey And Bunnings?

Bluey, the loveable Aussie brand kids cartoon, has taken social media by storm and is now streaming in more than 60 countries. There are around 110 merchandising licensees internationally and more than 1000 themed toys and trinkets out there, from toothpaste to furniture.

Brisbane, the home of Bluey, is even going to have its own Bluey-themed park, ‘Bluey World’, which is tipped to spike tourism to QLD like never before, not to mention the now-available lifesize ‘Bluey House’ Airbnb. So it only makes sense that Australia’s Bunnings want to utilise this popularity to their advantage and get on board, utilising Brand Marketing strategies.

Starting in Western Australia, Bunnings is the DIY homeware retail giant known for its vast range of homewares, handicraft workshops, and retro warehouse-style fit-outs. From its fun marketing jingle to its classic sausage sizzle out the front, Bunnings is a leading business that is nostalgic and convenient for anyone looking to renovate their home, bathroom, garden, or kitchen without breaking the bank. 

Credit Image: Bluey.tv

The Origin Story: The Heeler Family Visits Their Local Hardware Store

So how did it all start? With an episode of Bluey, of course!

(Spoilers!). Season 2, episode 2 of Bluey, titled “Hammerbarn,” tells the story of the Healer family visiting their local hardware store, Hammerbarn, to buy a pizza oven, plants, and lawn decorations for their garden renovation. In an all-too-familiar scene for Aussie families, they walk through the carpark, buy snags from the sausage sizzle outside, and ask for directions from the greeter at the entrance. While dad goes straight to the BBQ area, mum and the kids visit the garden centre and play with the lawn decorations in the iconic shopping cart while mum shops. They also visit the infamous paint colour wall and collect free colour sample cards for their playtime. Later, as their items are processed at the checkout, the kids have a quick meltdown while dad flees to the carpark with his new BBQ. At home, the family enjoys their new garden and pizza oven and shares their first pizza attempt with their neighbour Lucky’s dad.

Now, after watching this episode, if you were one of the million who typed into Google “Is Hammerbarn Bunnings?” you will note that Bluey’s fictional hardware store was in fact inspired by the one and only Bunnings.

This is because, in an effort to depict the Aussie way of life in their cartoon series, Bluey’s writers endeavoured to pack as much of the everyday Aussie lifestyle into every episode. In this case, the nostalgic visit to the local Bunnings for those DIY items as many Aussies have done over the years, including the sausage snag and the visit to the paint sample wall.

Bunnings in Cartoon Form
The logo, a playful cartoon version of the iconic Bunnings hammer, is easily recognised across Australia and New Zealand with that classic humour “If you hit a flamingo, you’ve gone too far”—a relatable Bunnings experience. Simple in design, the cartoon recreation is more an admiration than a mockery, with a friendly, rounded typeface and vibrant colours to give that trademark Bluey style. The illustration is a near-perfect cartoon rendering of the iconic store and car park that is unique to Australia and embodies the customer experience on any given day. The similarities between the brands have even led to “slip of the tongue” branding displacement, where Bunnings playfully refer to themselves as Hammerbarn.

Credit Image: Bunnings.com.au

The Hammerbarn…Whoops I mean Bunnings Bluey Event

Once the marketing team at Bunnings caught wind of this trend, instead of deflecting and distancing themselves from the affiliation, they instead leant into it, big time!

Credit Image: Bunnings.com.au

In a team collaboration with Bluey for the month of February, Bunnings is hosting Bluey-themed events, workshops, and appearances from Bluey in stores. Bunnings has released their very own Hammerbarn magazine insert, located inside their monthly home renovation magazine. Inside are lists of free DIY workshops for kids, and adults can join in too. Also, 7 Bunnings stores have even been temporarily changed to Hammerbarn, with opportunities to buy Hammerbarn items “as seen” in the popular cartoon. A great exhibition marketing strategy is to generate more visits to the store, where customers have more opportunity to buy.

Weighing In On The ROI Of A Collaborative Marketing Promotion

Admittedly, this does seem like a great expense for Bunnings and Bluey, all for the sake of what is effectively a large-scale selection of marketing pop-up shops. There is the rebranding of 7 stores as Hammerbarn’s, the mass production of novelty Hammerbarn-themed merchandise, the hiring of the Bluey mascots, the organisation of the Bluey DIY workshops, and child activities, to name a few expensive jobs.

The question is: Why would Bunnings and Bluey franchises decide to engage in this type of marketing promotion? 

For one, there is new found respect for creativity and the Australian pastime of having a laugh at one’s own expense or situation. It generates a way to connect with an audience in a new way, increasing brand likability. Also creating opportunities to expand the brand into new markets such as themed merchandise and events that could be a recurring promotion, and it is in support of a cultural icon that is beloved around the world.

What Do You Need As A Building Block To Be Able To Successfully Organise This Level Of Collaboration?

Credit Image: Bluey.tv

To start, both businesses collaborating need to be recognisable to begin with, that is, be known as a leading brand with existing visibility online and in their base country of operations.

Bunnings, for decades, has successfully monopolised the Australian retail hardware industry and has products featured in millions of homes and businesses around Australia and New Zealand.

Secondly, both brands should share a strong degree of alignment in terms of brand values.

As both Bunnings and Bluey represent the nostalgic, iconic Aussie way of life, their brands are symbiotic and positively reflect life as we know it. This recognition and nostalgic popularity amongst Australian families make for a harmonious partnership between the popular TV show and the retail giant.

Lastly, they need to be targeting the same audience, with each receiving a benefit in the end.

For Bunnings, they gain access to a younger generation market base; for Bluey, they gain from a positive relationship with Bunnings, proving that their imitation of the brand in their show was more flattery than mean-spirited.

Branding Marketing Strategies In Action

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, so if you are keen to see how this Bluey/Bunnings event works out, then why not hop on by one of their participating Hammerbarn stores and see for yourself?

You can also follow Bunnings and Bluey on social media, via their ‘Adult Bluey Fans’ fan page, or follow #hammerbarn on Instagram.

This is a very encouraging campaign that we believe will inspire more creativity when it comes to campaigns in Australia.

Bunning’s Hammerbarn Campaign Update

Perth’s Cannington Hammerbarn store is one of many experiencing sold-out Bluey ‘Hammerbarn’ merchandise within days!. One spokesperson for the event commented, “Our Bluey product range has been extremely popular over the weekend, with the Bluey garden gnomes (husbands) being the most sought-after product and all floor stock selling out.” It is clear that the popularity of Hammerbarn has exceeded all expectations, with Bunnings adding purchase quality limits to popular items like their garden gnomes (husbands) per customer. Some Hammerbarn gnomes have even appeared on international re-sale online markets as collector items for Bluey enthusiasts.

If you made the trip to your local Hammerbarn and missed out on your chosen item, rest assured that Bunning’s is working to ensure that every participating store is restocked within a matter of days. As they say in Bluey, Wackadoo!

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