Fantastic Four: Blockbuster Secrets from the Marvel Marketing Machine

Recently, a trailer for the upcoming movie “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was leaked online. Marvel, acknowledging that the trailer was out there, decided to release their official version of the trailer a short time later. Twenty-four hours after the leak first hit the Web, the official trailer had already racked up 34.3 million views on YouTube! Marvel has what we all want – an audience eager to view, share, and discuss their content. The top two-US-grossing movies this year, namely Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, are both from Marvel. In 2013, another Marvel movie, Iron Man 3, brought in $409 million while Thor: The Dark World rang up an additional $206 million for Marvel. The year before that was 2012’s Avengers, which was worth $623 million and the number one spot for that year. With that kind of success, it’s amazing to think that Marvel Entertainment Group actually filed for bankruptcy protection less than 20 years ago. How Marvel has gone from the brink of bankruptcy to one of the biggest names in entertainment, with blockbuster movies, televisions programs, video games, toys and, of course, comics, is a great story. There are a number of lessons we can learn from Marvel as we seek to add the same level of superpowers to our own marketing campaigns and websites!

1. Start with great content.

It all begins with content. Marvel focuses heavily in making sure that all their products are top notch. The value of this cannot be overstated. You can market all you want, but if your content (or whatever you are marketing) is mediocre, you will be facing an uphill climb. If your content is great, it will be much easier to find that eager audience. Marvel assembles a team to create their amazing entertainment properties, including actors and actresses, writers, filmmakers, illustrators, and more. While you may not need as large a team for your own efforts, you certainly should not attempt to do it alone. If you have in-house marketing resources, they will obviously play a role in this effort, but you should also look to the subject matter experts in your organization for what they can contribute. Finally, you will want to work with whatever web or marketing agency you partner with to get their expertise added to your campaign plans and help you develop amazing content.

2. Diversify your promotional efforts.

When Marvel is preparing to launch a new movie, they look to the range of channels they have available to them to promote that release. They run ads on their television shows, they release special edition comics meant to raise awareness and excitement for the characters and the film, they even time the release of toys for the film perfectly so that kids see the figures on store shelves and make sure their parents know that they want to see that movie. This multi-faceted approach to marketing is often called “multi-channel marketing.” For websites, multi-channel marketing means using all the appropriate resources at your disposal to connect with an audience and make them aware of, and drive them to, your site and your company. If you are using social media to promote your content, that is great, but you cannot stop there. Email marketing, search engine and other online advertising, and sponsored content are all ways you can reach an audience online. There are also offline options you should consider, from traditional print and mailing pieces, to articles in print publications, to appearances on news or radio. Not all of these may make sense for your campaign, but the point is that all of these, and more, should be considered. This is another thing you will work with your marketing agency on – identifying which channels make the most sense for your particular campaign. Whatever you decide on, however, you are almost certainly going to find that multiple channels will play a part in your eventual plans.

3. Tie it all together.

One of the things that Marvel has done expertly is to tie their properties together to create something that is bigger than just the sum of its parts. The Avengers movies are an obvious example of this since they combine characters from a number of Marvel’s solo-movie projects, including Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. In addition to the Avengers films, which feature an all-start cast of their characters, Marvel has also made it a point to include ‘teasers’ at the end of their films. These tie-ins create excitement and get people talking not only about the movie they just saw, but also what is coming next. When you are considering your own content and campaigns, you should be thinking about how you can tie things together. This could be something as simple as cross-promoting similar products on an Ecommerce site or adding links to related articles at the end of a blog post. These are both ways that you can tie things together and increase overall exposure. If you are a services driven organization, another avenue you may consider is explaining how those various services you offer tie-in together and complement each other. If you’ve ever told an existing client about another service you offer, only to hear them say, “I didn’t know you did that!”, then you can see the value in cross-promoting your offerings by tying them all in together in some way.

4. Introduce new offerings and embrace new audiences.

As mentioned earlier, this year’s top-grossing movie in the US is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This is notable because, before the movie’s release this summer, few people outside of diehard comicbook fans had ever heard of these characters! Heroes like Iron Man and Captain America were well known prior to their movie debuts, so there was already some name recognition that certainly helped fuel the success of those films, but Guardians of the Galaxy is about as obscure as it gets. Still, this movie has taken in over $738 million dollars in global ticket sales. The reason for this success is because the movie is great, but what is interesting is that, for people to discover how great the movie is, they had to give it a chance. People gave it chance because they trust Marvel. If you are consistent in the quality that you deliver, whether that is in the products you sell, services you offer, or content you publish, then you will build trust with your audience and customers. That trust is critical for when you want to introduce new offerings to help expand your business. Just like movie-goers trusted Marvel enough to give Guardians of the Galaxy a chance, if your customers trust you, they will be more inclined to give your new offerings a chance. If you are following the tips mentioned previously and tying things together, this trust can be doubly helpful as customers will be introduced to new offerings and the trust they have in you will encourage them to give them a shot.

In summary

We may not all be able to release a video and attract 18 million views in 24 hours the way that Marvel has done, but by following some of the same steps that Marvel uses to promote their releases, we can help our own campaigns take off.