Superheroes and Marketing: Further Musings
Superhero marketing

That’s it! I couldn’t wait until the weekend. Last night, I went home and finally indulged my nerd-self by watching Marvel’s Captain Marvel. Had to break my piggy bank for the IMAX 3D experience (sniff!), but sacrifices have to be made for the greater cause, right?

Don’t worry, this isn’t a movie review (cos that would be odd on our blog, right?) and I promise there are no spoilers for the sorry souls who still haven’t watched Captain Marvel. This blog takes somewhat unusual learning from this superhero action movie and dives into it for nuggets of marketing wisdom.

Yep, you heard that right. Marketing wisdom. While I’m still in awe of Vers, the perfectly trained fighter, boosted with mutations, endowed with superhuman strength, spaceship blasting powers, incredible speed and limitless stamina (Ahem, fangirl alert here), the movie got me thinking about how Marvel’s superhero Universe is full of marketing wonders! And voila! Here we are, with more marketing lessons from the book of the Great Master Stan Lee.

1. Super Logos Make Superheroes

Remember the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, that is what a well-designed logo is. It is a brand’s symbol, a trademark that conveys the brand’s purpose. The goal of creating a logo is to take an idea and condense it down to a symbol that will be recognizable and stay forefront in a viewer’s mind.

And, if there’s anyone who understands the true importance of logos, it’s superheroes. After all, when you see a bat in the clouds, you know that Batman is coming! A yellow bolt is all that we need to know that Flash just whizzed by! A spider is an indication that Spiderman was hanging out there (literally!). And the Punisher’s menacing black skull is meant to evoke fear and scare the shit out of perps all over the world.

But, in addition to being easily recognizable, some of these logos or symbols hold a deeper meaning. For e.g. Captain America’s logo, a visual from his shield has taken many forms over the years, but the bold circular shape with three stripes in red and white along with a white star on blue resting in the center has remained constant throughout. While the feature colours are an appropriate symbol to represent the patriotic powerhouse that Captain America is, combining the unity and wholeness of a circle with the heraldic connotations of a star adds a deeper meaning to the logo. Just like Cap, the logo is strong, simple, and meaningful.

Another such minimalistic wunderkid is the X-Men’s logo. The logo features a bold yet straightforward X in the center that stands for … nope, not Xavier’s men (Gasp!) but for ‘Extra’ power that these superheroes have. Another noteworthy addition is the unbroken circle that encases the X. Even though each character has a very strong presence outside the X-Men universe, the circle symbolizes unity, friendship, and the unbroken bond between the team. There you have it, another simple logo that explains why along with a killer backstory, it is important to use meaningful brand logos.

As for the brands, here’s the good and the bad of logos to learn from.

The Good: Mastercard re-designed their logo last year and, let’s just say, they did a great job. They simplified the shapes (Memorable), utilized a third colour (Vibrant), and introduced an entirely new typeface for their brand name (Refreshing).

The Bad: In 2016, Subway unveiled a ‘new’ and uninspired logo. It pairs what few might call a ‘modern’ sans serif majuscule font (fancy design term for uppercase) with their signature green and yellow colour scheme (albeit subdued in this iteration). For a brand whose tagline is ‘Eat Fresh’, their logo is anything but fresh.

Logos, often tiny, can make or break your brand. They represent your brand, which is why it is important to have a well-thought, meaningful logo that sums up your brand. In the words of Batman from the Dark Knight “I need to be a symbol, something which is incorruptible and everlasting, something elemental and terrifying” because that’s the power of symbols and logos!

2. Weaponize Your Individuality

When you think superheroes, you think of a goody two shoes, always-doing-the-right-thing, minding their LANGUAGE kinda person. In short, a blue-eyed golden-haired, angelic looking boy! But why? Why stick to that mould? And what happens when you break the pattern?

Meet the sensational, the insane, the charming Deadpool. Sure, he’s a wisecrack. Sure, he’s sarcasm overload. And sure, he’s got a dark sense of humour that doesn’t sit well with everyone. But that’s what keeps us hooked. Same goes for the cocky billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, business magnate, and engineer extraordinaire Tony Stark. His in-your-face, cocky behaviour ends up rubbing people the wrong way, but we love him nonetheless.

And it’s not just their outrageous and R-rated personalities that attracts us. Unlike the stereotypical holier-than-thou superhero persona, it’s the refreshing candour and the uniqueness of these characters that captivate our hearts. Superheroes like Deadpool and Iron Man don’t follow the rulebook. They challenge the notions and own their crazy personalities.

So how does this tie up with brands? What can they learn from Deadpool and Iron Man? Here’s a real-life example of doing things slightly differently. The fast-food behemoth Wendy’s has adopted a controversial, combative tone for its social media communication. Wendy’s decided to push the boundaries, and tales of their wit and sarcasm have only grown with each savage new roast or meme. Their adventures on social media were picked up by established and respected sources like Forbes who described the change of tone as “a bold move from an otherwise docile brand”.

For some, the brand was too savage to handle; for others (mostly people like us), it’s a stroke of genius – revamping the brand image of a company by adopting a sarcastic, witty and sometimes aggressive tone. This refreshing marketing strategy has helped Wendy’s stand out from its competitors in a way that square patties can’t. Coz, let’s be honest, we don’t get to see such huge companies interacting and having fun on social media very often.

So, the takeaway? Don’t get too caught up on the do’s and don’ts. Don’t go by any preconceived notions of how brands should and shouldn’t talk. Unless you have a very unique voice and personality, you’re only going be part of the noise being generated online, which is as good as being not heard or seen.

Superheroes have to deal with a constant and growing body of threats and supervillains. And at times (well, most of the time), marketing agencies are dealing with nothing less. Working in the marketing industry is not all unicorns and rainbows. In fact, most days it’s overwhelming, but that’s what you signed up for.

Facing new challenges, overcoming struggles, and cashing in on new opportunities …. these are the things that intrigued you, piqued your curiosity, and attracted you to the world of marketing. Hell, you probably thrive on it, except for when you wish for a dreary day once in a while!

Yes, marketing is a tough nut to crack, and the challenges don’t stop, but that’s kind of why you love it. And the good thing is, you don’t need an X-ray vision or an underground hideout or a spandex suit to be a business superhero. All you need is you and your team. And a little bit of inspiration from your favourite superhero goes a long way, too!

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