I have been waiting for decades for Marvel and DC to step up to the plate and aggressively promote comic books. Not just movies, toys and merchandise featuring their characters, but comic books. That is, after all, what they do right? Make comic books?
In 2011 DC surprised me with their promotion of the New 52. It was a huge promotional campaign across all media but was unfortunately more focused on the derailment of their iconic characters’ established identity in popular culture as they redefined them for a changing market. Ever since, DC has made one marketing blunder after another to the point where there is even a site that tracks the number of days since DC did something stupid.
Their efforts, no matter how misguided, did generate interest and drive new people into comic book shops though I believe it frustrated long time fans by bastardizing the characters that they had loved for decades.
One thing DC did, according to the Hollywood Reporter, was establish September as a promotional battleground that has now instigated a devastating counterattack of heroic proportions by Marvel/Disney.
September is now Marvel Super Hero September encouraging fans to “Power up like a Marvel Super Hero!”
Lately, after a very respective run of hugely successful films that have ecstatically (unlike DC) maintained the integrity of their long standing source material, Marvel can do no wrong. Combined with the added resource of the Disney Marketing Machine, Marvel is now a pop culture juggernaut. (FOX pun intended).
A visit to the Super Hero September web page is evidence of the things that Marvel is currently doing right in this marketing campaign.
1. Masthead includes mega blockbuster characters from all of their hit films, carefully spotlighting a couple of female characters and their new successful franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy. (Note: no X-Men!)
2. They offer a contest that promotes their brand, establishes the good morals that we all expect from our favorite superheroes, builds a mailing list and offers a great prize: a trip on a Disney Cruise ship. (How many times can you promote a corporate product in one sentence?)
3. Impressive list of retail partners that includes: Hasbro, Kmart, Party City, Payless, Target, Walmart, Hallmark,Disney Store and their own on line Marvel Shop.
4. Comic books! My initial, jaded scan of the site seemed to confirm my suspicion that, once again comic books, would be overlooked by an eager attempt to sell toys and movies but to my surprise I easily found several links to available comic books throughout!
5. Comics for Kids! This has been a peeve of many that comics have matured leaving little for the youth market. Marvel tackles this head on with a line for young readers with comics available digitally and it print.
6. Links to comic shops! Again I suspected that comic shops would play no fiddle to the big chains but in most places on the site where comics are presented in print there is a big fat link to the Comic Shop Locator Service!
7. Sharing. There is a relatively subtle button that seems redundant to the marvelkids.com button in that it sells young reader books, but on the surface it brilliantly commands, “Share Your Universe.” This statement does two wonderful things that every brand craves for. It hands “ownership” of the brand to the fan and it tells them it is worth sharing, “you do not need to be alone in your enjoyment of this brand.”
There is so much more that is positive about what Marvel is doing with this campaign including promoting it on Disney owned ESPN in the height of football season that a book could probably be written on the marketing strategies involved.
This is obviously a big win for Marvel but it could be a huge win for the comic book industry in general. Comic books are being promoted on a global scale in a positive light for the first time ever. This is not an event like the death of a character, this is a brand-wide promotion. It is time to ride the wave and make sure that everyone in comics benefits from the traffic that Marvel will continue generate.
Comic shops have shown their ability to grow where traditional bookshops have been failing. They need to prepare to further capitalize on the success that Marvel is generating by directing the broadening audience to the wide selection of subject matter made available by indy publishers. The consumers may be coming in for Marvel superheroes but they can discover a much broader world than they expected, the world of comic books if those in the industry choose to show them the way.
When it comes to comic books, let September be for super heroes just leave the rest of the year for everyone else. Thanks, Marvel! Maybe DC will learn something.