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Harry Gardiner

Content Marketing Lessons From Marvel & DC Comics

19th Feb 2015 Content Marketing 8 minutes to read


Content Marketing Lessons From Marvel & DC Comics

In the last decade, comics have gone from a niche market to a global phenomenon. Two companies have been major players in driving this popularity, Marvel and DC.

Home to the likes of Spider-Man and Batman, respectively; these giants of industry have used numerous Content Marketing techniques to push comics, and the culture surrounding comics, into the mainstream. Let’s take a look at how they’ve managed this feat, and how your businesses can learn from this.

Crafting Universes With Content

Let’s start where both these companies started out, with comics. Both Marvel and DC have been publishing comics since the 1930s. In that time, they’ve spawned various iterations of their popular characters, launched countless wide-scale events and collected numerous books into trade paperback and hardback editions.

So how have they managed to keep readers interested all these years?

Great Storytelling

Amazing_Spider-Man_545People love stories. Whether you’re sitting in the pub with friends, chilling around the water cooler or just relaxing at home with loved ones, we tell stories to entertain, enthral and build relationships.

What DC and Marvel have done is build these stories over a long period of time. Whether you’re a fan of their popular characters, or you’re into the slightly more surreal, less common additions, every character in comics has a wealth of history and back story to explore and build upon.

The majority of comic book stories are character driven. Readers become enamoured with these characters as they watch them grow, develop and overcome obstacles. And whilst sometimes histories or back stories may be seemingly refreshed or altered for storytelling purposes (looking at you One More Day), the writers are usually able to build upon any changes and successfully incorporate this into the character’s story.

Applying This To Your Content Marketing

  • Don’t just write for the sake of writing, tell a tale with your content, involve the reader and get them hooked from the very beginning.
  • Structure your content so you’ll keep the reader wanted more. E.g. create a series of content or engage the reader to leave comments or interact with your content.
  • The best kinds of content offer new information or help solve an issue. If you understand the need for the content, you can then use that need to influence both the headline and the copy.
  • For more information on effective storytelling, check out one of my videos:

Attracting Talent

To quote Uncle Ben, “With great power, comes great responsibility”, and with great content comes great talent.

Because they became known for releasing amazing stories, the comic book giants were able to attract some of most skilled artists and writers within the industry. The likes of Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns are all renowned names within comics, and each have them have had a hand in shaping the characters we know and love today.

Some of these people have even gone on to have a larger role in the companies as a whole, becoming Producers, Editors and Heads Of Departments.

Applying This To Your Content Marketing

  • Don’t be afraid of reaching out and building relationships with influencers and big players within your industry. You may be able to offer each other new information and opportunities.
  • You can harness other professional’s knowledge and skillsets in the form of interviews, guest articles, and collaborative pieces across both your websites.
  • This in turn is a great way of attracting and marketing to brand new audiences, who may not have previously had the chance to see your work.

Key Events And Dates

DC_Versus_Marvel_1Even a great story can test your interest at times, so how do you shake things up, and get people to stand up and take notice again? Large scale events, that’s how.

Recent examples include the upcoming Convergence and Secret Wars events from DC and Marvel respectively. Each event includes nearly every current publication from these companies in some way or another, and each promises to shake up the status quo with universe-changing stories.

These events take years to plan and execute well, with all the comics in between slowly building up to, and acting as promotion, for each story.

Applying This To Your Content Marketing

  • Your content should be planned the same way. Consider creating one or two pieces of large-scale content every month, and then using the time in between to promote and push that work out to the right audience.
  • Use an editorial calendar to carefully plan out what content types will be produced, when you’ll be producing and releasing them, and which audience you will be targeting with your promotional efforts.
  • Your promotion should build upon these big pieces, and not distract from them; so consider repurposing data and information taking from these pieces and creating easy-to-digest smaller content-types that can be pushed out to all kinds of audiences.

Multi-Tiered Approach

These companies aren’t just producing great comics though. They’re also utilising numerous other channels to help push their characters and products into the mainstream. This includes film and television.

It’s in this case that Marvel have a huge advantage over DC – consistency, across the board. Whereas DC’s multiple mediums are seemingly unconnected, Marvel have connected their content through several different approaches (some subtle, others not so much).

For example, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night film trilogy showcases a very different Batman to the depiction in the comic books.

Batman_Dark_Knight_Rises

Sometimes, the strategy of keeping your various forms of content separate from each other works well.

DC have actively stated that their TV and Film universes are unconnected for example, allowing them to essentially split test audience reception by following through with different themes and stories in each medium.

On the other hand, connecting your content can sometimes work in favour of your brand and your audience.

When Marvel revamped their comics with their ‘Ultimate’ line, many of the books were written to be more accessible to readers, reflecting popular public perceptions of the characters. ‘The Ultimates’, as an example, was an overhauled version of the Avengers, Marvel’s mightiest group of heroes.

The book featured (slightly) more grounded versions of characters, and was, for all intents and purposes, written to be easily adapted to film (a common habit of the book’s author, Mark Miller).

Applying This To Your Content Marketing

  • Decide early on, if you’re running large-scale campaigns, are you going to connect all your content together, or are you going to keep it separate?
  • You should use resources such as your editorial calendar to carefully schedule content and decide how it will help your overall campaign. Consider all the different types of publishing platforms you own or could register on.
  • You can also take this multi-tiered approach to help keep your content consistent across the board.
  • Before you create anything, use your company’s goals and vision to build a brand guideline that offers you, and those working within you company, clear instructions on the voice of your brand, and  how content should be presented.
  • Not doing so could lead to the creation of ‘off-brand’ content, and could leave your audience feeling confused and disconnected.
  • This apply’s to Social Media as well as content. If you’re creating deadly serious, technical pieces on your blog, and then presenting your brand as a happy -go-lucky, playful voice on Social Media, it could come across as disjointed.

Embrace The Emotion

Comics have an incredibly passionate and dedicated fan base, and it’s growing every day. Whilst you might not have such a vocal crowd surrounding your brand, you still need to consider the emotional attachments of your audience.

Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer at DC, sums it up nicely:

“If you’ve read The Flash comic and see the show, it’s not the exact same, but it’s an adaptation that’s celebrating it. I think that’s the key word: celebration. If we can execute this emotionally, he can wear a red costume with little wings on his outfit and you’ll buy into it.”

The-flash-logo

Applying This To Your Content Marketing

  • Understand what it is about your brand that your audience enjoys, and utilise that in your marketing efforts.
  • Through research and conversations with fans you can uncover what people love about your brand, and utilise this information to influence the content you create.
  • Emotive content can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool, and there are many ways in which you can elicit different emotional responses from your readers.
  • Read more about how emotion can drive conversations about your content in this great article from Gemma Holloway.
  • You can also use this content to become a thought-leader in a particular subject; producing helpful and popular content that establishes your brand as a leader in your industry.

Key Takeaways:

Let’s take a look at what we’ve learnt so far:

  • Craft a story with your content
  • Know why it is you’re creating your content
  • Involve your audience in your content
  • Build relationships within your industry
  • Strategically plan your campaigns to get the most out of your content
  • Keep your brand’s voice consistent
  • Connect with your audience emotionally

For more information on how your brand can make the most out of Content Marketing, contact a member of the Koozai team today.

Image Credits
Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Spider-Man: One More Day
Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of DC vs. Marvel
Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Batman Dark Knight Rises
Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of The Flash

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Harry Gardiner
About the author

Harry Gardiner

At a statuesque 98ft tall (or 6ft 7”, whatever) Harry’s head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to social media. He’s also got mad DJ skills and is a lover of Pugs, bacon and if you tell him you haven’t seen a certain movie, he will make you watch it. You’ve been warned.

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