The Batman Guide to Brand-Building
It goes without saying that Warner Bros. has experienced great success with the Dark Knight brand since Christopher Nolan’s cinematic series debuted with Batman Begins in 2005. But, I’m not here to talk about Warner Bros. Rather, I’d like to take a look at Batman himself—who, within his film universe, is a remarkable brand of his own.
Bruce Wayne was a grief-stricken playboy who managed to create a heroic, inspiring symbol for his downtrodden city. How did he build such a recognizable brand? And how can we imitate that success in our own business endeavors?
Because hey, we might not be crime-fighting vigilantes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from the Caped Crusader. For example:
The way the world perceives your brand can make or break your company.
What comes to mind when you think of Batman? The costume, the cowl, the cape? His mysterious comings and goings in the darkness, his deep, menacing voice? The Bat Signal?
If someone shows you the Batman symbol—or the Apple logo, or the Nike Swoosh, or McDonald’s Golden Arches—it triggers emotions and associations specific to that brand. Bruce Wayne’s goal with Batman’s brand identity was to fill criminals with terror and the citizens of Gotham with hope. What do you want your brand to evoke in the minds of consumers? How do your logo, storefront, online presence, and overall appearance to customers reflect that brand identity?
A good brand is built upon a foundation of valuable resources and assets.
Holy batarang, Batman!
Batman’s gadgets, weapons, technology, and vehicles are essential to his crime-fighting. And the man behind the mask is as much of an asset as any of his gadgets: Bruce Wayne trained his body for combat and stealth, and his exceptional detective skills give him an advantage over his adversaries.
Batman didn’t create a name for himself just by showing up in a costume and looking cool—rather, he proved his worth by protecting Gotham and catching criminals. In any company, a quality product is going to be easier to market and sell than a mediocre one. First-rate resources and well-trained employees will allow you to provide the best products and services to your customers.
Your company goals and mission statement should inform your brand identity.
Bruce Wayne built Batman on the promise that he would protect Gotham from the corruption that destroyed his family. He established a no-killing rule and refused to use guns. Despite the villains he faced, Batman fought to reach his goals and uphold his principles at every turn.
What goals did you set at the start of your business? Does your brand identity reflect those goals? For example, Ben and Jerry’s and Starbucks are two brands known for their product offerings, but they also emphasize their outreach efforts—an important part of each company’s mission statement. Be mindful of your brand’s reputation in the eyes of consumers, and strive to make that perceived reputation match your intended one.
Fostering positive, trusting relationships with your allies is a must.
Seriously, though. Batman would be dead without this guy.
Alfred Pennyworth, Lucius Fox, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Detective John Blake are just a few of the individuals who supported the Bat behind the scenes. What would Batman do without Fox’s research and development projects? Or without Gordon’s and Blake’s ties to the police force? Or Alfred’s moral and emotional support?
Like Batman, you and your brand are not alone. No matter the size of your company, you rely on others for help—even if it’s just the guy at the post office who delivers your packages. Treat your manufacturers, distributors, and everyone else in your supply chain with respect, and they’ll return the favor. Good relationships with fellow businesses will improve your reputation inside the industry, bolstering your brand image even further.
Your brand is more than the individuals who envisioned it.
Bruce Wayne did more than put on a suit and fight crime. He also created a symbol, something that could exist beyond his own limitations and inspire a city in ways a single man could not. He could be the legend, but also pass it along to future generations.
As you build your business, the brand image you develop will grow beyond your initial vision and become something shared by many. Invest in your company name, your employees, and your resources in such a way that if the creators leave the business, the brand will still continue and prosper.
He may not be a traditional business role model, but nevertheless, Batman can teach us a lot about successful branding. What other tips can we glean from Batman? Are any of Batman’s enemies good examples of branding as well? Which of Nolan’s Batman films is your favorite?