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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!

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.

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?

Image credit to reway2007, JD Hancock, and David Sifry.


Rachel Hamsmith

When not writing for the blog, Rachel is a data entry specialist at QLP. She spends most of her free time consuming a variety of geeky TV shows, movies, and books, as well as funny cat videos and other Internet oddities. Otherwise, she moonlights as an editor for a literary magazine and tries to spend as much quality time as she can with friends and family. You can also connect with Rachel on Google+.

Comments

  1. eric

    That’s always been the mark of a highly successful company, for me. They’ve a logo so iconic, that upon first sight you not only know, A.) the company it represents, but B.) more importantly, what it stands for.

    Being someone who spends a good deal of his time on the road, there’re times where the Shell seashell, or the golden arches of Mickey D’s are desperately welcome sights to see. The immediate, visual association is indispensably convenient.

    In other news, December 4th needs to come sooner than it seems to right now (QLP lunchtime field trip to the nearest DVD retailer that day? Eh? Eh?!?).

    If it doesn’t go without saying (Jeff will back me up on this one, surely) great post, Rachel! :)

    • Jeff Porretto

      FIELD TRIP IS ON!

    • Rachel

      Great points about logos and how effective they can be. If your is brand immediately recognizable from one simple image, I’d say you’re doing a pretty good job getting your name out there. :)

      Can’t wait for December 4th! I did a lunchtime field trip when Avengers came out, but it was an epic fail — the combo pack I wanted was sold out already. :( Crossing my fingers that I (we) have better luck this time!

      Thanks, Eric, I’m glad you enjoyed!

      • Ness

        I believe you can order the blu-ray combo pack of Dark Knight Rises on Amazon for $25 right now… and if you preorder it, you can have it delivered on the same day it comes out. Just throwing that out there. :)

        • Rachel

          I’m considering it! I didn’t preorder the Avengers because Target had a special edition that came with a bonus disc of extras … so I’ll probably wait a bit before preordering TDKR in case something similar happens. :) Thanks for the tip, though! $25 is super reasonable for a Blu-ray …

  2. Jeff Porretto

    Thank you Rachel. This is not the blog we deserve, but the one we need right now. So I will comment on it…. because it can take it.

    Sometimes the importance of branding is worth even extreme inconvenience and effort. Like creating a HUGE logo on a bridge to make your competitors go #$%*@#$!!! …. even when time probably could have been put to better use elsewhere. BUT IT WAS SO COOL!! =]

    • Rachel

      Yup, totally read that in Gary Oldman’s voice with the TDK theme playing in my head …

      Seriously, when did he have time to make that bridge logo thing??? I know the first thing *I* do when a city needs saving is to add some nice, fiery graffiti to the nearest tall structure … it did look pretty awesome, though. :) Thanks for commenting, Jeff!

      • Ness

        Remember when they teased the bat logo burning on the building in promo materials for The Dark Knight, but that actually didn’t happen until The Dark Knight Rises? That’s weird.

        • Rachel

          Oh man, did they? I don’t remember that! I’ll have to scour TDK trailers when I get home now, haha.

  3. Lauren

    LOVE THIS BLOG! : )

    • Rachel

      Thanks, Lauren! :)

  4. Mandy Kilinskis

    Excellent blog post, Rachel! There’s hardly a stronger superhero brand than Batman. I would cite something specific to add to this discussion, but I think there’s a good chance I’ll say something wrong. And I don’t want Eric and Jeff to scoff at my lack of facts. :)

    • Rachel

      Haha, that’s probably a wise choice. :) Thanks for commenting, Mandy; I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Cybernetic SAM

    EPIC POST!!!!!! Great topics!!!!! I agree with Mandy there really is not a STRONGER superhero brand than Batman, I am more than OK with that. I am a loyal Batman fan and any knowledge he can drop on me about anything in life is fine by me! Great Blog Post!

    • Rachel

      Thanks, Sam! Batman is definitely a strong superhero AND a strong brand, and we can learn a lot from him because of that. I’m glad you thought the post was epic, haha! :)

  6. Mikey

    With a brand like Batman’s, you just have to “wonder where he gets those wonderful toys.” (Sorry, had to) Great blog! I appreciate anything having to do with Batman, though I admit you took an approach to the Caped Crusader I had not thought of before; it’s an interesting interpretation. And, considering the Bat’s popularity now a days, and through the years, you really can’t argue with the strength of his “brand” and the loyalty/fear it inspires. Definitely an entertaining and insightful read.

    • Rachel

      It’s always fun to find business- and marketing-related interpretations of the things that entertain me. :) The Batman brand definitely inspires both loyalty and fear in his universe, and there’s a lot we can learn from that. Thanks, Mikey, I’m happy you enjoyed the article!

  7. Arpita Bhowmik

    Hi Rachel Hamsmith
    Thanks for this great post !
    Brand identity is required to make your business stand out of others.It will develop while promoting and advertising your business properly.
    Thanks again
    Regards

    • Rachel

      Brand identity is definitely important when trying to stand out from competitors. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Arpita! :)

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