Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Creating Brand Advocates: Marvel’s ‘Avengers’-style

If you’re a self-professed comic book or movie nerd, then I don’t need to tell you about the hype (and pure utter excitement) surrounding the upcoming release of Marvel’s The Avengers.

If multi-million fantastic action flicks aren’t your thing, The Avengers is an epic culmination of four years, five movies, and seven iconic comic book characters. The movies have been dominating at the box office each summer and leaving thousands of new brand advocates in their wake.

Captain America

If you had asked me in 2007 who this guy was, I would’ve just shrugged.

As you may have guessed, I’m one of them. But before the chain of Marvel movies started in 2008, all I knew was that The Hulk is green and that Thor was some cartoon guy from Adventures in Babysitting. I wasn’t a comic book reader and I had no interest in Iron Man.

Now? I’ve been reading comics, I’ve researched the characters, I’m always trying to stay up-to-date on Marvel’s movie production news, and I love to chat about Avengers anything at any time.

How did Marvel turn ambivalent passersby into voracious fans? These used these brilliant tactics that you can copy to create your own legion of brand advocates.

Provide serious quality. When Marvel Studios started producing their own movies about their own comic book characters, the quality of their movies showed. They’ve been well-received by critics, casual movie watchers, and even longtime comic fans. Yes, feel free to link me to negative reviews, but overall, they are solid movies and they are a solid source of enjoyment.

Nothing will garner new brand advocates more than a quality product. Nothing. If your product or service is something fantastic, your clients will be swayed instantly, and they’ll become instant fans of yours.

Reward established fans, but don’t exclude new ones. The movies leading up to the Avengers movie have been origin stories. So for people new to the characters, they could see the movie without feeling lost. For fans of the comics, the movies made allusions to their print origins with nods to special characters, costumes, dialogue, or settings.

There’s nothing wrong with running a special promotion to attract new clients. Just make sure that your current customers are getting something out of the deal. Boost Mobile, for example, offers low rate plans to attract new customers, but reduces their current customers’ bills from $50 to $35 in increments of $5 every 6 months.

Iron Man Spider-man Chicago Comic Con

Now Iron Man, Spider-man, and I get together for brunch every third Thursday.

Give a taste of what’s to come. One of the signature Marvel moves is to post a little teaser of an upcoming Marvel film or a bonus scene at the end of their current release. Robert Downey Jr. showed up after the credits of The Hulk, Thor’s hammer was featured after Iron Man 2, and a full teaser trailer for the Avengers was tacked on to the end of Captain America.

Keep the hype going. Are you about to release a new product or redesign your website? Then get your customers excited about it! Make full use of your social media. Post cropped pictures of a tiny part of your new item. Tweet semi-cryptic messages about your upcoming service. Organize a promotion. If you make it exciting, your fans will find it exciting.

Yes, there are other reasons why Marvel has millions of fans (really attractive stars might have something to do with it), but they wouldn’t have their current fanbase without the three core principles I just listed. Applying these to your own brand will help build a foundation to increase the number of your own passionate brand advocates.

What are some other ways to foster new fans? Have you used any of these tactics previously? Who would win in a fight: Captain America or Thor?



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  1. Jen

    I enjoy a good comic book movie, but I’m not a comic reader, so it’s nice to know what is happening in the movies because they explain the origin of the characters.

    My favorite Marvel character/movie is Iron Man, mostly because I love Robert Downey Jr. Having a big star is a great way to peak the interest of people who wouldn’t otherwise be into a comic book movie (like me). If it were any other actor, I might not have seen Iron Man.

    Great post Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I love that they built up the franchise/hype by making all of these origin movies. I usually enjoy superhero movies, but if they had launched immediately into The Avengers, I would’ve been totally lost.

      See, until Iron Man, I wasn’t a fan of Robert Downey Jr. So I resisted seeing Iron Man. Once I saw it, though, I felt dumb for waiting so long and now RDJ is one of my main motivators for seeing any of his movies. A good movie and script can even change opinions about actors!

  2. Rachel

    “I love to chat about Avengers anything at any time” — you and me both! I’ve never read a Marvel comic book, but I am obsessed with this movie franchise. So you’re totally right: Marvel has been able to reward established fans and still attract new ones, like me. And hey, with seven months until the movie premieres, I’ll probably hit up comics for the first time to keep myself entertained. It’s a win-win for Marvel, really.

    I also really like your point about teasing customers with a taste of what’s to come. Didn’t the new Avengers trailer from a few weeks ago break download records on iTunes? Teasers keep the brand on my mind and make me want to search for more about it. Kind of like promotional products! 🙂

    Love this post! Thanks for the rundown, Mandy. Oh, and the cast of really attractive people makes me happy too. 😉

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I think I’ll have to lend you my Marvel 1602. It gave me so much nerdy glee when I read it, and it has so many of the characters in it. Marvel has done a great job introducing me to their original product: comics. I spent so much money on Marvel trades at Chicago Comic Con, and as soon as I finish those, I’m going to read more.

      I hadn’t heard that the teaser trailer broke any download records on iTunes, but I can’t say that the news surprises me. I watched the trailer many, many times. I can’t wait for the next one to come out.

      • Rachel

        OH and I forgot to answer the Cap vs. Thor smackdown question! After thinking long and hard about this, I think it would depend on whether Thor’s hammer could break through Cap’s shield. If it can, then I think Thor would win–he’s a god, and he’s rash, so I feel he would fight dirtier than Captain America and mount a pretty strong offensive. But if the shield can stave off Thor’s hammer blows, I think Cap would be able to defend himself from Thor long enough to use his smarts and eventually find an opportunity to knock Thor down.

        So there you go. That’s my two cents. 🙂

        • Mandy Kilinskis

          You make an excellent point. I also think that Thor fights from an “attack, attack, attack” mentality while Captain America takes the few extra seconds to formulate a strategy. So then the question is, would those extra seconds be enough for Thor to swoop in? Or will that plan gain his victory?

          I don’t know! Someone write a scholarly paper and tell me! 🙁

  3. Joseph Giorgi

    I’m not the biggest fan of comic books and graphic novels, but I do enjoy the multi-million dollar summer blockbusters based on them. Marvel has done a fantastic job in translating their characters to the big screen over the past few years, and really, they ought to be commended for the overall high quality of their adaptations.

    Ten years ago, I never would have thought that we’d be seeing such highbrow superhero stories on the big screen, but lo and behold, it now seems there’s no stopping them. They may not be the most intelligent films out there, but I’ll be damned if they’re not just plain fun to watch.

    (Then again, some are stronger than others. **cough Green Lantern cough**)

    As for your takeaways: I agree with all of them, but the first is my favorite: “providing serious quality” is Marvel’s greatest strength when it comes to their films. Sure, they’ve done an admirable job of building the hype machine for the upcoming Avengers release, but I doubt anyone would care much if the films leading up to it were sub par. If content is king (which it certainly is), then Marvel definitely knows it. Their output has been getting better and better, and while the industry is arguably teetering on superhero overload, you can’t fault the company for at least ensuring that it’s a highly enjoyable overload. 🙂

    Awesome post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m glad that great quality superhero films are back with a vengeance. And you’re right, they aren’t the most intellectually stimulating, but they are fun, and the plot/character development/overall writing is just at a higher level of quality. Even the Green Lantern (which I wouldn’t put in the same class as Thor or Captain America) was still enjoyable.

      Marvel never ceases to amaze me with their films. It gets better each time and they’ve made me interested in characters and a genre that I didn’t care much about before. Excellent job, Marvel.

      P.S. My new personal goal, Joe, is to write a blog where the first thing you say is not “I’m not the biggest fan of [fill in the blank.]” I will write about something you love some day! 😛

  4. amy

    What a fun post, Mandy! I think the last comic book I read was ‘Archie’ and I was nine, but I know comic book fans are some of the most devoted fans out there – a marketers dream! Your tips were spot on, especially “Reward established fans, but don’t exclude new ones”. Everyone likes to be rewarded for their loyalty with a brand, so companies shouldn’t exclude them from special offers or deals.

    (I’m more of a Captain America girl myself, so I’d say he’d win a fight against Thor 🙂 )

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      When an Archie movie comes out, I’ll know exactly what you’ll be excited about.

      The Captain America v. Thor debate is a tough choice. There’s different strengths and fighting styles to both. And I would probably have to think about this for a really long time. But hey, we’ve got one for Captain America!

  5. david k waltz


    With the “reward established fans, but don’t exclude new ones” statement, I think sometimes we need to be sensitive to the language and terminology we use. My blog sometimes uses finance terminology, so often times I will try to add a sentence or two (I am sure not always successfully) to explain some of it as I go in case the person reading does not have a background.

    Each field has a certain lingo and acronyms, and those who do not understand them can feel on the outside.

    I have done a fair bit of reading blogs these days – i have seen SEO mentioned dozens of times, know what the term stands for, but could not really tell you in any number of words what it exactly means. I know it involves search engines and stuff, and “crawling”…I guess I better hope my kids ask me something birds and bees related, anything but “Dad, what’s SEO?”!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi, David! Thanks for stopping by!

      You make an excellent point about picking the right language. I was going to use a marketing term in one of my blog posts – a term that I kinda understand but mostly just see thrown around other marketing blogs – and my colleague that has a marketing degree asked me what that word meant. If she didn’t know, there was no way I was going to use it. For your blog, I don’t know a thing about finance, but I’d like to, so I definitely appreciate the explanation.

      SEO seems to be that golden word that’s tossed around everywhere. Everyone wants to talk about it because it’s a “hot topic.” Personally, I can’t read SEO blog posts anymore. I’m so saturated with SEO that I probably rank number one for the search “sick of SEO.”

  6. Cresh

    Hi Mandy, Im a long-time comic book reader/collector and have enjoyed the onflux of Marvel Superhero movies.Very well-done. But what i really love are all the cross-promotions related to each movie. For example, the Slurpee cups and straws. The beautiful signage from Burger King, Wendys and so-on. Ive already seen the cup-toppers for the Avengers movie and i cant wait to get my hands on them. One problem though. Does anyone know of a website that lists all or any of the products from advertisers associated with this movie? Ive been surfing for hours but no luck. Great site BTW Mandy.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi Cresh! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      I also love cross-promotion in fast food restaurants, etc. When the Star Trek movie came out in 2009, I went to over 10 different Burger Kings to get all of the limited edition glasses. I can’t say that I’ve seen a website that has all of the merchandise in one centralized location, but that would be really convenient!

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