Storytelling Examples For Business From The Marvel Cinematic Universe
In 2008, Marvel Studios released Iron Man, unleashing Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark into the world and embarking on a three-phase cinematic journey that would lead to 22 films in eleven years that collectively grossed over $20 billion dollars at the global box office.
The most recent installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Avengers: Endgame is poised to break James Cameron’s Avatar’s longstanding record as the highest-grossing film of all time. Avengers: Endgame earned $2 billion dollars at the box office in record time.Not only that, but it became a pop cultural phenomenon larger than the sum of its parts. Now, imagine if your business could do that. What lessons can business learn from the MCU and why should they care?
It’s more than just financial reasons. While we’re thinking about the success of Avengers: Endgame (and the success of its predecessors in the MCU), let’s think for a second about Avatar. James Cameron’s film was technologically groundbreaking, aesthetically beautiful and grossed $2.78 billion in 2009.
And yet… when was the last time you heard about Avatar? The last time you saw someone in an Avatar Halloween costume? Saw an Avatar meme on Twitter? Avatar was a groundbreaking film, but it fell out of the pop cultural consciousness. On the other hand, with the MCU, Marvel not only managed to create a financial powerhouse, but also a cultural juggernaut. They crafted an entire universe that will keep the cash flowing for as long as they keep cranking good enough movies out. In that way, it is just like with your business: you want to not only make money, but stay in people’s heads—keep them coming back for more — and there is a name for it: long-term recurring revenues.
How’d Marvel do it? And what is the takeaway for brands?
Make a little magic with your audience.
First of all, Marvel’s characters are superheroes —they take us back to our childhoods. Their powers have a magical quality and the movies have that evergreen conflict— good vs. evil. Similar to the power of Game of Thrones, this type of entertainment has a magical quality to it; a sense of wonder and amazement for the audience.
You may not be selling fairytales, superheroes, or rollercoaster rides, but that doesn’t mean your business can’t create a magical experience. In 2019, we live in a world of infinite product solutions. This means people aren’t buying solely based on what your product does. They’re buying based on how your product and your brand makes them feel. What can you do in your marketing and product development to create emotion or spark imagination?
If you don’t know where to start, here is an easy trick: tell them about your purpose, engage by telling them Why you do what you do. And do it genuinely and sincerely because your audience will feel it.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
It’s more than just the superheroes. While Avatar also had the elements of a fantastical world, Marvel was able to harness the humor in the subject material. Marvel knew they could amaze their audience with their world building, but also recognized that a modern audience sees the inherent goofiness in men in tights running around to save the world. Their characters are flawed— even the gods like Thor still act human and are therefore relatable.
This is certainly something you can apply to your business— especially on social media and in your Corporate Storytelling. Run into a problem or make a mistake? Find the humor in it. Customers will identify more with brands who are honest about what they’re doing and can laugh when something goes wrong. Adding a little levity and relating to the human side of your customers —they are people after all—will enhance their trust in you.
Expand your brand to represent more than just one market.
In recent years, Marvel has expanded to represent a more global and diverse community. With the release of Black Panther in 2018 and Captain Marvel in 2019, the company finally gave audiences a predominantly black cast and a female lead. These two movies respectively became the ninth-highest grossing movie of all time and the ninth-highest grossing superhero movie of all time. AND most importantly, this diverse representation made people feel heard. This put Marvel in a positive light in the public eye, elevating their brand success to new heights.
For businesses, this means that the more people you are able to move, the more of an impact your business can have (which also means more Customers and stronger growth). Take advantage of Marvel’s example and expand your global network and perspective. Different cultures respond to different types of stories and people want to see themselves seen. . Make sure when you are testing and branding and marketing that you surround yourself with the most possible voices. You’ll reach the most people that way.