Marvel - A Marketing Civil War Or A Revolution?

Last weekend, I was among the throngs of people that went to see Captain America: Civil War, the latest installment from Marvel (Disney). As usual, the movie was packed with great visual effects, a decent story line and, of course, a great set-up for the next installment that will assuredly come out in the next 12-18 months.

Captain America: Civil War set new box office records, passing the $200 million mark domestically – in just five days and becoming the fifth-fastest movie ever to cross that milestone. Global box office receipts are over $530 million. China represents over 80% of foreign ticket sales. And that’s what captured my interest, especially when looking at Marvel’s mobile-first gaming business.

If you look in the iTunes or Google Play stores, you will find a panoply of Marvel game titles to play on your mobile device of choice. On the other hand if you are looking for Marvel titles for your gaming console, you won’t find as robust a selection. Marvel is smartly fishing where the fish are, especially in their biggest and fastest-growing market – China.



This mobile-first approach makes total sense. In China, smartphones account for 80% of new phone sales, contributing to their position as the world’s largest smartphone market. When you combine the worlds largest mobile audience, with the rapid growth in casual gaming, a mobile-first gaming strategy makes perfect sense. Why spend big development dollars on a console when a smartphone app is far less expensive and enables more gaming time, since gamers are not tied to console devices. 

Another advantage to a mobile-first gaming strategy is that it’s speed-to-market for new game titles and ease of pushing updates to storylines. This rapid development and easy access to a massive install base enables Marvel to reach their biggest fans every day with 24-hour access. The law of big numbers works well here for time spent with the Marvel brand and helps build loyalty and habituated app use, which is high on mobile devices. Furthermore, these apps provide a perfect vehicle to promote upcoming theatrical releases, new characters or any other storyline/character development that fans are craving. 

Another upside for Marvel is that these highly accessible apps help introduce and familiarize the sea of Marvel characters with an audience that didn’t grow up seeing their characters on Saturday morning TV or even in comic books. And those new Marvel fans represent a huge new revenue base for Marvel. 

Disney is beyond pleased with the success they are seeing from their acquisition of Marvel. Pretty impressive from a company that just 15 years ago, was bankrupt. Goes to show what a great content, licensing and mobile-first strategy can do for an old school business. 

There are a lot of ideas and plays from Marvel’s content and mobile playbook that many other marketers, entertainment, packaged goods or even services can learn from a well thought out content strategy and how it’s delivered. I realize not every marketer sees Chinese consumers as a target audience. I think one of the lessons we can take from how Marvel is engaging with their Chinese consumers is leveraging consumer insights and a smart content syndication strategy.

That can certainly be applied to several consumer groups here in the US. Marvel has certainly found the winning plays and keeps running them in China and around the world. In the process, they have revolutionized how marketers of all walks should think about leveraging and syndicating their content to engage consumers. Will it take a revolution or full on civil war within your organization replicate some of these winning plays?

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