Marketing Obscure Comic Book References

Captain America The First Avenger Movie Poster

Superheroes are back! Well, at the movie theaters at least they are. Love ’em or hate ’em epic comic book battles are generating big buzz and big dollars on the silver screen.

As a marketer, it’s easy to observe the big, obvious things about movies based on comic books. There’s a built-in audience: check. There are usually top stars and/or directing talent: check. There’s usually some impossibly large budget: check. That’s the obvious stuff.

Then there’s the geek stuff. As you may know, I am a big comic fan, so I get into these tiny references that are like catnip for fans. It’s small stuff (and some big stuff) that won’t even register for the average moviegoer. But for the devoted comic fan, it can be pure joy. Continue reading

Hot Tub Networking Machine

Based on the title, I had no interest in seeing “Hot Tub Time Machine.” Granted, I typically like John Cusack and Craig Robinson, but this one just looked lame. Then, when the reviews came out, and predictably the movie got some uninspiring reviews.

Then something social network-ish happened. My friend Mike Fasolo called me and told me, “ignore the reviewers. Go see this movie.”

Now, before I go any further, it’s worth noting that people trust their social network. Content is king, but context is what make the content personally relevant. They certainly do not trust the mainstream media.

I ignored the critics, hopped in my car, and caught an early showing of Hot Tub Time Machine. Know what? Mike was right. It was very funny, and I’ve recommended it to other people who have memories of the 1980s.

And this is why buzz marketing and social media marketing is so important. People have greater trust for the people in their personal social circle than they even do for paid professionals. Disney even recently canceled the iconic At The Movies show after 24 seasons of thumbs up, thumbs down reviews.

Hot Tub Time Machine clearly isn’t for everyone. It’s not a movie made for critics, but neither are mainstream movies like Avatar. The critics tend to like more highbrow entertainment, which makes sense.

In the end, HTTM will probably find it’s audience on DVD and BluRay, which is fine. It’s works just as well in a home theater as it does in a megaplex. Ultimately, the movie will travel organically and inexpensively through social networking channels.

Many marketers are still struggling to find that perfect social-media marketing formula, so they can tap it every time, like turning on a water faucet. But that’s exactly why social media is so effective. People trust their social network precisely because it’s not supported by advertising dollars. It’s fueled, instead, by people who just want to share with their friends. And you just cannot bottle and sell that.

Batman Isn’t a Comic Anymore?

In “Why Comics Are Doomed,” I argued that for comics to survive, we need to stop marketing them as “children’s entertainment.” We need to position comics as entertainment for adults.

Here’s proof why. In the newspaper, there are “movie capsules” that encapsulate the movie. Here, dear friends, is the description for:

“The Dark Knight”
Batman isn’t a comic book anymore. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes and engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, and because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production. The key performance in the movie is by the late Heath Ledger, as the Joker.

The first sentence reveals a preconceived notion shared by many people. They expect comics to be campy, mindless entertainment for kids.

The second sentence goes  further when it notes it is “a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes and engrossing tragedy.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Batman always been an engrossing tragedy? Not every issue, sure, but some of them, right?

To this writer, “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” are simply grown up versions of comics. Storytelling flukes created by sophisticated master filmmakers. Nothing in traditional comic books can come close.

For all of you 40-year-old virgins, this is how many people think about comics.

How many people saw “The Dark Knight” and then went to the comic book store to buy Detective Comics? Probably not many, since the assumption is that the movie is for adults…and the comic books are for the kids.

If we keep marketing comics as children’s entertainment, the medium is doomed. Even Hollywood cant save us from ourselves.