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.

Finding purpose in your website

Most businesses that want to set up a webpage have a basic sense of why they need a website. Simply: Everyone has a website, hence, I need one.

This is pretty sound reasoning. If you dont have a website, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect your service or brand with your potential clients.

Unfortunately the rationale stops there. That is, their website ends up being just a digital version of a Yellow Pages ad. Name, address, phone number, and a product blurb.

New technology has created ways for consumers to connect with brands. To explore them, covet them, and purchase them. A website can serve as the ultimate sales team, providing potential customers with answers, incentives, and even comparisons.

So as you work with your web developer, select someone who tries to get a deeper understanding of what you want to accomplish and how you want to tell you brand story. He should be spending a lot of time trying to understand you and your brand story.

Then he should be giving you insight into features and tools that can help you communicate your brand message. Maybe it’s a blog or viral video. Or maybe it’s just something as simple as a comparison chart or an RSS feed.

There’s usually some enhancement that can make your website a little more effective. If you’re not finding this in your web development team, then maybe you should search the web for a new team that’s in tune with your brand goals.

Verticals within Verticals

We were at a team meeting with several people I hadn’t really worked with yet. It was a typical white-board brainstorm meeting about how we could provide digital tactics against traditional-media channels.

If you’re in digital, you know how these meetings can be. Sometimes it’s great, especially if the traditional team is new-media savvy. In this case, we were lucky, since most of the team was somehow personally involved in social or new media. We had a couple of bloggers, several people who listened to podcasts, and just about everyone was on Facebook or MySpace. In short, they all got it. Perfect.

We talked websites, mobile media, interactive video, downloadables, mashups, social media, user generated content. Good stuff.

That’s what made it especially strange when one of the account leaders said something to the effect of “we want a really big tactic, something that will hit a really big, broad audience.”

Huh? Weren’t we just all on the same whiteboard here with new media?

New media is all about narrow audience. The idea that you can get a big demographic on a brand message is sort of an old media concept. Essentially a hold over from traditional broadcast television and commercial spots.

Aside from major television events like the Superbowl, the Sopranos, or a major news event, even television is fragmented into much more narrower audiences. (Note: The one big exception…bad news travels fast on all mediums.)

Yes, there are still several broad-based communication platforms online, most notably portals and central news sites. Destinations. But those are hard to control and not typically easily or cheaply influenced by brand marketers. Then again, if you have a large marketing budget or a really cool brand, you can get prettymuch anywhere. For the rest of us, we have to find alternate channels.

Alternate channels basically mean verticals. And in most cases, verticals within verticals.

If you’re promoting a specific brand, you just want to talk to your target audience. (Except around the holidays, if the brand is something that can be gifted.)

Why talk to teenage boys if your product is for middle-age moms? It makes more sense to spend your dollars to hit the mom market. If you can narrow it to the income, race, regional, or other demographic, you can target your message to make it relevant to their personal experiences.

So you may be looking at women (v1), middle age (v2), moms (v3), high income (v4), living near a major city (v5)…and that’s just for one campaign. Your second campaign may change to target women of middle or low income, which will change the positioning of your value proposition.

The best part of the verticals within verticals is the way you can time and manipulate your out of pocket expenditures and messaging. There’s flexibility in all mediums from magazines to television to radio, but nothing that gives you the hypertargeting that you can get in new media.

Which brings me back to that brainstorm meeting.

After an hour of brainstorming, it was deflating to hear someone start talking about broad-based marketing on new media channels. We finally have the kind of communications structure that marketers dream about, and some of us are trying to get it to act like an old media channel.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen new media struggle in obscurity, stumble toward credibility, and now stagger to mass media acceptance. But for those of us who remember 1200 baud dial ups, this is an exciting time. The promise of new media communications has finally reached a level of maturity that allows us to truly share a brand message….one that gets people motivated to action.

The ability to create targeted, deep-vertical messages is the biggest, broadest appeal of new media marketing. Let’s use it to create messages that are relevant, motivating, and exciting to the deepest verticals that we can identify.

It’s a vertical world created by users…and perfect for marketers.