Marketing lessons from Marvel

Marvel marketing
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Listen to this article: 

Not to be dramatic, but I was shaking with excitement after watching the Marvel Phase 4 Teaser. 

All the emotions of witnessing beloved characters coming back to life and the excitement of new stories to be told. 

Once I collected myself, I immediately sent the teaser to all my friends and family who would share the same sentiment. 

Now, imagine if your next brand launch could do the same thing? That’s right—evoke those same emotions and create lasting memories for customers. 

It’s possible. But most brands fall flat on their face trying. 

The tactics are easy. But if you just send an email announcing a new product or promotion, with a message “Check this out!” with an image and link, that’s not building an emotional connection. That’s just boring. 

People want products that make them feel something—they want to see themselves in the story being told. 

5 pages to steal from Marvel’s promotional handbook

1. Create a compelling story 

How Marvel does this

The Phase 4 launch introduced twelve new movies to enter the Marvel franchise. But these aren’t mutually exclusive movies. Since its inception, Marvel has created a world where each superhero story is connected to a greater story—the Marvel universe.

But it wasn’t always this way. 

To keep readers engaged in the comics, the writers decided to make each hero connected, which led to the creation of the Avengers—superheroes living in a shared world. This tactic is why we are so excited to see new characters added to the universe and hear the stories of heroes we’ve already come to love. We want, rather need, to know how they fit into Marvel’s universe and how their actions will affect another’s story.


By adding additional superheroes to the roster, Marvel was able to cross-sell like crazy. Pairing fan-favorite characters with less popular heroes while keeping the same narrative. The characters shared a world, and the actions of each had repercussions on the others, and each movie is merely a thread of one Marvel-wide mega-story. 

TLDR: It’s never just about one superhero; it’s about the greater story that is the Marvel Universe. 

How your brand can do this

Likewise, for your product launch, it’s never about just selling a certain amount of one product. Three Ships Growth Marketer, Lilli Sun, shares the same sentiment: 

“It’s never about selling that one product. It’s about using the new product to get their attention and have them come back to try your other products and then retain them for life.” 

When planning a product launch, your brand needs to have an overarching storyline—something bigger than the product itself, to gain the attention of customers. It’s essential to have this mindset so that your launches are not just a one-time spike in product sales but scale your company with lifelong purchases. Think about a story that resonates with your audience. One strategy is telling your brand origin story, and including elements in the product launch that relate to your mission and purpose. 

For example, Three Ships recently launched a new face cream. In its Instagram announcement, the post goes in-depth about its natural and ethically sourced ingredients—which is a significant part of its mission to be the most transparent beauty brand in the world. Each ingredient describes a problem and how the “pillow-soft” night cream will resolve it. The Three Ships team treated this Instagram caption as a short story and truly took readers on a journey. 

The story continues. Customers are already in love with the Radiance Day Cream—it’s one of their best sellers. Similar to Marvel, The Dream Night Cream was like introducing a new superhero into the franchise. And people want to know how a new superhero relates to the greater Marvel universe—likewise, customers want to see how the Dream Night Cream will pair with other beloved products. So when the brand officially launched Dream Night Cream, Three Ships strategically communicated how the two products complemented one another. 


Key takeaway → A product launch is never about just the product itself, but how it ties together with other products and your brand's mission and values. 

2. Create a common enemy 

How Marvel does this: 

Everyone hates Thanos. His main goal was to destroy life and re-create it with the six most powerful objects in the universe. Despite it being a fictional world, the thought of Thanos accomplishing his goal sends a shiver down my spine, and most likely yours too. It’s a barbaric concept that evokes an emotional response—in this case, to do everything possible to keep Thanos from getting all six infinity stones and achieving his goal. 

Image source


The only force that can stop Thanos is the Avengers. The heroes of the story uphold justice and fight for the greater good. 

That statement alone is enough for people to be rooting for the Avengers and has them hooked on watching their stories unfold. And given the fact that the Marvel world is connected, it gets the audience even more invested in these new and old characters and how they’ll defeat their own series enemies. 

How your brand can do this:

Does your brand fight acne? Toxic chemicals? Unhealthy foods? Global warming? 

Whatever it may be, create a common enemy that your audience can relate to and rally behind. This is your Thanos. The new product you are launching is the Marvel superheroes, conquering the evil enemy. 

When you see Thanos, you have an emotional reaction (which is hopefully rage). And you’ll want to evoke an emotional response with your quest to conquer a common enemy—because emotions drive decisions. Having a strong purpose behind your launch is so important for it to be successful. Joanne Coffey, Head of Email and SMS Marketing at Aisling Organic Cosmetics, shared her thoughts on the best way brands can evoke emotion: 

“The best way brands can evoke emotion for a product launch is to listen to what their customers are screaming for. Listen to their hopes and dreams, pains and fears, and barriers and uncertainties, and solve them through long and short forms of content.” 

Coffery suggests highlighting testimonials in email and SMS marketing that focus on these concepts: 

  • “I was sick of feeling like X, so I started using Y and now I feel like Z.”
  • “This product made me feel X.” 
  • “I have so much more X after using Y” 

Magic Spoons is a cereal brand that takes a healthy take on classic childhood flavors.  It's a common enemy—sugary cereals that are high in carbs. 

This email promotes their newest cereal flavor and follows Coffery’s outline above. But it also reinforces its mission to be a healthy cereal with the nutritional facts front and center on the box—reinforcing the common enemy that is unhealthy cereal. 

Subject line: The people are going nuts 🤩

3. Now take that story, and common enemy, and weave it into EVERYTHING you do 

Marvel does this seamlessly with every marketing material they make. And the release of Phase 4 was no exception. With each new superhero revealed, every email, poster, trailer, and video game embodied their story. 

Here is a look at Shang-Chi’s promotional materials—notice the consistency in the messaging and design regardless of the channel and medium. 

Subject line:  Watch The Brand-New Trailer For Marvel Studios Shang-Chi

 

Marvel never releases just one trailer, but multiple—building anticipation and excitement for the new release. 

The Shang-Chi landing page goes in depth about the character’s hardships, and journey towards his destiny. It even details the comic version of Shang-Chi’s story—giving it a nostalgic feel. 

 


How your brand can do this:

The brands that win launches weave a story into every element of the teaser emails/texts and the official launch. Ben Jabbawy, Privy CEO, shared a similar sentiment: 

“The elements of the launch are the easy part. The narrative and the story and how the subject line, email body,  imagery, and landing page video all tie that narrative and mission together — that's what makes a powerful, emotional launch.” 

Key takeaway→ Be consistent with your narrative to create a powerful and emotional launch. Ben dove into one of his favourite product launches that did an outstanding job of storytelling and evoking emotion. Let’s dive into the Allibrids x Adidas launch: 

Email

Subject line: We shared secrets with Adidas 


Wait what? Isn’t Adidas a competitor? This makes no sense!  It’s fair to say that this email had a high open rate. 

The email itself is simple, and the text is 100% story and mission-driven—a mission that customers are already behind. The design does not fall short of continuing on this story with a bed of flowers underneath the shoe. 

Then you click through to the landing page: 


Ben noted that “this video is one of the best story-driven launch videos I've seen. Visually gorgeous, but it pumps you up and makes you feel like you're doing good for the world”. 

And it truly does, sharing that competitors must work together to solve the current climate crisis. 

4. Be authentic and share the process, and better yet involve customers 

How Marvel does this: 

Sharing behind-the-scenes footage may not seem like a significant way to involve fans throughout the process. But it is. Each video below has over 4 million views. 

The first example invites fans to come alongside the journey of making not one, not two, but EIGHT of their beloved movies. This automatically makes viewers feel like they have the inside scoop on the making of the movie—automatically making viewers feel a part of the process. 

In the following example, the actors and actresses can have real conversations with fans—making for authentic relationship-building between the characters and the fans. 


In the following example, the actors and actresses can have real conversations with fans—making for authentic relationship-building between the characters and the fans. 


How your brand can do this: 

By involving your customers in the process of the product launch, they will start to feel responsible for decisions your brand makes. And therefore, emotionally attached not only to the launch but also your brand. 

“By involving our audience in the process, we've been able to nurture loyalty and anticipation out of our audience. They're also a part of the 'story, as in, they were a part of the manufacturing of the garment” - Marquis Matson, Sozy

For Sozy, this manifests in their social media activity—asking followers what style is their favorite. This builds anticipation, as it’s clear that the Sozy team is creating something new. And this Instagram story allows viewers to “contribute” to the design process. 


Key takeaway→ involving audiences in the decision making process of the launch builds an emotional connection. 

5. Hype it up to customers who love you 3,000

How Marvel does this: 

Building hype is all about connecting a story with your most passionate customer base. 

Marvel already has a massive fanbase, and a movie trailer is the most natural way to hype it up to viewers. But the way Marvel structured the Phase 4 trailer was brilliant and connected us with the old stories already told while unfolding new superheroes and their storylines. 

The trailer recaps moments from previous Avenger movies and then shares live footage of audiences cheering when all the Avengers assembled to defeat Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. 

It is after this that the trailer continues in traditional Marvel fashion, with the Marvel Studios introduction followed by the announcement of the newest films and their corresponding release dates. Followed by a final call to action “See you at the movies.” 

After this initial release, each new movie released its own trailer—providing a unique and dedicated experience for fans.  

Image source

How your brand can do this: 

Likewise, this can be applied to your customers by telling a unified story and segmenting customers based on their experience and interactions with the brand—this way you are truly hyping it up to customers who love you 3,000. 

When I interviewed Lille Sun from Three Ships, she explained that “ when I think about new launches, I always create one story around a product and have that be consistent across all copy, content and assets. But then I take it a step further and segment customers based on their interactions with the brand. This provides each person with a unique story for them to feel engaged”.

Sun walked us through the three segments used for Three Ship’s highly anticipated Refresh Papaya and Salicylic Acid Cleanser launch:

1. Brand new customers. Position product as a highly innovative product. Most salicylic acid elements in skincare are made synthetically in the lab, while Three Ships’ is naturally derived from Aspen Bark. By focusing the story on this sophisticated hero ingredient, we were able to excite brand new customers AND give them the brand story of Three Ships and who we are as a science-driven natural brand.

2. Existing but never bought. We positioned this product as an alternative to our existing best-selling cleanser. Side by side, they are quite unique – our Purify Aloe + Amino Acid Cleanser is ultra-gentle focused on hydrating while Refresh is exfoliating and brightening. This gave existing customers the CHOICE to make a decision. We put the power in their hands, with a lot of copy mentioning things like “choose your cleanser” to get them to their first buying decision. Choice is an extremely powerful emotion to give someone.

3. Existing, already bought. The story here was about the behind-the-scenes development and making customers feel involved in the process. A lot of the teasers leading up to the launch were geared towards them (we had an IG post in which we listed all the ingredients and asked them to guess). This allows your loyal community base to feel that exclusivity and “insider” view which is super important for us.

The result: Refresh was one of Three Ships' most successful launches and has remained in their top #3 products each month since the launch.

Key takeaway→ Building emotion and anticipation is not a one size fits all situation. Instead, you have to segment your customers out and provide each with a unique story for them to feel engaged.

What to remember for your next product launch 

Product launches should be just as exciting for your customers as they are for your team. And it is not impossible to evoke the same emotions and anticipation that people have for movies like Marvel Phase 4. The five parallels to remember are: 

  • Create a compelling story—the product launch should be attached to something greater than itself, such as other products and your brand's mission. 
  • Create a common enemy—your entire customer base should feel strongly opposed to your brand's common enemy. 
  • Weave your story into everything—consistent messaging is key to an emotional launch. 
  • Be authentic—share the process and involve customers to make them feel like they played a part in the launch. 
  • Hype it up to customers—segment your audiences based on their interactions with the brand, so you can make the launch unique to each group. 
Share

Marketing lessons from Marvel

Marvel marketing

Listen to this article: 

Not to be dramatic, but I was shaking with excitement after watching the Marvel Phase 4 Teaser. 

All the emotions of witnessing beloved characters coming back to life and the excitement of new stories to be told. 

Once I collected myself, I immediately sent the teaser to all my friends and family who would share the same sentiment. 

Now, imagine if your next brand launch could do the same thing? That’s right—evoke those same emotions and create lasting memories for customers. 

It’s possible. But most brands fall flat on their face trying. 

The tactics are easy. But if you just send an email announcing a new product or promotion, with a message “Check this out!” with an image and link, that’s not building an emotional connection. That’s just boring. 

People want products that make them feel something—they want to see themselves in the story being told. 

5 pages to steal from Marvel’s promotional handbook

1. Create a compelling story 

How Marvel does this

The Phase 4 launch introduced twelve new movies to enter the Marvel franchise. But these aren’t mutually exclusive movies. Since its inception, Marvel has created a world where each superhero story is connected to a greater story—the Marvel universe.

But it wasn’t always this way. 

To keep readers engaged in the comics, the writers decided to make each hero connected, which led to the creation of the Avengers—superheroes living in a shared world. This tactic is why we are so excited to see new characters added to the universe and hear the stories of heroes we’ve already come to love. We want, rather need, to know how they fit into Marvel’s universe and how their actions will affect another’s story.


By adding additional superheroes to the roster, Marvel was able to cross-sell like crazy. Pairing fan-favorite characters with less popular heroes while keeping the same narrative. The characters shared a world, and the actions of each had repercussions on the others, and each movie is merely a thread of one Marvel-wide mega-story. 

TLDR: It’s never just about one superhero; it’s about the greater story that is the Marvel Universe. 

How your brand can do this

Likewise, for your product launch, it’s never about just selling a certain amount of one product. Three Ships Growth Marketer, Lilli Sun, shares the same sentiment: 

“It’s never about selling that one product. It’s about using the new product to get their attention and have them come back to try your other products and then retain them for life.” 

When planning a product launch, your brand needs to have an overarching storyline—something bigger than the product itself, to gain the attention of customers. It’s essential to have this mindset so that your launches are not just a one-time spike in product sales but scale your company with lifelong purchases. Think about a story that resonates with your audience. One strategy is telling your brand origin story, and including elements in the product launch that relate to your mission and purpose. 

For example, Three Ships recently launched a new face cream. In its Instagram announcement, the post goes in-depth about its natural and ethically sourced ingredients—which is a significant part of its mission to be the most transparent beauty brand in the world. Each ingredient describes a problem and how the “pillow-soft” night cream will resolve it. The Three Ships team treated this Instagram caption as a short story and truly took readers on a journey. 

The story continues. Customers are already in love with the Radiance Day Cream—it’s one of their best sellers. Similar to Marvel, The Dream Night Cream was like introducing a new superhero into the franchise. And people want to know how a new superhero relates to the greater Marvel universe—likewise, customers want to see how the Dream Night Cream will pair with other beloved products. So when the brand officially launched Dream Night Cream, Three Ships strategically communicated how the two products complemented one another. 


Key takeaway → A product launch is never about just the product itself, but how it ties together with other products and your brand's mission and values. 

2. Create a common enemy 

How Marvel does this: 

Everyone hates Thanos. His main goal was to destroy life and re-create it with the six most powerful objects in the universe. Despite it being a fictional world, the thought of Thanos accomplishing his goal sends a shiver down my spine, and most likely yours too. It’s a barbaric concept that evokes an emotional response—in this case, to do everything possible to keep Thanos from getting all six infinity stones and achieving his goal. 

Image source


The only force that can stop Thanos is the Avengers. The heroes of the story uphold justice and fight for the greater good. 

That statement alone is enough for people to be rooting for the Avengers and has them hooked on watching their stories unfold. And given the fact that the Marvel world is connected, it gets the audience even more invested in these new and old characters and how they’ll defeat their own series enemies. 

How your brand can do this:

Does your brand fight acne? Toxic chemicals? Unhealthy foods? Global warming? 

Whatever it may be, create a common enemy that your audience can relate to and rally behind. This is your Thanos. The new product you are launching is the Marvel superheroes, conquering the evil enemy. 

When you see Thanos, you have an emotional reaction (which is hopefully rage). And you’ll want to evoke an emotional response with your quest to conquer a common enemy—because emotions drive decisions. Having a strong purpose behind your launch is so important for it to be successful. Joanne Coffey, Head of Email and SMS Marketing at Aisling Organic Cosmetics, shared her thoughts on the best way brands can evoke emotion: 

“The best way brands can evoke emotion for a product launch is to listen to what their customers are screaming for. Listen to their hopes and dreams, pains and fears, and barriers and uncertainties, and solve them through long and short forms of content.” 

Coffery suggests highlighting testimonials in email and SMS marketing that focus on these concepts: 

  • “I was sick of feeling like X, so I started using Y and now I feel like Z.”
  • “This product made me feel X.” 
  • “I have so much more X after using Y” 

Magic Spoons is a cereal brand that takes a healthy take on classic childhood flavors.  It's a common enemy—sugary cereals that are high in carbs. 

This email promotes their newest cereal flavor and follows Coffery’s outline above. But it also reinforces its mission to be a healthy cereal with the nutritional facts front and center on the box—reinforcing the common enemy that is unhealthy cereal. 

Subject line: The people are going nuts 🤩

3. Now take that story, and common enemy, and weave it into EVERYTHING you do 

Marvel does this seamlessly with every marketing material they make. And the release of Phase 4 was no exception. With each new superhero revealed, every email, poster, trailer, and video game embodied their story. 

Here is a look at Shang-Chi’s promotional materials—notice the consistency in the messaging and design regardless of the channel and medium. 

Subject line:  Watch The Brand-New Trailer For Marvel Studios Shang-Chi

 

Marvel never releases just one trailer, but multiple—building anticipation and excitement for the new release. 

The Shang-Chi landing page goes in depth about the character’s hardships, and journey towards his destiny. It even details the comic version of Shang-Chi’s story—giving it a nostalgic feel. 

 


How your brand can do this:

The brands that win launches weave a story into every element of the teaser emails/texts and the official launch. Ben Jabbawy, Privy CEO, shared a similar sentiment: 

“The elements of the launch are the easy part. The narrative and the story and how the subject line, email body,  imagery, and landing page video all tie that narrative and mission together — that's what makes a powerful, emotional launch.” 

Key takeaway→ Be consistent with your narrative to create a powerful and emotional launch. Ben dove into one of his favourite product launches that did an outstanding job of storytelling and evoking emotion. Let’s dive into the Allibrids x Adidas launch: 

Email

Subject line: We shared secrets with Adidas 


Wait what? Isn’t Adidas a competitor? This makes no sense!  It’s fair to say that this email had a high open rate. 

The email itself is simple, and the text is 100% story and mission-driven—a mission that customers are already behind. The design does not fall short of continuing on this story with a bed of flowers underneath the shoe. 

Then you click through to the landing page: 


Ben noted that “this video is one of the best story-driven launch videos I've seen. Visually gorgeous, but it pumps you up and makes you feel like you're doing good for the world”. 

And it truly does, sharing that competitors must work together to solve the current climate crisis. 

4. Be authentic and share the process, and better yet involve customers 

How Marvel does this: 

Sharing behind-the-scenes footage may not seem like a significant way to involve fans throughout the process. But it is. Each video below has over 4 million views. 

The first example invites fans to come alongside the journey of making not one, not two, but EIGHT of their beloved movies. This automatically makes viewers feel like they have the inside scoop on the making of the movie—automatically making viewers feel a part of the process. 

In the following example, the actors and actresses can have real conversations with fans—making for authentic relationship-building between the characters and the fans. 


In the following example, the actors and actresses can have real conversations with fans—making for authentic relationship-building between the characters and the fans. 


How your brand can do this: 

By involving your customers in the process of the product launch, they will start to feel responsible for decisions your brand makes. And therefore, emotionally attached not only to the launch but also your brand. 

“By involving our audience in the process, we've been able to nurture loyalty and anticipation out of our audience. They're also a part of the 'story, as in, they were a part of the manufacturing of the garment” - Marquis Matson, Sozy

For Sozy, this manifests in their social media activity—asking followers what style is their favorite. This builds anticipation, as it’s clear that the Sozy team is creating something new. And this Instagram story allows viewers to “contribute” to the design process. 


Key takeaway→ involving audiences in the decision making process of the launch builds an emotional connection. 

5. Hype it up to customers who love you 3,000

How Marvel does this: 

Building hype is all about connecting a story with your most passionate customer base. 

Marvel already has a massive fanbase, and a movie trailer is the most natural way to hype it up to viewers. But the way Marvel structured the Phase 4 trailer was brilliant and connected us with the old stories already told while unfolding new superheroes and their storylines. 

The trailer recaps moments from previous Avenger movies and then shares live footage of audiences cheering when all the Avengers assembled to defeat Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. 

It is after this that the trailer continues in traditional Marvel fashion, with the Marvel Studios introduction followed by the announcement of the newest films and their corresponding release dates. Followed by a final call to action “See you at the movies.” 

After this initial release, each new movie released its own trailer—providing a unique and dedicated experience for fans.  

Image source

How your brand can do this: 

Likewise, this can be applied to your customers by telling a unified story and segmenting customers based on their experience and interactions with the brand—this way you are truly hyping it up to customers who love you 3,000. 

When I interviewed Lille Sun from Three Ships, she explained that “ when I think about new launches, I always create one story around a product and have that be consistent across all copy, content and assets. But then I take it a step further and segment customers based on their interactions with the brand. This provides each person with a unique story for them to feel engaged”.

Sun walked us through the three segments used for Three Ship’s highly anticipated Refresh Papaya and Salicylic Acid Cleanser launch:

1. Brand new customers. Position product as a highly innovative product. Most salicylic acid elements in skincare are made synthetically in the lab, while Three Ships’ is naturally derived from Aspen Bark. By focusing the story on this sophisticated hero ingredient, we were able to excite brand new customers AND give them the brand story of Three Ships and who we are as a science-driven natural brand.

2. Existing but never bought. We positioned this product as an alternative to our existing best-selling cleanser. Side by side, they are quite unique – our Purify Aloe + Amino Acid Cleanser is ultra-gentle focused on hydrating while Refresh is exfoliating and brightening. This gave existing customers the CHOICE to make a decision. We put the power in their hands, with a lot of copy mentioning things like “choose your cleanser” to get them to their first buying decision. Choice is an extremely powerful emotion to give someone.

3. Existing, already bought. The story here was about the behind-the-scenes development and making customers feel involved in the process. A lot of the teasers leading up to the launch were geared towards them (we had an IG post in which we listed all the ingredients and asked them to guess). This allows your loyal community base to feel that exclusivity and “insider” view which is super important for us.

The result: Refresh was one of Three Ships' most successful launches and has remained in their top #3 products each month since the launch.

Key takeaway→ Building emotion and anticipation is not a one size fits all situation. Instead, you have to segment your customers out and provide each with a unique story for them to feel engaged.

What to remember for your next product launch 

Product launches should be just as exciting for your customers as they are for your team. And it is not impossible to evoke the same emotions and anticipation that people have for movies like Marvel Phase 4. The five parallels to remember are: 

  • Create a compelling story—the product launch should be attached to something greater than itself, such as other products and your brand's mission. 
  • Create a common enemy—your entire customer base should feel strongly opposed to your brand's common enemy. 
  • Weave your story into everything—consistent messaging is key to an emotional launch. 
  • Be authentic—share the process and involve customers to make them feel like they played a part in the launch. 
  • Hype it up to customers—segment your audiences based on their interactions with the brand, so you can make the launch unique to each group.