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.

I’m not going to get into these little references, but suffice to say, almost every superhero movie offers some obscure references from the comic books.  It may be a street name or the name of a secondary character. If it’s a character from the Marvel universe, it probably even includes a cameo by the legendary comic creator Stan Lee. (Okay, lots of non-comic book readers recognize Stan Lee, but that’s still an insider reference, if you ask me.)

Anyway, these small references are like little rewards for reading the comics. It tells the hardcore fan that, yes, the movie makers get it. It’s like a secret handshake and a wink on the movie screen.

Best of all, it works. After seeing a superhero movie, many die hard comic fans will talk about these fleeting references. Many people will sit through scrolling credits to get that two-minute bumper video. In recent years, movies like Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010) have included significant hints about upcoming films, like Thor (2011) and the Avengers (2012). If you are not a fan, you probably didn’t sit through the credits.

Okay, so, back to marketing. Imagine how dedicated an audience has to be to sit through the entire list of movie credits, just to watch an extra two minutes of content. That’s a pretty devoted fan, right?

Marvel is now offering advanced registration to their geek campaign. Fans are getting an opportunity to participate in a secret mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. For the average person, this may just seem like another video game promo, but it is actually an important thread that runs through many of the recent movies based on Marvel Comics characters.

As an average person, you may not get the reference, but that doesn’t matter. Marvel is beginning their buzz campaign amongst fans. If you can imagine, Marvel is starting to promote movies that will not release for a year or more. But that’s okay by the fans.

It’s not relevant for every brand, but try to think of ways to offer something of value to your devoted customers. It may be a behind-the-scenes photo or video. It could be a peek at the manufacturing process. Or some advanced info about an upcoming event or brand improvement.

It doesn’t have to resonate with every single one of your customers, but your true fans will appreciate that you’re sharing something special.



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