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“Just because something works, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” – Shuri (Black Panther, 2018)

Marvel vs Dc has been an ongoing debate for years now. Who’s better at producing movies? Who’s better at selling comics? Who has the best characters? Don’t get me wrong all of the questions above are valuable but the real question we should be asking is who is better at marketing and advertising their content?

Introduction: The Marvel vs. DC Debate

Let’s start by explaining who these big companies are.

Marvel was founded in 1939 (80 years ago) and it’s an American media franchise that since 2009 is owned by Disney. They started with comic books and since then have made their way into the cinematographic industry.

DC Comics was founded in 1934 (85 years ago), for those who don’t know DC stands for Detective Comics (because it was because of a comic book series about a crime that the two founders of DC ended up teaming up and forming a company using the same name). They have since been a huge part of the comic book industry and later on of the TV and film industry. They are currently owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Historical Background: Marvel and DC’s Origins

To understand the importance of marketing in the cinematographic industry and its impact on Marvel’s revenue, we have to understand what Marvel was and what it did to become who they are today.

Back in the 90s Marvel was pretty much done for, they were strapped for cash and the solution that they found back then was to sell the rights to some of their heroes.

Back then DC’s heroes were already well known; with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman under their belt, it seemed like they had nothing to worry about, especially when Marvel sold the rights of their top heroes Spiderman (to Sony) and X-men (to 20th Century Fox).

After the deal, Marvel was left with some money but no well-known heroes to work with. That’s when their marketing strategy really began. Let’s think about 11 years back. Beginning of 2008 who would you know that would recognize Iron Man or would know that it was not only the title of a Black Sabbath song?

Before the movie, Iron Man was released not many of us knew who he was and now there’s not one kid who doesn’t know his name.

Marvel choose a long-term strategy. Instead of releasing separate movies or even just working on the avengers straight away, they chose to build the brand first.

Let me give an example of how they worked using a cosmetics brand. Let’s pretend that there’s a new brand in the market that not a lot of people know of, so instead of releasing a full line of cosmetics and deals, they choose a long-term strategy to introduce their products one by one to the public to build the brand’s image.

At first, they release lipstick (Iron man) after that they release their bronzer (Hulk) their eye shadows (Thor and Captain America), and so on. When their products are well known individually they wrap all of them together in a pretty purse (a great production) and release them together as a whole (The Avengers).

What we have to understand is, the idea was always, from the get-go, to sell the purse but instead of just doing it with what they had available they strengthen the name of the brand because with a strong name it’s easier to sell products.

They chose to work on a long-term strategy to make more money later instead of making quick cash immediately.

The Marketing Genius of Marvel

Comparing Marvel and DC ends up being inevitable, they both have very similar products and dare I say almost the same fan base. This entire market focused on superheroes started with comic books, and both of these companies (Marvel and DC) are greatly expanding this market and taking it to a whole new level by utilizing all types of channels available in a vigorous effort to make their characters more popular and well-known.

The animated series DC has Batman: The Animated Series that won an Emmy award, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, we all have watched at least an episode in our earlier days and the reruns were watched by our kids or younger siblings.

DC also has the longer-running superheroes series on TV with Smallville a Superman prequel about his teenage years that ran for 10 years (2001-2011).

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DC’s Struggles and Successes

In the small screen aspect, we can say that Marvel is following in DCs steps and providing more content to their fans.

Since 2013 we are being bombarded with Marvel TV series. We were introduced to SHIELD and their characters throughout the Marvel movies, and after the success of The Avengers, a TV series based on those characters was released. Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. won a ‘Most exciting New Series in 2013 in the Critics’ Choice Award and has been an ongoing series on ABC (an American broadcasting company) series ever since.

Another 15+ series from Marvel were released or are bound to be released in the next couple of years. These series are spread across different platforms including Netflix, Hulu, Freeform, and the newest Disney+. It’s easy to see how Marvel is now everywhere, which is another part of their marketing strategy.

Some people choose Netflix, some choose Hulu and Disney+ but different Marvel series are available in all of them.

This essay is by no means trying to bury the work that DC has done. Their heroes are still well known and still bring audiences to the movie theatres but if they want to catch up with Marvel’s success they will have to come up with a stronger marketing plan.

DC keeps excelling on the small screen with Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl and they also found a great way to do a crossover, with the last 3 shows mentioned being connected in the same cinematographic universe. They tend to get high ratings when the characters get together in the different shows, but this is not enough to bring their heroes up into the 1st place again.

A way into selling is by making people relate to what you have, that’s why people buy products promoted by digital influencers that they like because they relate to them. Marvel is doing a great job of bringing the characters closer to the audience, we are all cheering for them and sad when they get hurt and that’s what keeps us following their journey. We want them to win and we want to see it happens. DC, on the other hand, keeps their heroes a bit above us and that creates a bigger difference between us and the characters that influence when we want to choose if we want to watch them or not, and that has been proved.

A study conducted by ZappiStore used facial expressions of people reacting to both, Marvel and DC trailers. The study showed that Marvel movies achieved more success because the audience find them more appealing and emotionally engaging than DC movies. That has a lot to deal with how the movies are produced and the idea behind them.

The Emotional Connection: Marvel’s Edge

What I mean by this is, in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) all the films are made in a way that they complement each other and at the end of each movie we have a sneak peek of a scene that shows what we are supposed to expect and to peak our curiosity on how things are going to connect and it creates that anticipation feeling that drives us to the movie theatre.

On the other hand in the DCEU (The DC Extended Universe) the films are produced in disconnected ways where the movies are pursuing individual successes without showing the development of characters and without hinting at what’s about to come.

DC is trying to change this image though, they did hint at the idea of the justice league movie in Batman vs Superman, the same movie in which they introduced wonder woman before the release of her solo movie, so, they are trying to achieve a similar feeling that the MCU created they are just not having the same success.

Justice League was released in 2017 bringing all of their biggest heroes together (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg) and they also used a lighter tone to the movie to appeal more to the audience.

They were eager to compete with Marvel, and because they wanted to be up to par fast, they didn’t give enough time for their characters to conquer the public’s heart.

Even though the public is aware of the existence of the DCS superheroes (even more than they were aware of the Marvels heroes when they first started) the production and the way they are introduced in the cinematographic universe is different, and without getting their public involved and invested in the characters, the movie ended up not being as successful as The Avengers (the equivalent of the movie on the different company).

In the comic book side of it though DC has been trying and even succeeding in marketing its brand. In 2016 they came up with the rebirth book collection. In this collection they had a line-wide re-launched of their titles, they all had different covers and were released twice a month (Their previous comics were released once a month) and the collection ended up being very appealing to the readers making the sales of the comic books soar right after the launch. But even so in August 2019 in every two comic books ordered from Diamond Comic Distributors by North American comic book, one was a Marvel comic book which means that Marvel held a 50% share amongst all other companies for the month of August.

Conclusion: The Future of Marvel and DC

The quote by Shuri in the Black Panther shows what Marvel is going for, they have a system that is clearly working but at the same time they are not holding back, it’s the opposite, they are pushing forward and trying to improve even more by pushing their brand in all channels, they are present on tv, comic books, toy shops and more importantly on the cinemas. They are also very present on social media, all of their actors are constantly posting about the movies and hinting at what’s about to come, their interviews get constantly shared on social media and that keeps the public interested.

DC is also following one of their hero’s quotes and dare I say not in the best manner.

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” – Batman

What I mean by this is, DC has great characters which we were raised listening to and talking about, but even do they have this strong core they are not doing much about it. They are taking them for granted and not working on them in a way to make them more interesting to the public and that’s the reason that their numbers are going down. I do believe that if DC works in its marketing strategies it can be up to par with marvel they need to evaluate what’s best for their brand even if that means starting again and working to build the brand back up.

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