What comic book movies can teach us about social media for B2B marketing

Posted by gminks in community building | 3 Comments

This post is part two of my post about being a¬†schizophrenic engineer. ūüôā

FYI this post MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. I don’t think it does if you have seen the Avengers previews, but I’m letting you know just in case.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I had a conversation with¬†Sarah Vela¬†about the angst I was feeling over telling a story using social media. I tried to explain my idea of our audience as participants in the story. How we have to understand the nuances of the audience to be accepted as story tellers instead of …. marketers. I wasn’t making a lot of sense.¬†Then I said – it’s like the difference between Marvel and how they’ve set up the Avengers movies, and how DC sucks at getting movies for their universe made. And for some reason that made sense.

Now, I’m a DC girl. I love Wonder Woman – what lady geek who grew up in the 70s doesn’t? I love her origin story, I love that you can be sexy and stand for justice and be vulnerable but still kick ass. I stopped reading the comic when they changed her outfit, and now I hear they are changing her origin (WTF!). That being said, DC is horrible at making movies for their universe. And Marvel is amazing at telling the story in a way that make sense to their fans.

I’m the Juggernaut bitch!!!

From what I can tell, the first time Marvel showed that they cared what the fans thought about the elements of the stories they were telling was X-Men: The Last Stand. Now imagine if you are telling a story about the X-Men for a big entertainment corporation. The corporation probably has huge expectations around revenue, so they want to tell this story to the broadest audience possible. However, X-Men as a story (comic) was created back in 1963. So you have people who were introduced to and told these stories by their parents at this point. There is an entire community that surrounds the story that can tell you exactly when, how, and why characters evolved by pointing to the exact issues the comics involved. They can tell you how other story lines have impacted their favorite character. If you don’t tell the story to satisfy the biggest fans, there is a huge chance you are going to catch hell for screwing up the story line. But how do you explain including nods to the superfans to the corporate people who are worried about numbers?

Well, someone at Marvel made it work with the Juggernaut. The X-Men Last Stand movie was released in 2006. In 2005, a parody video called “I’m the Juggernaut bitch!” was uploaded to YouTube. It’s a clip from the X-Men cartoon show with a very NSW (yet very hilarious) voice over (check out the whole story at Know Your Meme). The person doing the Juggernaut voiceover only says “Don’t you know who the f I am? I’m the Juggernaut bitch!” (again – super NSW). The Juggernaut was one of the bad guys in the X-Men Last Stand movie, and sure enough he said the line. I saw that movie opening weekend (maybe the 1st day) and the crowd in the theater went crazy.

So think about that. Fans of the X-Men made a seriously inappropriate parody of a children’s cartoon, that was in line with how the fans see the Juggernaut character. That parody became part of the collective story of the character. The writers of the X-Men movie found a way to incorporate the new part of the story into the story they were telling. So Marvel is telling the story, but appreciating that the audience are really actors in the story at the same time.

Avengers assemble!

Marvel has also done a really good job of telling a story with their Avengers franchise. The new Avengers movie comes out next weekend (cannot wait!). The Avengers is a team made up of (in this version of the story) IronMan, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and HawkEye. They are organized by Nick Fury. In the movie the villians are Loki¬†(Thor’s brother) and the¬†Chitauri.

IronMan, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America all have their own movies. Nick Fury first appeared in IronMan (2008), to talk to Tony Stark (who is Iron Man) about the Avenger initiative. Fury also appeared in IronMan2, The Incredible Hulk, and Captain America. Marvel did a great job teasing about the upcoming Avengers story by tying the main character’s stories to the main story.

They also did lots of little things to tease the fans about upcoming stories. In IronMan, there is a shot of Captain America’s¬†shield (Howard Stark – Tony Stark’s father -created the shield). There is also a deleted scene in the 2008 Incredible Hulk movie of the shield covered with snow. The Captain America movie came out in 2011. ¬†BlackWidow, HawkEye, and Loki all appeared in the Thor movie (which also came out in 2011).

Marvel has been setting the scene and telling the Avengers story with their movies since 2008. They have tied all the elements together that the fans expect. There are sure to be some things that don’t jive (like why doesn’t Black Widow have a Russian Accent?). But they have honored their story and seem to have taken the fans into consideration, perhaps seeing them as defenders of the stories. Marvel knows they have to get these stories right for the superfans. And I think this has helped them tell the stories in a way that make sense for all audiences.

Will we ever see a JLA movie?

Like I said earlier, I’m a huge DC fan. Now, there have been DC movies. You have Superman and Batman movies. And a Green Lantern movie. Now that is my first gripe against DC. The trinity of DC is Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Those are the movies that need to be made to tell a story that gets us to a Justice League movie. There should have been a Wonder Woman movie before a Green Lantern movie! Get Gail Simone to write the Wonder Woman script, and for goodness sake do not rewrite Diana’s origin story!

Stop doing crazy things with our favorite heros like the nipple suit and rebooting Superman and whatever that Catwoman movie was supposed to be. Tell the story the fans know to be true, not the one that you think will do the best in the box office. If you tell the story with the superfans in mind, the revenue will come. Look at how well Marvel is doing!

So what does this have to do with social media and B2B marketing?

I “do” social media in the Enterprise space – for data storage. Storage people are weird – I was told paranoid this week. I think that’s a good description, we’re paranoid about losing data. That touches lots of things – discs, IOPs, applications,¬†¬†OSs, connectivity. We blame things on the networking people all the time – and they are never paranoid enough about how data gets someplace. They just figure out a new route. This makes us crazy. And the sysadmins just roll their eyes and get it all done because in the end the customers yell at them.

The stories and memes and cultures are all interconnected. If we as vendors don’t understand this when we go out with our company’s story, we’re dead in the water. If we miss an important meme when we tell the story, we miss connecting with our audience, and that shapes our relationship with the audience from that point on (tip of the hat to Ed Saiptech for that insight ). Look at how DC is handling their movies, and Wonder Woman in general, as an example of that.

We should look at our audience as actors in our stories. ¬†They are the ones using and building and interacting with our products. Their reshaping of the stories we tell are vital. If we go out with a story, it should incorporate the story elements that are important to our audiences. We should find ways to insert “I’m the juggernaut bitch!” into the way we tell our company’s story.

Then we should report back on the story that we set out to tell, how our audience interacted and changed the story, and where the story is now. Don’t get me wrong, the Radian6 numbers are part of what we want to report. But the story telling is way more important.

Y’all……..we gotta start telling the story.

3 Responses to What comic book movies can teach us about social media for B2B marketing

  1. Pingback: G's view of the world - The engineer in me is starting to feel schizophrenic as a marketer

  2. Jenny DJM says:

    With good movies, its all about the characters and emotions. IMO. Whedon gets that and creates movies that people love. With bad movies, the focus is on tangential things like special effects and action sequences. With good social media, its all about offering people something of benefit. With bad social media, it’s all about self-promotion and being annoying to people. That’s what separates good from great IMO. This really is the key benefit that social media offers – free market research into the thoughts of your userbase. That is invaluable when it comes to iterating on and improving your own product. But I think that social media, despite being so important to businesses that big brands are promoting Facebook logos in their Super Bowl ads or smaller companies using the myriads of services listed at BuyFacebookFansReviews is not yet held in high enough esteem that companies want to shell out many to pay for expertise in social media in a time of general economic malaise. I think that companies that are sufficiently forward thinking and look to use social-media and actually manage their community in a quality manner will be more likely to reap these benefits 10-fold. Way too many companies that I’ve seen try and devote next to no serious attention to social media, then get discouraged when they don’t see immediate success. It’s got to be a long-term commitment with clear goals in mind. That’s the mindset that more companies need with regards to social media.

  3. John Troyer says:

    Gina, I’ve been thinking about this post for the last week. You’re making an important point. I don’t know how to explain this to executives yet — I’m pretty sure a superheroes aren’t going to resonate with them — but thank you for making me struggle with this simple yet deep truth. It’s not about the metrics. Instead, it’s about co-creation of a story; a journey together. This afternoon I just ran across this article on Amanda F’ing Palmer from Techdirt and I immediately made me think of this post. Amanda Palmer is successful because she spends every day being a part of the community. Hopefully that’s what you and I do as well. (And congrats on the successful TFD!) -John

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