Now that we finally have some variety in competition within the superhero film sphere, what’s interesting to look at is how people respond to the different films and marketing materials from the films. The studios seem to be taking different approaches with their cinematic universes and all attempt to build a strong brand that will carry their cinematic universe. So the question is how are the brands looking now and do the different brands influence our judgement?
Right now we really have three brands in the live-action cinematic superhero world: Marvel/Disney, Marvel/Fox and DC/WB. It’s clear who has the strongest brand of all of them right now, it’s Marvel/Disney. It all started back in 2008 when they came out with Iron Man and Incredible Hulk. Although Hulk didn’t do much to impress anyone, Iron Man came out swinging and really demonstrated to everyone the potential Marvel has.
Then after Iron Man came Captain America and Thor, and with a decent amount films out people started to really get involved with the Marvel brand. The audience understood what they would get with a Marvel movie. A sense of trust was built and with that trust came excitement. So of course when The Avengers hit the screen, people knew they were going to get something good. To get an opening weekend number over $200 million means that the audience were really invested in this universe and wanted to see where they were going. And now looking at 2016, the Marvel brand is in a really strong place of trust and loyalty. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the concept seems, people trust the Marvel brand. Consistency has meant that they have been able grow a genuine sense of trust within the mainstream audience.
So from their efforts came a really strong sense of brand trust in the mainstream audience, but it also built a monster in the fanboy community. Something very strange came from the MCU, a group of people so loyal to the Marvel brand that their opinions towards anything that isn’t the Marvel brand is basically blind rage. Of course this is just a small group, but they are also a very vocal group.
I would be interested to know if they would respond to films and marketing materials differently from other brands if they thought it was from Marvel studios. How much of a difference does knowing that something they are hearing or watching comes from the Marvel brand play into them forming their judgement. I would say a lot, and it’s clear. They can be forgiving if the Marvel brand does something but if another brand does a similar thing, it’s an outrage.
Again this happens as Marvel has built a sense a trust that DC simply has not done yet. And the reverse bias comes as well. Many will look much more favourably on DC things than Marvel. It’s a common trend that once something becomes overwhelmingly popular, the pendulum swings and people find the need to hate on it instead. So because Marvel has become so popular and mainstream, many are starting to nit-pick the brand, and in a way DC has become idealised as this underdog brand that they want to root for. Public opinion is funny that way. Of course it’s hard to really judge public opinion based on internet comments, because not everyone are one to express their feelings online. But simply talking to people I know I get a lot of different perspectives. Some don’t really have interest in anything DC related because it’s not Marvel, it isn’t a brand they are familiar with. Others are over Marvel and want something new.
Moving on to Fox, although they’ve technically been around the longest (since 1999!) Fox is the one with the most unclear brand. Because this is really the first year they are diversifying themselves, and offering different films that aren’t straight up X-Men movies, it’s been harder to grasp a sense of brand from them. Overall the Fox films have been successful, but compared to the other two, they aren’t as big of a brand (yet). This year will definitely be the year they’ll differentiate themselves. With 3 different films coming out, extending their brand will be a big thing this year.
Whereas the other brands have things that are distinct to them, Marvel is fun, an adventure for everyone and DC takes a more grounded and serious approach. So what is Fox’s thing? In a way they seem to be sitting in the middle of that spectrum, but it will be interesting to see where they sit after 2016. Deadpool is more fun, but also more adult. Apocalypse seems to be darker and more serious, and Gambit, well who knows right now. And with solo films like Deadpool and Gambit coming out, that are clearly part of the X-Men universe, it will give the brand a chance to really build that sense of trust and loyalty. Obviously Fantastic Four did them no favours, but because it was so separate from their X-Men properties, it didn’t really do anything to build or cause damage to the brand. It’s like an outlier, but if it happens again, then it’s time to start questioning the Marvel/Fox brand.
So here’s my question to you, what role does brand play in your judgement? Do you feel more inclined to trust Marvel/Disney’s decisions even if you aren’t fully convinced it’s good, are you hesitant to feel comfortable with DC’s material etc? Personally for me I do feel a sense of trust to what Marvel does, maybe at first Guardians of the Galaxy seemed like a weird choice, but because it was them I didn’t really question whether it would be a good film, I just expected it in a way. For DC I definitely feel a sense of brand loyalty towards them because of my already favourable opinions towards their other non-film stuff, so I’m more optimistic with their choices, but of course won’t fully trust what they are building until after we see some of their outputs. With Fox, in a way I trust them because they have given us some great X-Men films, but when they’ve tried to stretch themselves a bit with Wolverine spin-offs and Fantastic Four films, it just hasn’t really worked.
Anyways after this year it will definitely be interesting to see how public opinion changes towards these brands. Hopefully we reach a stage where the majority of people are favourable towards all the different brands and are excited to see what they bring next, instead of being dramatically negative about everything.
Categories: comic book movies