Among the many “thought leaders”, “social media influencers” and hopeful startup owners attending this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival, one very established brand stood out: Marvel Comics.
Marvel owns some of the hottest movie properties around, but Hollywood blockbusters aren’t enough to preserve the brand in an era of diminishing returns for all corners of the publishing world. So what does Marvel plan to do to expand? Quite a bit, actually.
First, the company offered free digital versions of the first issues of top titles like X-Men, The Avengers and The Fantastic Four for a limited period ending today (hint hint). The purpose of this move was to familiarize more people with the beginnings of these timeless stories, but as an added bonus they may help everyone forget the terrible casting of Jessica Alba as Mrs. Fantastic. The rest of Marvel’s brand reinforcement (don’t say “rebranding”) strategy also focuses heavily on the digital sphere: The biggest single step forward may be the launch of the Marvel Unlimited app, a tool to help mobile fans read their favorites without having to worry about the stupid Flash player screwing everything up. Calls to action? Check. User friendly? Check.
Marvel also has some unique digital-only projects in the works.
For example, “Infinite Comics” will feature new weekly chapters in the adventures of our favorite Marvel characters like Wolverine (whose unfortunately terrible movie franchise will be going through its own rebranding this summer). Unlike all other digital properties, these titles will never live on physical paper–they’ll be created with the mobile user in mind. Most interestingly, Marvel used a patented audio technology to add background music to this serialized content: “…nonlyrical music plays at the same pace as a reader flips through the digital pages”, which means the soundtrack somehow follows you. Very cool.
That’s not all, though: Marvel recently reached out to its youngest fans by teaming up with the nonprofit Discovery Science Center to sponsor the Iron Man 3 Inventor and Innovator Fair, a contest that will reward sixth to eighth graders for creating science projects tied to the upcoming big-money sequel, which just happens to open in May.
So Marvel Comics doesn’t only rule social media: based on this full plate of projects, we’d say its team plans to dominate all other media as well. Sounds like a brand that knows exactly where it wants to be–and has a pretty damn good idea of how to get there.
We have great confidence in the folks at Marvel. One piece of friendly, unsolicited advice, though: stop trying to make a halfway decent Hulk movie. It just doesn’t work, OK?!