7 Marketing Tips From Comic Book Superheroes

Superheroes reflect what is best about us.

Sometimes that comes across in the youthful exuberance of Spider-Man. Sometimes it is the way Batman quells his taste for vengeance by stopping the very criminals who would create more orphans like him. Sometimes it's just trying to make our parents proud by doing good like the big, blue boy-scout, Superman.

Smart marketers take advice and motivation from a wide variety of sources. It pays to be open in your thinking; in this rapidly changing world 2.0 landscape, inspiration often comes from unexpected quarters.

In that spirit, here are 7 marketing tips given to us by comic book superheroes and their own personal mottoes:

  • Hulk: "Hulk Smash!": The green giant frequently yells "Hulk smash" before doing, well, you can probably guess. And in these two words, he expressed both the utter focus marketers must bring to their work, as well as a willingness to completely let loose. Marketing is not a career for the timid; it is a career for smashers.
  • Daredevil: "The man without fear": In uncertain economic times, the marketing budget is often the first to get cut. CMOs and others (rightly) fear for their jobs. However, as Bryan Eisenberg write on ClickZ, you can bolster your position and have less to fear if you tie your efforts directly to dollars coming in the door. Fear is a paralyzing specter in marketing, a career inherently bound to risk. But you do not have to fall prey to it.
  • Green Lantern: "In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight! Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power – Green Lantern’s light!": Per Wikipedia's definition, a Green Lantern's ring is "sustained purely by the ring wearer's strength of will. The greater the user's willpower, the more effective the ring. " In this time of great change, how often are you frustrated, anxious, or discouraged in your marketing efforts? Strength of will may be the only thing to carry you through to eventual success.
  • Iron Man: "The cool exec with the heart of steel": This motto, taken from the 1966/67 television series, relates to the duality of marketing: creative but business, calm but frantic, Tony Stark and Iron Man. And even as Stark battled his alcoholism, we cool execs must also keep tabs on our personal health. I'm reminded of a quote from David Ogilvy: "It is reliably reported that seven out of every hundred executives in American business are alcoholics, and it is reasonable to assume that the proportion in your agency is at least as high...Your alcoholics may include some of your brightest stars." In this high pressure business, with all its duality, be sure to keep both sides healthy.
  • Superman: "For truth, justice, and the American way!": I'm less interested in Superman's nationalistic identities, as I am in truth and justice. Much like the man himself, Superman's motto seems a little hokey these days. But marketing is at an interesting cross-roads. Marketers were previously despised for interrupting and figuratively shouting at consumers. But now we have the opportunity to add to their lives, to be invited in to the buying process, to stop problems before they escalate, and to tell the truth quickly and honestly.
  • The Watchmen: "Who watches the Watchmen?": This ominous motto is peppered throughout Alan Moore's award-winning tome, usually scrawled or spray-painted on gritty walls. To me, it speaks to the importance of oversight. As marketers we must foster each effort, but also measure the results in order to prove our worth and remain on the most effective path.
  • Spider-Man: "With great power comes great responsibility": You knew Spidey would round out this list, right? These days, everyone has power. Marketing agencies are becoming flatter and publishing is practically free (you're reading a blog, after all). Anyone, in theory, can become a thought-leader and bring about change. So how are you going to change the marketing world? Will you help usher in the new era I discussed in the Superman section? I'm reminded of a quote from Seth Godin (hence the illustration at the top of this post) as featured on Marketing Over Coffee:

"Marketers do things to people all of the time, especially the spammers who call you at home during dinner. They're doing something to you. And they think they deserve it, that they're entitled. 'Well, you're not on the Do No Call list.' No, but it's wrong. They do it to us because that's the way it's always been done, because it's their job. But what leaders do, what people with tribes do, is that they do it for us." (1 hour, 16 minutes in)

How are you using this new era to become a superhero? Or, who do you see as the modern marketing superheroes?


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(All superheros mentioned in this post are property of Marvel Comics and DC Comics. I hope they understand that this post is based on adoration and do not sue me.)