This case analysis was for a Principles of Marketing class in the Olin Business School. The case is based on the Marvel brand in the early 2000s and recommendations are based on the case summary and facts provided to students.
Marvel Enterprises, Inc. is at a crossroads in its business strategy. Having built its empire largely in licensing fees and on classic characters, Marvel faces the choice of whether to expand into new characters in its portfolio and whether to begin transitioning from a licensing company to an original creator.
My recommendation for Marvel has four parts. The first is to shift its portfolio to spotlight its lesser known characters, making way for new paths between Marvel’s audience and its content. Secondly, Marvel should create, through licensing with a network or streaming site, a Marvel universe-themed television show for younger audiences that spotlights the entire Marvel brand. Next, Marvel should seek out avenues to specifically target females in ages corresponding to their highest product demographics for males. Lastly, Marvel should diversify its offerings with original and immersive digital content.
Basis for Recommendation:
Diversify Character Portfolio: Despite its diverse lineup of 4,700 characters, Marvel focuses on its low-risk established characters. This strategy lacks long-term viability, since audiences will tire of the same characters, and sequels are landing poorer than in past years1. Because Marvel can introduce characters first in comic books and slowly advance them to more investment-heavy outlets, this option has a smaller risk than the stagnation of its established characters and the potential for high reward in new readers.
Television Show: A concern of transitioning its portfolio from its few established characters to its many lesser known ones is that the view of the Marvel brand will shift. That is why I recommend that Marvel creates, in conjunction with a network or streaming service, a Marvel universe-themed TV show for a wide audience of 8 to 18, who buy its merchandise. In addition to exposing the primary audience of its comics and merchandise to its new set of characters, the show would act as an incentive to purchase as movie releases do and test audience reactions to characters for movie development.
Female Targeting: Marvel’s key audiences and consumers are male in each of its categories, which leaves out a large segment of potential customers that competitors such as Mattel and Disney capitalize on. Through a campaign embracing female interest in Marvel heroes and a long-term promise to increase its representation of female heroes, Marvel could entice this segment to be a loyal customer base and also gain media attention from progressive media outlets and social media. The timing of this initiative would fit in well with Marvel’s addition of new characters to its products and the rise of feminism.
Original Digital Content: Though I recommend that most of Marvel’s content should continue to be outsourced and licensed, Marvel should devote capital to creating online and mobile interfaces that will immerse fans into the Marvel universe and unite its variety of products. Much like the Marvel universe TV show, this digital content, ranging from interactive character bios to all-character mobile games, would unify the Marvel brand and give new audiences access to attitudinal loyalty through its engaging and personal interfaces, in addition to explicit advertising of its comic books, merchandise, and programs.
Alternatives, Risks, and Assumptions
A potential risk of the television show idea is the risk of achieving such a wide audience base. However, I believe that with easily digestible plots, exciting characters, and nuanced jokes and situations with different meanings for the older audiences and younger audiences, Marvel will be able to achieve this.
The recommendation to create products and content that target females assumes that there are females interested in Marvel’s entertainment. If that segment of females does not exist, Marvel can focus on targeting female children who have not yet been influenced by past gendered superhero practices.
A risk of the original digital content is that consumers would not interact with it. However, Marvel can combat this through exclusive online content and product offerings, given its loyal cu