Marvel and DC: How Their Digital Marketing Strategies Compare
The battle between Marvel and DC has long been a point of discussion among comic fans. Although they’ve set aside their differences at times, the two companies have long remained in competition. With the DC Extended Universe and Marvel Cinematic Universe both dominating box offices, this conversation is even more culturally relevant now than in the past.
Of course, cinematic feats are not the only things to consider regarding the loyal fan bases the two publishers have built. Apart from graphic literature and feature films, the role of digital content cannot be understated. Digital marketing strategies are central to their success in the modern age.
However, it is apparent that the digital strategies used by Marvel and DC are different. And seeing as Marvel does has a larger following than DC on virtually all types of social media, it is possible that these digital strategies are contributors to the former’s success. The differences between each company’s digital presence is visible throughout their social media, content, and SEO work.
Marvel has completely transformed its digital marketing in recent years by focusing on “new media.” New media is defined as “means of mass communication using digital technologies such as the internet.” This means that they are focusing heavily on digital marketing and content.
Fast Company revealed that the new media team runs the entire 8th floor of Marvel’s Manhattan headquarters. Marvel’s New Media team set out to “start creating a daily cadence of content, cultivate a digital identity, and bring in revenue independent of other streams.” Roughly 18 months after the fact, they had a huge variety of podcasts and videos, a new website, and what the article described as “an aggressive social strategy.”
However, DC aren’t strangers to social engagement. They recently won a 2019 Webby Award for their digital media management. In years previous, they were nominated in the 9th Annual Shorty Awards for their animated recaps, character cards, Legends of Tomorrow Instagram reveals, and generating 70% to 90% positive reviews for both Hanna-Barbera and Young Animal comics.
That said, DC may have an upper hand on Instagram. Although Marvel puts out more content than DC, which may drive more engagement overall, they tend to use text within their visuals. DC’s content tends to be image-only. This may culminate in better fan engagement. For instance, the number of likes on Marvel’s “best of” video from the first day of San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) was 0.55% of their total likes, while DC’s was 1.6%.
Quantity vs. Quality Content
Marvel’s new media team has put out a consistently large amount of content in the few years since their inception. Videocasts and podcasts are a specialty for them, which can be located at the home page of its website as well as the top of its Facebook Page. Examples of these include:
The pristine quality of these podcasts and videos reflect a greater motivation that drives Marvel’s output. Sarah Amos, VP of development and project management, told Fast Company that the New Media team is “constantly talking with the Marvel Studios team to make sure that everything they’re thinking about and working on is celebrated in the way that it has the potential to be.” This has included monitoring data analytics to make content accessible despite its depth.
Regarding podcasts specifically, Marvel has taken a striking advantage of this platform with at least six shows that are active and several that are archived. Conversely, DC doesn’t boast any official podcasts on their website. While they do have a good amount of video content between several YouTube Pages, they are not as interconnected with other social channels like Marvel’s are.
The type of content being released by Marvel purposefully appeals to their most obsessive fans. As observed by PR News contributor Justin Joffe in April, Marvel has “embraced esoteric intellectual property as part of the big picture. For all of Marvel’s massive spend on paid and owned, much of the hype and theorizing around its stories amounts to earned media.” This has been extremely beneficial to their SEO.
SEO is the process of ensuring a website ranks for keywords in search query results. This can be done in a number of ways, but for a company’s website, effective SEO relies heavily upon inbound marketing. Though both DC and Marvel use optimized anchor text in order to funnel users from social media channels to their respective domains, Marvel’s site and digital content are both geared toward fans seeking insider info.
This has played into Marvel’s domination of the cinematic game. Fan-favorites such as Jessica Jones or the Guardians of the Galaxy are catered more toward cult fans than surface-level observers. To compare, DC seems to be focusing on its traditionally viable characters, like Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and the Green Lantern.
Marvel’s focus on their niche characters has given it the ability to rank for extremely specific keywords, making Marvel itself the ultimate authority on all things Marvel. Similar to the aforementioned podcast conundrum, DC doesn’t have as much of a hand in engaging their most underground fan theories. They’re not their own best source in the way that Marvel is.
Who Is the Most Effective at Digital Engagement?
Marvel’s digital marketing strategies seem to be more effective than DC’s. The latter does not utilize social engagement tools quite as much as the former. Marvel on has gone beyond the basic digital means for promoting their company, and they are continuing to grow because of it. Do you foresee it staying this way, or will DC catch up to Marvel in popularity and social engagement? Tell us what you think in the comments below.