Marketing Tips From Superheroes

Comic universe Czar Stan Lee’s characters human touch does the trick

What shall we marvel at now? Stan Lee, the legendary creator of comic characters like Spider-Man, X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Ghost Rider, Black Panther and many more, breathed his last on November 12 at the age of 95.

Lee, who influenced American popular culture in substantial measure, left behind the billion-dollar Marvel universe comprising comic books, films, TV shows, games, digital media and merchandise. It was a magical world beyond comparison which held young and old in thrall. His peers could hardly match him.

Why so? Because while his competitors created superheroes, Lee created characters with a human touch. Like us, Lee’s characters had flaws and shortcomings. Despite being endowed with super human powers, Lee’s cried and wept, battled with common problems like us and were often made to even bite the dust or humiliated. Very much like our divine avatars who faced troubles and tribulations for the ultimate good of mankind. That is what makes us believe in them.

Writer Rachel Lopez commented, “Relatable, fallible heroes were a Stan Lee signature…Other signatures Lee leaves behind: superheroes who came from actual spots on the map, the notion that characters could cross over and team up,  and heroes and villains who have often been reflective of larger social narratives.”

No wonder then millions or may be billions of Lee’s fans around the world identified themselves with these characters. And this is what gave Lee an edge over his competition. In fact, for decades, Lee had no clue about his winning gambit. Lending his superheroes a human touch came naturally to him. The competition realised the ‘secret’ too late. Chuckling in a TV interview, Lee once said that this proved to be a boon for the Marvel universe.

Some of his observations give an insight into his comic characters. Here they are:

With great power comes great responsibility.

• The power of prayer is still the greatest ever known in this endless eternal universe.
• That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done and because it is the right thing to do is indeed without a doubt a real superhero. Excelsior.
• Another definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being, and will go out of his or her way to help them – even if there is no chance of a reward.

But why am I talking of the comic world Czar in a management column? What management-specific lessons does Stan Lee’s life offer to young managers and executives?

Didn’t I refer to the human touch which was so obvious in Lee’s superheroes? While it could be true that this approach may not have been deliberately devised by Lee, yet it was very much a part of Lee’s characters. One could say that this was ingrained in Lee’s psyche and inadvertently found its way into his creative world. His characters became more believable among the legions of his readers and viewers.
Here is the hidden lesson for our Sales & Marketing executives. Lee’s work touched a chord in the customer’s heart. He knowingly or unknowingly made his customers believe in his superheroes. He imbued his characters with super powers but also made them feel and falter like humans. No fairy tales from Lee.

Do our Sales & Marketing staff go out of their way to map out the psychographics and demographics of our existing and potential customers? Do we try to gain deep insight into their likes and dislikes? Do we track the changing trends and keep creating and introducing products and services accordingly? Are we willing to accept that even the best of products will fail to hold customers’ fancy forever and, therefore, changes and innovations need to be introduced regularly?

Marketing is all about touching the heart. Done appropriate sales figures will bounce automatically.

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