Avengers: Endgame opens around the world today. It's projected that it will break box-office records to be the biggest opening weekend of all time. It can be tempting to think that it's easy for Marvel and Disney to create a blockbuster given their budgets and strong brand recognition. But a blockbuster movie of this magnitude wasn't born in a day, or even a year. It was decades in the making.
Marvel played the long game with its marketing, and that is what got it to this point. Apply lessons from its journey to work to create a blockbuster for your own business, no matter your budget. Here's how.
1. Start by building a cult following.
In 1961, Marvel started releasing superhero titles for its comic books, many of which are featured in Avengers: Endgame. Characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Hulk have had decades to build up a loyal following.
You don't have to think about how to create a blockbuster from the very beginning. Focus on your existing customers and fans, and produce products, services, experiences, and content they can rally around.
Once you find elements your customers respond positively to, lean into them heavily. Work to develop those aspects more so you can deepen your customers' connection with them over time.
2. Focus on storytelling.
One thing that's fascinated me about the Marvel movies, is that each character has her own backstory. Last month I saw Captain Marvel, which will play a big role in Avengers: Endgame. To adequately incorporate her into the storyline, Marvel needed to introduce the audience to her origin story. As a result, when I see her in other movies, I'll understand her and her superpowers to a greater degree.
Storytelling should be a central part of your business too. You could tell stories about your brand, your products, and your customers. You could even go so far as to create your own fictional stories and characters to bring the value of your products and services to life.
Include those stories on your website, on your social media, and in original content you produce in other formats so your customers encounter them along their journey.
3. Extend the drama to every area of the customer experience.
As I've been reading up on the Avengers: Endgame, I've been intrigued by how tightlipped everyone associated with the movie has been. If you look at all the trailers and other promotional material, everything is carefully crafted, manipulated even, to give just enough information to draw you in and build excitement, without giving anything away.
Be meticulous about details to preserve the experience you want to deliver your customers along every part of their journey with you. Resist any urge to compartmentalize your messaging within just one aspect of your business. Instead, weave the story and messaging through so your customers' experience is seamless.
4. Diversify your characters to attract new audiences.
I didn't really get into Marvel movies until I saw Black Panther last year. I went to see the record-breaking film because it was an all-black cast, and I was excited to see a film filled with characters that looked like me.
Black Panther drew me into the broader Marvel Universe. I got curious about the other characters and how Black Panther and Wakanda fit it.
Don't limit your brand to just one story or narrative. There will be variations and different elements that stand out to different types of customers. Rather than put all your hopes on one particular storyline, diversify your offering to appeal to a broader group of customers.
5. Go big when it counts.
Once Marvel had a strong following of die-hard fans for its characters, it invested some serious muscle to bring the movie versions of the characters to life. That included star power in casting, all the resources required to make the special effects and action scenes believable, in addition to all the corresponding promotion for each film.
Once you've validated your customers' interest in your stories, go big when it comes to getting the word out. Don't be modest about what you've produced. Spread the word far and wide. Enlist the help of key partners who can help you reach a broader audience as well.
You don't have to have a business the size of Marvel or Disney to produce blockbusters. You can deliver products, services, and experiences that your customers love so much, they'll eagerly line up to consume it again and again.
Play the long game. Follow the principles Marvel faithfully applied over time to create a record-shattering blockbuster film, and you will create your own hit.