I rarely watch films. I probably manage to venture out to the cinema once or twice a year maximum.
As a result, I missed the entire uproar of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, throughout the century it seemed to rage on and on.
Obviously, I didn’t go this entire period and manage to avoid it entirely. I caught a couple by pure happenstance during the height of the genre’s popularity. This included:
- Iron Man
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Iron Man (again).
So, my partner and I decided to buy a Disney+ subscription and watch them all. Every single one.
A somewhat unpopular opinion, but I’ve found my experience to be lacklustre, and at times downright bad.
Naturally, I’ve been met with nothing but mutual respect and interest in my controversial views when discussing them at work.
“Your eyes and ears are painted on, honestly,” Yardstick head of content Nick Parkhouse told me. Thanks boss.
Even so, from the moderate highs of Captain America to the devastating, hellish lows of Thor, Marvel can teach you plenty about content itself.
Expectation is everything
What a fascinating little experiment the first Thor movie is. If you watched it in 2011, you might well have fond memories of it.
But if, like me, you’ve watched it since the hype over Chris Hemsworth’s biceps ended, you’ll know the sad, sad truth: it’s terrible.
On expressing this opinion to copious shouts of dissent and threats of bodily harm (again: thanks, esteemed colleagues), the main takeaway was that if I hated Thor that much, I was probably going to hate the second instalment, Thor: The Dark World even more. It was, by all accounts, objectively awful.
Here’s the thing. It is terrible. It’s a masterpiece of terrible. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Even so, I’d had such a rough ride with Thor that Thor: The Dark World seemed…fine? Not great, but still twice as good as the first Thor in my book. A real 2/10.
What’s my point here, other than taking unnecessary pop shots at the Australian hunk with the world’s worst British accent? With content, expectation is everything.
I thought I was going to enjoy all the Marvel films. Logically, I should: I’ve loved most of the other superhero flicks I’ve been to, and they’re purpose-built to be enjoyable for all.
But the films have let me down. I thought I was going to love them, and I haven’t. Conversely, on the rare occasions when I was aware that I should have hated one, I found it to be watchable.
Either way, it’s been my expectations that have defined whether I enjoy or dislike the films.
This is a fundamental lesson of your content: whether it’s blogs, podcasts, or videos, excite your audience with what this piece of content can do for them, and then deliver on it.
If you write a blog entitled “8 massive ways your pension can change your life” and it’s just a confused piece with three points about ISAs then, aside from the compliance nightmare of publishing that title, your audience is going to be understandably angry.
Fuse expectation with reality. Signpost to your audience the value of reading your content, and then give it to them.
Break convention and you can grab attention
Oh boy, arriving at Captain America: The First Avenger after watching Thor, you can understand my trepidation. There are few series that would still deserve eyeballs if you produced content as boring and non-sensical as Natalie Portman inexplicably becoming obsessed with a giant spaceman.
Fortunately for Marvel, I already intended to persist, and found myself facing Captain America: The First Avenger.
And what an enjoyable experience it was.
Now admittedly, it’s the source material that let Marvel Studios play ball here. But the point is that Captain America is watchable in great part because it’s unique.
I found the setting of a big budget superhero film in the second world war to be novel and genuinely exciting, as is the framing of knowing that some unthinkable tragedy befalls our hero from minute one.
By this token, you should do the same. Produce content that’s more interesting than the competition. Make potential clients look at your content and see that they won’t find it anywhere else.
Content may be king, but only if it’s original.
Just because you’ve done something before, doesn’t mean it will work again
Sorry, Robert Downey Jr., but I’m coming for you too.
I loved Iron Man. It’s an entertaining, funny, somewhat thought-provoking romp. But my word, what a fall off for Iron Man 2.
And what even is Iron Man 3? The best part of one thousand Iron Men flying about having a ball while the plot suffocates quietly in the corner.
The lesson is simple: just because you’ve done something already doesn’t guarantee that people will like it again. And again times one thousand, in this case.
Be creative, bold, original, give people something they haven’t had and don’t rest on your laurels. Audiences are fickle and prone to becoming frustrated when they think you’re not really trying.
Give them a reason not to feel that way.
Incidentally, did you know that the reason Iron Man was chosen as the hero for the first film was because they showed their B-list intellectual property to a bunch of children and then asked which one they’d most like to play with if it were a toy?
The kids picked Iron Man because he looks the coolest, and now here we are.
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If you want to find out how you can use these lessons for your marketing strategy, please do get in touch.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300 to find out how we could help you write original content that drives leads to your website.
Equally, if you’re angry about my contrarian point of view, please directly contact Marvel Customer Support and ask how Thor ever made it off the cutting room floor, where it was presumably cobbled together in 11 minutes.