Brands are Getting a Boost from Superpowers

These days, He-Man is as intent on getting a good renewal price on his insurance as he is on saving the world. Why is marketing so obsessed with comic book heroes?

Most of us have seen the Money Supermarket TV advertising campaign featuring He-Man and Skeletor’s dance-off to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life. Featuring as it does the protagonists from a popular children’s cartoon of the 1980s spoofing one of the most famous scenes from Dirty Dancing, it is little wonder that Adweek Magazine described it as “the most 80s-tastic ad you’ll see this year.”

But there is more than mere retro fun at work here. The marketing companies behind this and similar campaigns know exactly which buttons to press to promote the right emotional response among buyers. Let’s look a little more closely at why these “epic” superheroes make such good sales folks.

Everyone loves superheroes

Back when He Man and Skeletor were duking it out on kids TV, and Johnny and Baby were strutting their stuff on the big screen, car insurance companies would not have dreamed of using comic book heroes to ply their wares. Today, however, we are all big kids at heart, and we are not afraid to admit it. When a new Batman or X-Men movie is released, it is the subject of serious critical evaluation in the entertainment and cultural press. In short, comic books are not just for kids anymore.

Nostalgia sells

The societal acceptance of superheroes in general provides the perfect opportunity for us to revel in nostalgia. As the phrase 80s-tastic suggests, nostalgia is clearly a significant driver behind the Money Supermarket advert. In short, Mother (the ad agency behind the campaign) knows that those who were following the adventures of He-Man, or pretending to recreate that iconic lift scene in Dirty Dancing 30, years ago are a perfect target demographic for home and car insurance today.

Holding out for a hero

There is also the fact that, consciously or otherwise, we all need a little escapism in our lives. The most famous Marvel characters were developed at the height of Cold War tension, and Superman was created by two Jewish kids in the late 1930s. From these extreme examples we can see that when political and economic times get hard, comic book heroes rise in popularity. Mark Millar from DC Comics expanded on this point in an interview published in The Drum. He commented: “These characters are always big in economic recession, war, bad news headlines and financial crashes. They are created for when people think, ‘I cannot handle the real world’.”

In today’s world of terrorist attacks, trade wars, global warming and the EU cracking at the seams, why not inject a little escapism into our marketing with these comforting, larger-than-life and practically indestructible heroes?

Tread with care

Superheroes are great for brands and brands can also be great for the superheroes. After all, He-Man is being talked about more in the wake of the Money Supermarket campaign than he has been in years.

The important thing is to ensure the campaigns do not get bigger than the superheroes. As one advertising executive put it, when it comes to comic book heroes, “the narratives, visuals and characters are timeless.” It’s the perfect way to be part of a legacy that passes from one generation to the next.

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