What does Marvel’s current Success look like?
Marvel’s current success is largely thanks to a three-pronged approach. It utilizes its characters fame to promote revenue in comic book publishing, toys, and licensing. After successfully navigating a near collapse, the company has re-invented itself by truly focusing on its library of characters. By redeveloping its products – like focusing on quality of publishing, modernizing for younger generations, changing structure to four to six issues, and segmenting by age – Marvel has managed to produce more sought after, accessible products. Add to that its ability to license and contribute in the creation of toys with relatively little risk, and one can realize where a good recipe for success lies.
How sustainable is its business model?
Its business model is relatively sustainable. Characters like Spider-Man, the Hulk and a few others don’t seem to be going to disappear anytime soon. That will allow Marvel to continue focusing on utilizing them as cash cows in its three different business activities. However, there is always a risk, for some reason or another that the appeal of Spider-Man or another major character will fade. Marvel must prepare for this by focusing the majority of its efforts on continuously innovating the character while not neglecting the potential future importance of less known characters. Although the case study did mention that consumers in their sixties might be purchasing comic books or even toy collectibles, the majority of Marvel’s revenue is still originating from a children’s or young adult’s desire for a Spider-Man comic, Hulk figurine, or X-Men movie. It is therefore extremely important to anticipate (especially in Europe, Japan and other developed regions) increasingly older populations and adjust to such a change. Perhaps in a similar way to how “Ultimate Spider-Man” was bitten by a genetically morphed rather that radioactive spider and also possessed a cell phone.
How important are each of Marvel’s three divisions to its past and future performance? Are there other areas you would suggest marvel explore?
Each one of Marvel’s three divisions is of great importance. Especially as they create a synergistic effect. Meaning that the three facets of Marvel create a core more important than the sum of its parts. First, the comic books have helped create and build the characters. Enabling heroes and villains to embed themselves in culture and then creat a living memory in consumers of all kinds of demographics. With the added benefit of creating “die-hard” consumers like many who attend Comic Con events. Licensing the rights to products like the Spider-Man movie (which arguably become a type of “Above the line” marketing) enable huge audiences to experience the Spider-Man product at once and spurs, as mentioned in the case study, a wave of sales of character-related merchandise. Which prompt designers to create things like the Hulk arms and Spider-Man Web Blaster. These, along with the comics, mutually reinforce each other. The toy industry is another seemingly low risk area for Marvel. As Marvel does not manufacture toys, the logistics associated with such production is not a great concern to them.
They enjoy the benefits of simply designing and dictating how the toy must look, can package as they please and create a lucrative accessories market as well. An eight-year-old who possesses a Hulk toy wants to watch a hulk movie and after watching the movie wants then to purchase a comic book or a new version of the toy. The respective divisions, albeit important, are more useful when working in concert and create much more value for Marvel. Although exploring other areas is of definite importance, Marvel should primarily focus on developing its library of characters. Creating a motion picture is of great value in catapulting a character and all types of products related to him or her into the mainstream. Sequels for such movies have been successful for Marvel and new sequels should be examined. Also key is innovation of character and product. Even if living in a fantasy world, out of touch with our own, characters must continuously go through new adventures and quality stories must be written, whether for publishing, screen writing, or creating a new toy.
Marvel must cautiously explore producing toys and or animated series themselves, this of course is a whole new industry and would change the company to a great extent. Perhaps most enticing are less capital intensive products. Applications for games on mobile devices, animated series online or through streaming devices like the Apple TV, Roku and Amazon “fireTV”. The latter would have the potential to create exclusive deals for Marvel and producers of the streaming devices and provide 24-hour access to media for consumers. Video games are also of great potential. Games like Halo, have managed to create multitudes of fans and spawn dozens of novels based on the game. Continually evolving the character and the story line and almost producing a film.
To what extent is Marvel’s success due to only one character and are there any dangers in this or strategies that can be implemented to develop lesser-known characters?
There somewhat exists a dependence on only one character but it would be unfair to attribute all of Marvel’s success to Spider-Man; the Hulk (notably with the Hulk arms toy) and the X-men have also contributed to success. Overreliance on a single product is almost always something to be concerned about. In this light Marvel must continue to exploit Spider-Man and other major characters by innovating and adapting them to modern times while continuously looking for manners in which to prop up the lesser known ones. Movies are certainly a great way, but video games as well. With a massive library of characters, there is surely an abundance of potentially popular characters waiting to be brought to market.