August 25, 2008
Were I to ask you to name a global brand, you'd likely give me Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) , or Nike (NYSE: NKE ) , or maybe even IBM (NYSE: IBM ) . All three generate significant revenue from overseas markets. Nike is even one of Asia's most admired firms. You may soon be able to add Marvel Entertainment (NYSE: MVL ) to that list. Marvel is teaming with legendary Japanese studio Madhouse to create four anime series based on its characters for release in spring of 2010.
Call it another victory for Marvel fast-moving marketing machine that, as of May, was booking 80-100 new licensing contracts per quarter. The wins jut keep coming. THQ (Nasdaq: THQI ) recently agreed to a video game deal. Lions Gate (NYSE: LGF ) acquired the broadcast rights to the animated series Wolverine & The X-Men. Sony (NYSE: SNE ) is working on a movie spin-off of the Spider-Man franchise based on the villain Venom, played by Topher Grace in Spider-Man 3.
Licensing is a massive business for Marvel. But is this licensing deal a good one? Comic book aficionado and Foolish editor Nathan Alderman isn't so sure. "Honestly? I think it'll have about as much impact as that live-action Japanese Spider-Man series Marvel did back in the '70s. Or the French co-produced FF series they did a few years back. Marvel's known for throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks," he wrote in a chat with me this morning.
Probably true. But if we know anything about Marvel it's that the company makes money even when it doesn't produce quality content. And quality issues in some films -- Elektra, anyone? -- hasn't prevented the brand from expanding to Dubai and elsewhere.
In Japan, where fire-breathing monsters and giant robots are cultural icons, Iron Man should get a fair shot. That's all Marvel's Mighty Marketing Machine needs.
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