Marvel's Marketing Masterstroke Atones for Its "Iron Man 3" Mistake

Marvel Studios owes Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) a big thank you. Not even two days after the Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) subsidiary re-signed Robert Downey Jr. to star in two sequels to Marvel's The Avengers, Netflix is making the film available to its 29 million streaming members here in the United States.

Good timing, eh? Finally. Marvel hasn't done nearly enough to help lift comic-book retailers. Odd, since most of these fan-driven shops are go-to sources for the source material that informs its multibillion-dollar films.

May's Free Comic Book Day giveaway -- which also fell on opening weekend for Iron Man 3 -- included exactly zero comics featuring Iron Man. (A prequel to the film, distributed in March, had already come and gone.) This time, fortunate alignment with Netflix's release calendar provides what should be a nice tailwind. Call it a second chance to get new readers into stores to try comic books starring the characters they've come to enjoy on screen.

We know there's interest. Judging from what I saw in my Facebook feed earlier today, more than 19,000 are already gearing up to see the film. More than 645,000 have rated it at Netflix, netting 4.3 of five stars on average.

Netflix's Avengers promo on Facebook. Source: Netflix.

How might Marvel take advantage of Netflix's Avengers release? One idea would be to steal a page from rival DC Entertainment and sponsor a special edition packaged as a reprinted Avengers story, available free at comics shops on a certain predetermined date.

Or how about commissioning two Netflix edition variant covers for an upcoming issue of the "Uncanny Avengers" comic-book series? One could be for shops, the other marketed as an exclusive available only at next month's San Diego Comic-Con, which is sure to be buzzing with news about upcoming films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Either way, this is an area for investors to watch.

Publishing may not be the big business it once was, but for Marvel and Disney, comics are R&D and fans are beta testers. A little love from the studio executives could give life to a new billion-dollar storyline.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Will you be watching The Avengers on Netflix this weekend? What comic-book storylines would you like to see Marvel Studios turn into a film? Leave your comments in the box below.

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Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (5)

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  • Report this Comment On June 22, 2013, at 4:47 PM, tphillips47 wrote:

    I think you should do more research. Like your last article on Marvel's Iron Man 3 "mistake". They did give away copies of the IM 3 prequel at 3D showings and that helped send a lot of newbs to the comic store.

    I saw a lot of new Iron Man readers at the comic store just in time for the Tony Stark origin story arc issues. Why give away something people are more than willing to buy?

  • Report this Comment On June 22, 2013, at 4:59 PM, masterimmortal wrote:

    The Avengers is only coming to Netflix because of their deal with Epix. It's also available on Amazon Prime's streaming due to Epix as well.

  • Report this Comment On June 22, 2013, at 7:47 PM, Moviefanman wrote:

    Iron Man has appeared in 4 films - the last two grossing $2.7 billion(!) combined. Between toys, marketing tie-ins and movies - the character has been introduced to as many people that will buy the comics. Marvel used free comic day to help build an audience for Guardians of the Galaxy. Criticize them all you want - they've been laughing their way to the bank after every marketing move that critics question. Stop thinking of maximizing quarterly revenue - Marvel wants to build a brand and mint money for the next 50 years. They're happy to let the movies subsidize the comics.

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 9:17 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @masterimmortal,

    First, what a great handle! Were you a Fantastic Four villain in a past life?

    >>The Avengers is only coming to Netflix because of their deal with Epix. It's also available on Amazon Prime's streaming due to Epix as well.

    True. For those interested, you can find the Prime link here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Marvels-The-Avengers/dp/B008NCSZQ8/

    Anyone else wondering why Amazon didn't market this as extensively as Netflix? I didn't see a single email or promo, and I'm a Prime member who has streamed related content via the service.

    Thanks for the note and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 9:27 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @tphillips47,

    >>I think you should do more research. Like your last article on Marvel's Iron Man 3 "mistake". They did give away copies of the IM 3 prequel at 3D showings and that helped send a lot of newbs to the comic store.

    Sorry but you need to supply a source. The closest thing I find is this announcement from Regal, which may as well be pointless:

    http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130523006311/en/Rega...

    A giveaway of a March-released comic three weeks after the open?

    Not only were there zero Marvel giveaways at the midnight opening weekend 3-D showing I attended, but my local comics shop owner saw the same thing I did: virtually zero comics tie-ins to the movie at the time of release.

    "Man of Steel" has been an entirely different experience for him. Kids and other 'newbs' have shown up to buy Superman comics, in part because of heavy cross-promotion.

    >>I saw a lot of new Iron Man readers at the comic store just in time for the Tony Stark origin story arc issues. Why give away something people are more than willing to buy?

    Because you're going to do it anyway. That's what Free Comic Book Day is all about: drawing in new readers who can become lifetime customers.

    Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 9:37 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @Moviefanman,

    >>Between toys, marketing tie-ins and movies - the character has been introduced to as many people that will buy the comics.

    So why fail to give them something? Why not create a FBCD special and take the next step?

    >>Marvel used free comic day to help build an audience for Guardians of the Galaxy.

    Sort of. "Infinity" seems much more about building an audience for that particular series, with the long tail hope that it'll spark interest in 'Guardians'.

    Honestly, I've more faith that James Gunn's passion and storytelling sense will do more for the film than will Marvel's marketing machine, but I'd also love to be wrong.

    >>Stop thinking of maximizing quarterly revenue - Marvel wants to build a brand and mint money for the next 50 years.

    An ironic comment, because the strategy Marvel is pursuing (in the comics) is designed entirely to capitalize on short term trends. What is Marvel NOW if not an answer to DC's "New 52?"

    >>They're happy to let the movies subsidize the comics.

    As a shareholder, so am I. But that strategy requires doing more -- MUCH more -- to give potential comics customers something to grab of after they've seen the film. A few well-timed tie-ins are all that's required.

    Marvel knows it, too. That's why we're getting a TV show called "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." -- it'll be an easy entry point to bigger-ticket action flicks Marvel rolls out each year.

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On June 23, 2013, at 12:56 PM, jonnystorm wrote:

    Marvel is set to dominate the cinema for the next few years, next month The Wolverine will be premiering in theaters, and from the look of the previews it will probably gross sales that are comparable to the Avengers and the Man of Steel. Not to mention A new Thor and Captain America movie will be next in line. Is there any stopping Marvel's Reign!

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