Brand lessons from Batman and Superman’s rivalry

by / April 4, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice just hit the theaters—pitting thousands of DC Comics fans against each other.

Sides will be taken, and the Internet may buzz for weeks. Box office sales will skyrocket. Why? Because Batman vs. Superman is a rivalry crafted through smart branding.

The public loves conflict; it makes for a great story, and conflict is an important part of branding a rivalry. Another strong rivalry came in a human-vampire-werewolf love triangle. Even if you don’t know who they are, you’ve probably heard of Team Edward and Team Jacob.

Stephanie Meyer’s fiction trilogy blew up in 2009 when the first book, Twilight, hit the screen. Teenage girls across the world were swept into a love story that posed a choice between two guys vying for Bella Swan: Edward Cullen, a brooding, sullen vampire who displays an unmatchable love for her, and Jacob Black, a loyal, passionate, lively werewolf.

Once the hype was created, there was no slowing down. Brilliant marketing put the hashtags #TeamEdward and #TeamJacob on every social media platform. Countless variations of Twilight merchandise allowed fans to display their choice of sides. The internet constantly buzzed about the series even after the fourth, final movie in 2012. Today, you don’t mention The Twilight Saga without saying which team you were on.

The rivalry was fun for fans engaged with the competition between characters. Another aspect of its success: the rivalry centered on emotion. When you tap emotions, fans become more invested in the brand that triggered the emotion. Batman v Superman covers many emotions, which further fuels the rivalry and the desire for associated products. Many people grew up reading about and watching these characters. They saw different actors play the characters; the fans’ nostalgia is just one more feature to exploit.

Another famous conflict in the City of Brotherly Love feeds the rivalry between Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. These two are the best known servers of cheesesteaks in the world. Pat’s claims it created the cheesesteak in 1930, and Geno’s brags it perfected it. The public doesn’t care much for the history. The highly publicized rivalry is in its fourth decade, and the hype and the willingness of both to play along has benefited both. Even their bread comes from rival bakeries.

When I was a kid my uncle took me to get a cheesesteak for the first time. “We eat at Pat’s. Geno’s stinks,” he told me, and I became a loyal Pat’s supporter.

Pat’s and Geno’s are very different— Geno’s features bright and flashy neon signs and Pat’s is much more traditional and old-school—and differences in food are a matter style. The true cause of the rivalry is the competition.

The idea behind Batman v Superman, the Twilight love triangle and Pat’s vs Geno’s is that the rivalry spurs you to pick a side. Americans love competition. We incorporate it into every part of our lives. We want our side to win and to be recognized as the best. I pledge my support to the Dark Knight. #TeamBatman

via Brian Hart at PR Daily

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