Holy Branding, Batman! What the Caped Crusader Can Teach Us About Brand Advocacy

ITA Group
ITA Group

Batman the caped crusader

Few characters have as strong a brand as Batman. Since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, to today with 13 live-action movies and countless comics, graphic novels, and animated series and features—Batman is a household name. The brain child of Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman maintains a following that most brands would happily take a Batarang for. After nearly 80 years, Batman comics still rank among the top sold today—appearing in six of the top ten (including 1-4) of comic sales this past January.

His origins are human and he has no superpowers, but he fights for what he believes. Even more, his motivation and mission is well-known by even the most passive observer.

Like Batman, all great brands have a deeper drive. They’re acutely aware of the underlying purpose for their product or service.

Let’s look under the mask at the ways Batman employs brand advocacy.

1. Batman Thinks of Everything & Plans for Anything

Long before leaving the Batcave, Batman does the research. This applies to all versions of the character on every channel—there is no such thing as dumb luck in the Dark Knight’s strategy.

Batman knows his audience: the criminals he's determined to put behind bars. He built up his identity (brand) in a way that is meant to terrify criminals, "a superstitious and cowardly lot." Batman instills fear (emotion) in the criminals (audience) he faces, while simultaneously inspiring the residents of Gotham and the victims of crimes (advocates) to have his back and, if necessary, defend his methods.

While terrifying your audience might not be the best business practice, you do need to build your brand around a very defined audience.

You can’t be all things to all people. Your audience needs to identify that you are talking to them. That means your branding message needs to be strong, compelling and clear.

Knowing your target audience will help you solidify your message and increase your confidence in connecting with that audience.

2. A Hero Can Be Anyone

The brutal origin story of Batman is a tragedy—one for which we all can sympathize. We understand that heroes are often born from catastrophe or circumstance. Despite Batman's lack of actual powers, he forged himself into a living weapon to wage war on crime.

His purpose, his odds, his tenacity, his … Batman-ness—all of it comes together to create a character we not only care about, but want to see succeed.

Each and every night, Batman is leaping across the roofs of Gotham. Even though he may appear out of reach, Gotham citizens know how to reach (communicate with) their hero. When the Bat-Signal lights up the sky, they know he is protecting them—giving citizens the strength to find their own courage (leading by example).

If the Batman needs to convince someone to help him quickly, he brings them into his domain—the Batcave.

This is where the idea of being a passive supporter to becoming an all out Bat-advocate often (and quickly) turns into a reality. Experiencing the cave, the technology, the transports, the gadgets gives would-be-Robins the incentive to don a cape of their own and provide support.

3. Bat-Family Matters

The idea that Batman works alone has seen quite a bit of change in the recent years—to the benefit of Batman as well as the brand. Not only has he been helped by a number of teenagers calling themselves Robin throughout the years, but there has been a veritable army of fellow crime fighters willing to act as back-up to the Dark Knight since his debut.

While their personal brands might differ—like Nightwing/Dick Grayson's quippy, fun spirit; Batgirl/Barbra Gordon's smarts and energy; Robin/Damon Wayne's determination and ruthlessness—they embody Batman's goals in everything they do: fight crime and stand up against injustice.

While you might not be able to provide cutting-edge costumes or fancy new gadgets to your employees, you can offer incentives in your own way.

Incentives can maximize impact by creating opportunities for employees to live your brand message, improve credibility and effectively turn them into a super team of brand advocates.

4. Enter the Batcave

If you get a chance to experience the Bat-Cave first-hand, then it likely means one of two things: you’re in for a world of hurt for trespassing, or you’ve shown yourself to be a worthy sidekick.

Both will leave a profound impression.

Live experiences affect people in a way no other marketing technique can. Networking and connecting face-to-face helps establish trust and strengthens a bond with the brand. The giant penny, Tyrannosaurus Rex and many other trophies are going to leave a far stronger impression in a person's mind than simply telling about the Bat-Cave.

As Alex Lieu, chief executive of 42 Entertainment (a California-based agency) explains: "If you give the audience the chance to discover things for themselves, then the level of ownership is far greater and they become much more passionate advocates for the brand."

Experiential events can get the word out fast, so masked vigilantes will want to use this tactic wisely so as to keep their secret identity just that—a secret.

Endure, Master Wayne

Like all brands, personality and positioning is sculptured through clear messaging. When crafted effectively, it can change the way a brand is perceived by the audience. There’s no easy solution in your utility belt that will work across all of your channels, but the right combination can make a huge impact on the way your audience engages with your brand. If you need a little help suiting up, check out our ebook, Brand Advocacy and the Emotionally Connected Customer.

Competing For Customer Attention? You Should Be Competing For Their Affection. Download Our Ebook.