Marvel — the entertainment company behind huge global comic and movie franchises like Captain America, Spider-Man, and Iron Man — is also home to an under-the-radar content marketing agency that creates custom-made comics and advertising campaigns for brands.
The internal ad agency has been quietly running for decades, according to an article from The Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today, which looks into some of its more recent success stories.
Its portfolio of clients is unusually diverse for a company famed for its comics and superhero characters — Western Union, Benefit Cosmetics, Adobe, Lexus, Kiehl’s and Kimberly-Clarke are just some of the examples given in the article.
The small, 12-people strong Marvel Custom Solutions Group has been operating in some form since the 1970s, but the article mentions that it has only really been since the 2012 release of the “Avengers” movie that more non-entertainment brands, that aren’t tied into movie releases, have started approaching the agency.
In the early days, the unit was mostly responsible for producing custom comics for retailers selling its DVDs. But now work has really started picking up amongst a wider range of advertisers.
Jonathan Rheingold, vice president of ad sales at Marvel Custom Solutions told The Wall Street Journal: “We think we have something that is culturally relevant. I think with Marvel … we can really say it’s a lifestyle like what MTV was in the 1980s and ’90s. I’m not sure if we could say that 10 years ago.”
And Dan Buckley, Marvel’s president of TV, publishing, and brand management explains why brands looking to capture some of the excitement around characters like Spider-Man come to Marvel direct: It can offer access to the writer and artists who actually work on the comics — and it will get the work done “in half the time.”
Here’s some of the recent work Marvel’s Custom Solutions team has worked on for big brands, as outlined in the Wall Street Journal article and on the division’s news site:
Adobe ran a “Make It With Creative Cloud” student competition that asked entrants to come up with original comics, using Marvel characters Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, and Captain America. The winners will present their work at San Diego Comic-Con.
In October last year, Siemens partnered with Marvel to launch a new program created to educate children about MRI scans. Together they created the “MRI Heroes Kit” — which included a comic book, a toy-size model of a Siemens MRI scanner, a DVD, a Captain America or Iron Man plush toy, and superhero capes — designed to make the MRI scan experience a little less scary.
ESPN The Magazine worked with Marvel to commemorate LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Lexus came to Marvel and launched a custom comic book with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in July 2014. “The Chase” created a back-story for the popular TV series and was available at the Marvel booth at San Diego Comic-Con as well as online.
Eminem’s Shady Records came to Marvel back in 2013 to celebrate the launch of “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” with a “MIGHTY AVENGERS #3” cover that saw the rapper hanging out in front of the home he grew up in, with the Armoured Avenger.
M&Ms teamed-up with Marvel to celebrate the release of Iron Man 3 on Blu-ray and DVD in October 2013.
In June 2013 Marvel’s Captain America and Kiehl’s teamed up for the cosmetics brand’s “Third Thursday” event at its flagship store in Manhattan. Comic book “CAPTAIN AMERICA: TRANSFORMATION & TRIUMPH” was created exclusively for Kiehl’s, which was celebrating a new product launch for men, Facial Fuel Heavy Lifting.
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