What Does Batman Have in Common with Branding?

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Branding is made up of many areas: design, language, naming, copywriting, digital, etc. Whilst any one person may have extensive knowledge of some or even all of these areas, no-one can do them all effectively on their own.

You know how this works because you’ve seen it a thousand times: every time something happens in the news that has mass appeal, LinkedIn gets flooded with articles that link the story or person involved to whatever service the author offers. Some of these stories offer some genuine insight, whereas others… are tenuous at best. In honour of this glorious clickbait trend, I have decided to set myself the following challenge: writing an article that links one of my services to a random icon or event provided by someone else. Perhaps it will be insightful but you should probably brace yourself for tenuous!

Today’s clickbait headline asks…


You’ve got to have a plan

Who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman? Batman, of course. Superman may be the most overpowered hero on the planet, but his power alone is not enough. Batman beats (up) everyone. Every true comic book fan knows this and the reason is simple… Batman always has a plan. 

Batman is not simply an overly-muscled, rich, broody orphan with a humour deficit and an aversion to guns. Batman is the World’s Greatest Detective. Batman is the master of planning and strategy. It’s why he wins all the time. He knows what he needs to do before he throws a punch. Little does he know it, but these skills are exactly what would make the Dark Knight an excellent branding consultant.

In branding you need a strong strategy to be effective. You need to work out, among other things:

  • your position compared to your competitors
  • who your customers are and what they want
  • your goals
  • how to deploy the brand
  • how to fill any gaps in your staff culture or training to fulfill your brand promises

To achieve all of these, you need Batman-like planning skills. Planning first instead of just reacting to unforeseen issues is what makes Batman such an effective hero, and is essential for good branding.

You’re never so good that you don’t need a team

Batman has, admittedly, a great many skills at his disposal. He’s everything you could possibly need in a crime-fighter: he’s a scientist, he’s a computer expert, he has a strong moral code, he has a strong body, he is a pilot and he has a detective’s keen mind and instinct. However, he knows well that he cannot clean up the streets of Gotham alone (no matter how hard he tries to maintain that aloof and brooding nature). As such, he enlists the help of Alfred, Robin, Nightwing, Oracle and even Catwoman on occasion. No hero can stand alone, and that is why Batman succeeds where others are too proud to accept help.

Likewise, branding is made up of many areas: design, language, naming, copywriting, digital, etc. Whilst any one person may have extensive knowledge of some or even all of these areas, no-one can do them all effectively on their own. A knowledgeable and cohesive team is essential to the success of branding.

Branding is made up of many areas: design, language, naming, copywriting, digital, etc. Whilst any one person may have extensive knowledge of some or even all of these areas, no-one can do them all effectively on their own.

The suit can change but the values must remain the same

Batman has a strong symbol (literally there to draw fire to where his protection is). It’s probably one of the most recognised symbols in the world. But that symbol represents values and ‘the Batman way’. It’s a quick symbol for what Batman is all about. Although there have been tweaks to the symbol, the tweaks to the suit have been much more drastic over the years. But they are still easily accepted as ‘Batman’ because the values are the same and the symbol remains consistent. As much as everyone liked Ben Affleck as Batman, people were up in arms about the fact that his values were so drastically different from what Batman is, i.e. he killed people.

Branding is the same. Your symbol has to reflect your values but then your actions must reflect those values. You can’t build up a reputation for one thing and build an identity around it but then go against that identity.

A popular example of a brand changing their suit while keeping their symbol is Coca-Cola. Their logo goes on loads of things but the Coca-Cola way of life is consistent across all of them (Diet Coke, Coke Life, etc). But the symbol represents the values; it’s not just there to look cool!

People notice the cool stuff first 

How many people would love to have the abs of the Bat? Approximately everyone. How many people subsequently give up on achieving those abs upon realising it doesn’t happen over the course of a 30-second montage? Also everyone. Batman works on his image behind the scenes – it’s part of what helps him fight crime.

Criminals fear his symbol, the growl of his car, the sight of a batarang or the whoosh of his cape as much as they fear the Bat himself. These are the most salient features of Batman’s presence and they strike fear into the hearts of criminals. They may have been a little less impressed to see him fuelling the Batmobile, sewing the cape or doing some crunches.

In branding, people’s attention is captured by logos, names, slogans. It may appear to them that branding is an easy job – how hard is it to name something? Like Batman’s criminals, they don’t see past the image into what made it and the work that went into creating it. Like Batman, delving deeper into the process of branding reveals a lot more complexity and hard work than is seen on the surface.

You have to work across multiple mediums

There are several reasons why Batman is one of the most recognisable icons in the world today but the fact that he continues to grow and constantly find new fans is down to his ability to function effectively across multiple platforms like games, TV, films and comics. A source of endless joy for comic book fans is arguing over what Batman is all about and your perspective on that may well depend on how you access him.  Gaming fans may have a totally different perspective on the character having played him in the Arkham games than someone who recently watched the Batman Vs Superman film.  There is no need for a fan of one to know anything about the other as the character works effectively on either.

Now consider a brand like Red Bull, which is wildly successful across multiple platforms. They have had massive success with events like air races and cliff diving competitions, but they’ve also reached a totally different market who have seen the ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ campaign while watching TV on a Saturday night and who are blissfully unaware that people can jump off 28 metre high cliffs for fun. Red Bull can be different things to both sets of people and still work because they have found ways to tailor themselves to the platform they are working on at a given moment.

So there you have it, Batman and branding are like two peas in a bat-pod. If you’d like to discuss branding or Batman in more detail then you can get hold of me at kevin@openwaterdesign.com

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