In memory of Stan Lee, 1922-2018
As we honor the loss of a legend, Stan Lee, we want to consider the impact his work had on our own field of content marketing; and just as importantly, what takeaways and inspiration that we can all benefit from.
Everything about Stan—his drive, his vision, his creative spark—all combined to create one of the most monolithic and beloved enterprises in modern memory, the Marvel Universe.
And this is something that we all can learn from.
So, while you’re probably not suited up in red and blue spandex slinging webs around New York City, you do have to move and shake as a content marketer…
…Especially in a world that is rapidly shifting with new consumer trends and evolving game-changers, keeping up with the what’s happening in marketing is a must.
This is not unlike the career path of the great Stan Lee.
In fact, Lee’s life story from humble beginnings as an assistant for a comic book publisher to the biggest name in the comic book universe was the epitome of what it means to constantly change.
Whether it be big green rage monsters, clawed renegades, web-shooters, or brilliantly stretchy scientists, each character Lee created contains and embodies a nugget or two of inspiration for every friendly neighborhood content marketer.
Play to Your Audience
In Spiderman, we learned the importance of playing to your audience.
While Marvel did succeed in attracting the interest of their core fans, they’ve also done a commendable job in also igniting the attention of the mainstream.
Marvel achieved this by choosing an accessible medium (video) and using humor in telling the stories of Marvel characters.
In fact, in a study conducted by the emotional and facial recognition software company, Affectiva, they may have come across one of the most magnetic elements of Marvel movies. Specifically, they found that humor played a central role in a person’s decision of whether to engage with a video.
Humor, though, is not the only reason somebody would engage with a Marvel video. It has to be more than that. Another reason why people would engage would be a personal connection they had with the character.
Of course, this is true of almost anything—you tend to be drawn to what you’re familiar with. But with Marvel, in particular, they do a wonderful job at this.
After all, people connect with the characters because they can see themselves, or qualities they wish to have.
Circling back to the original topic—playing to your audience—it is crucial to focus in on the qualities your audience wants to have if you want to drive engagement.
Craft Quality Content
Everybody loves a good piece of content.
And why shouldn’t they? A “good” piece of content is short enough to grab your attention, but it isn’t full of fluff.
This calls to mind a certain demigod that has a thing for quality and personalized craftsmanship: Thor. You can tell since his hammer, Mjölnir, is personalized to him—only he can lift it.
Along with this love of personalized content, Thor clearly favors shorter forms of content over longer ones.
This is demonstrated by the often overlooked size comparison of Thor’s Hammer to another, longer piece of personalized content of myth: Excalibur.
In comparison to Excalibur, though, for what Mjölnir lacks in size, it makes up for its ability to garner attention. After all, if Thor can summon his hammer by simply opening his hand, and moments later, it comes whizzing through the air, that’s pretty hard to miss.
Thor’s hammer also has another one-up on Excalibur in that it’s optimized for mobile.
No, we don’t mean that Thor’s hammer can send texts or make calls. We’re talking about the fact that Thor can fly with his hammer. This can be most easily observed when he flies through the Bifrost — the rainbow bridge that connects humanity to Asgard, where the Norse Gods reign.
In summary, nothing beats a good piece of content. Thor knows it and is embodied in the craftsmanship of the hammer he wields.
Remember, content is king, especially in Thor’s case, where he literally is king.
Use Emotions to Encourage Behavior
A key element of any good copywriting worth its salt is its ability to work over the emotions of the reader.
The most notable character in the Marvel universe Lee has ever created that is ruled completely by their emotions is The Incredible Hulk.
In the Hulk, we see the importance of using the emotions of the reader to your advantage.
Of course, using emotions is nothing new in the worlds of copywriting and content marketing — both often employ emotions.
But the key difference is that copywriting uses those emotions to get the reader to take a specific action. Content marketing uses emotions to educate first, have the reader take a specific action second.
Even the Avengers used The Hulk’s rage-induced super strength ability to advance the interests of the collective.
The Hulk, though, also teaches us the importance of timing. Even though there was virtually no predictability to hulking out, there is an abundance of times where hulking out was not the best idea in the world.
Translating that to content marketing means you have to, in addition to staying on top of trends in the industry, also address current events where applicable.
It also speaks to the unpredictable nature of life and shows that your brand is aware of the role it plays in the world outside itself.
From The Incredible Hulk, we take away some valuable lessons in timing, as well as the power emotions play when we factor them into our content strategies.
Teamwork is Essential
Nothing says teamwork more than inclusion. X-Men best demonstrates the need for teamwork, especially in an agency.
Realistically speaking, X-Men isn’t the only tale Lee has produced that involves teamwork. But the fact that Lee made the leader of the X-Men, Charles Xavier, a person who is not only old (depending which timeline you go with since time isn’t linear in X-Men), but also disabled, is striking. So we’re gonna use this story of teamwork for our example.
In every team, you have someone who may be a bit gruff and/or doesn’t work so well with the others. Wolverine best displays these qualities, as his reputation for being a renegade is well-known.
You also have the brown-noser—Cyclops—the one who follows all policies and procedures and is the closest to the head honcho. These people are generally seen as the second in the chain of command and have an affinity for structured environments and order.
Lastly, you have that one person who has enormous potential but needs a little assistance in order to unleash their talents—Jean Grey. They may be a little shy or modest but they are capable of being the most helpful person on your team, given the right guidance.
Together, what you can take away from (some of) the X-Men is the fragile nature of teamwork and inclusion.
You may not always agree with each other—indeed, there will be differences. But everyone’s differences allow them to bring something relevant to the table, and the important part is that you manage to get it done at the end of the day.
That’s what matters. Because you’re a team. And you include everybody.
Clients, Clients, Clients
In the Fantastic Four, you not only have the traditional lessons about teamwork and all but in Reed Richards—Mr. Fantastic—you have something special.
Reed’s ability to stretch his body to accommodate any task mirrors how you have to expand your horizons or push out of your comfort zone for the sake of a client.
But much more than that, Reed’s position as the successful leader of the Fantastic Four makes him the perfect example of how a leader should act. After all, under Reed’s leadership, the Fantastic Four rose to new heights.
Stretching to accommodate is more than simply making a client happy. It is also a reflection on tolerance and diversity in your team. Whether it’s stretching to fit a team member’s altered schedule, a quirk, a unique personality—you name it. Adapting yourself to the circumstances is a top tier leadership quality.
Such leadership skills can also drive your brand to new levels of brand awareness and recognition.
Sometimes all it takes is the right person at the helm of a company to take your brand to places where you never thought it was possible.
His Reach is Deep
In total, Stan Lee had created a very interesting existence for himself.
His influence on our work and the work of millions around the world will not be forgotten, nor will it cease with his passing. Given that we are still able to learn about our craft from him, it speaks volumes about how powerful and enduring his work has been and continues to be.
Some things are undeniable.
Rattle off some names of superheroes you think we should’ve included in the comments below and we’ll see if we agree!