Corporate Eye

Will Marvel Get a Disney Makeover?

spider-man-ride-universalThis week, it was announced that Disney is acquiring Marvel.  There are several reasons why Disney made a move to takeover Marvel when theme park attendance is down and incurring additional debt through an acquisition is viewed as risky.  The most plausible reason has to do with capturing the male audience.

While Disney has no problem capturing girls with its Princesses, Hannah Montana and High School Musical properties, boys have proven to be harder for the Disney brand to connect with.  Pirates of the Caribbean and Cars helped, but getting a stronger hold on the male audience would certainly help Disney in the long run.  At least where the Disney entertainment and merchandising executives are concerned.

However, that’s not enough for Disney.  The online buzz is also filled with speculation that Disney wants to add more female elements to the Marvel properties to broaden the existing audiences for those brands and products.  I wonder how that will fly with the die-hard Marvel brand loyalists.

As a branding professional, I’m more interested in this story with regard to how it will affect the long-standing Marvel brand.  Disney has a way of purchasing business and brands and as AdWeek describes it, “Disneyfying” them.  I think that term is very accurate.  Many brands that had freedom and flexibility to stay current, evolve, and change on the fly to meet consumer demand have found themselves ensconced in the bureaucracy of Disney after acquisition.  Think of ESPN.

So how can Marvel retain its cult brand, it’s cool to be a comic book geek, persona after Disney takes control?  There is no doubt that Marvel will get a Disney makeover, so it will appeal more to the masses than a sub-culture.  That’s the Disney way, and Disney executives have made no secret of the Disney brand extension strategy in past interviews — they flood the market with a hot brand or property until it’s saturated and then move onto the next one with nary a backward glance.

What do you think?  What will become of Marvel?

And by the way, I wonder what this acquisition will mean for Walt Disney World’s local competitor — Universal Studios Orlando — and the various Marvel-themed attractions there, including Universal’s Spider-Man ride pictured above.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

If Disney stays true to their corporate monolith nature, I’m guessing a lot of creative people from Marvel are going to leave of their own accord and be welcomed with open arms at other publishers. I don’t quite know what Stan Lee is going to do and would be curious to hear an interview during/after the acquisition. He doesn’t seem like a guy that hides his feelings.

Comic books and graphic novels haven’t really been a “kid” thing for quite some time. The plot lines and characters are much more complex than “Archie and Jughead”. The artistry is top notch and the fans are very loyal. It’s common knowledge that these publishers employ real talented artists. The success of this genre and it’s expansion into mainstream entertainment has only proven it’s worth. I’m wondering how much Disney is going to try to dilute and sanitize Marvel characters/plots to make them palatable for five-year olds.


That’s a really interesting point of view that I hadn’t thought of. You’ve definitely made me even more interested to watch this one play out.

If this is happens then this is very wonderful thing since I am a very big fan of Walt Disney.

basically Marvel and Disney have the same culture on storytelling and artistry. But maybe the need for each organisation can be fulfilled since one covers a different demographic from the other.

Marvel even has made developments early on, putting a younger audience for tv series like Marvel Action Squad and most recent Ironman animation. The objective is getting there it is just how things will play out when all the dust settles.

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