This 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.
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