Tag Archives: commodity fetishism

Batman marketing: “Why so serious?”

‘In the months preceding the premiere of Batman, a cultural phenomenon called ‘Batmania’ raised its head, or as writer Kevin Smith put it: “That summer was huge. You couldn’t turn around without seeing the Bat-Signal somewhere. People were cutting it into their fucking heads”. The movie’s director was irritated by all this publicity. His name? Tim Burton, not Christopher Nolan, the man who is feeling very guilty the last few months…

Wrong McBatman
Because we’re talking 1989. The marketers of the production company opened up all registers, and months before the movie ‘Batman’ entered the theaters they were responsible for the “most talked about coming attraction”.  Numerous books and articles were written afterwards about the thoroughly planned strategy to put this movie in the market, or as Dan Owen put it: “a yardstick for how to successfully hype a blockbuster-in-waiting”. For example: months before the premiere, billboards were placed with only the Batman logo on it, and secret messages were hidden on the front page of the New York Times (eh but this very awkward McDonalds Batman commercial was less of a good example). And what I can remember from that time is that in Europe we hated the movie up front, because the Americans were so obsessed by it. In psychology it’s called the ‘inoculation effect’, named after the flu injection: Europeans were in a way ‘inoculated’ against the movie by all this marketing.

Let’s jump 20 years ahead, a new Batman movie, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Again, the marketers of the production company did everything to make the public go wild before the premiere. Some examples:

  • The film poster was painted (!) mega huge (click here) on a large building, and billboards were place where Batman had literally flown through.
  • Nerds deciphered the sound on the movie website (it was all that was on) and found the Twitter hashtag #thefirerises. Everyone that used this hashtag on Twitter helped unfolding this photo of the ‘bad guy’ in the film, Bane.
  • In various cities around the world, graffiti images were sprayed that each portrayed a part of the movie trailer. Fans combines the images and premiered the trailer this way.

Rotten Reactions
The marketing actions had their effect: lots of fans of super heroes in general and Batman in particular were nervously awaiting the movie. After strange effects of the last Batman movie (the acter who played the Joker committed suicide), strange things now happened too. The website Rotten Tomatoes, that collects the reviews of professional film critics, had to stop the discussion part of its site after thousands (!) of Batman fans went wild (even death threats) on the one reviewer that didn’t like the movie. A movie that no one had yet seen: “The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether,” explained the site’s editor Matt Atchity. “It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn’t even seen.” Hate feelings for something you don’t know being criticized? The effects of ‘smart marketing’ on people can be astonishing…

Smart marketing?
We marketers are pushing the world too hard it seems. When in the course of my psychology study I had to choose for a major, the most interesting to me was ‘Economic Psychology’. I would learn how consumers think, and how you can make them buy your product. I chose it because this idea intrigued me, but at the moment I am wondering if we are not too good at our jobs.
It was also a conclusion that the British government drew (click here) after the riots in London in 2011: there is too much ‘Aggressive marketing’. In a poll, 70% of the Londoners said that the amount of advertising aimed at youth shoud be diminished: “While no one individual brand is to blame, children and young people must be protected from excessive marketing”. Weblogger Gavin Richardson was astonished about this effect of marketing on people: “Has our consumption now taken over out identities so much […] that we now can lay blame to tragic events and unfortunate behaviors on a big business marketing campaign?”. 

Marketing lessons from Karl Marx
When you jump into history, you learn that these effects were predicted much earlier already. A citation that is attributed to Karl Marx is astonishingly accurate: “Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism”. Marx uses the verb ‘Commodity Fetishism’ to describe a development that says a lot about how in the end the human kind has translated all what people do and make in terms of money…

For a man who’s parents are killed because of their riches, who treats his butler as an equal and that uses his ‘toys’ to help the greater good, Batman would have been the hero to Marx that he ought not worship. How cruel that it’s the ‘smart (outbound) marketing’ of this movie that has these aggressive effects on people.

Soon, I’ll see what effect the movie has on me…

This post is the second chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!

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Posted by on 05/08/2012 in Outbound Marketing


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