Batman & Branding
The 1989 Batman film was one of the most successful at the time but besides the star names on the billing, was the very brand of the film itself. The Dissolve has a thorough post about how the studio, knowing they had a troublesome film on their hands, took an unusual route to getting the news that a Batman film was forthcoming out there.
Why was Batman quote/unqoute troublesome? Well as has been the case with comic book-related films, the studio had to strike a balance between pleasing fans of the original comic books while maintaining a mainstream sheen that would attract non-comic book fans. Stars like Jack Nicholson were one part of the ploy for consumers in the latter category. Their brand strategy however, worked wonders for both.
What makes all this worthy of discussion on this blog is how animated films rarely seem to engage in the same kind of marketing. To be sure, major studios market their films to death, and in the case of at least one, that can work wonders. However none of them make much use of the actual brand of the film itself.
As the Dissolve piece notes, the simple poster made for a bit of a club for those who knew what it was. Those who didn’t had to ask. Such steps can do a lot for a brand as FedEx discovered how positively people talked about them when they discovered the hidden arrow in their logo.
Animated films are heavily marketed, but rarely is the brand used as something more than an identification device. It does not encompass the entirety of the film or what it stands for. Even the Lion King, it’s position at the peak of animated feature film merchandise safe for the past 20 years has had relatively little merchandise bearing just the logo/title.
Wall-E heavily featured the Buy and Large logo throughout the film but failed to parlay that into anything tangible in the real world. It was a wasted opportunity to further evoke the ideas of environmental and commercialism espoused in the film because BnL was a perfect ‘brand’ for doing so.
Batman was lucky in that it already had an entire comic book empire behind the film, which is a luxury that many animated films don’t have. However, in the future, seeing how necessary it will be to ‘have the pump primed’ as it were, it will make much more sense to emphasis the brand of the film in the buildup merchandise and let the characters and film itself dominate thereafter.