5 Marvel Marketing Tips

Subtitle: What the Avengers can Teach Churches about Marketing

Ok, full disclosure…I’m a comic book geek. I know Captain America and Iron Man from when they shared Tales of Suspense and I still yell out “There’s Stan Lee!” when I see the Marvel Mogul in any TV show or movie. I admit to my geekiness but it wasn’t just comic book nerds that went to this opening weekend. What marketing lessons can church leaders learn from the box-office frenzy that is Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron at the box office?

movies-avengers-age-of-ultron-ew-coverAs you can imagine, Marvel (an LLC owned by Disney since 2009) is a marketing machine. Marvel rose above its comic book competitors with superior marketing before being acquired by Disney. Now with Disney, one of the greatest marketing companies in the world, behind the Marvel characters they no longer just target only hard-core comic geeks. No, their target is world domination (cue evil villain laugh Mwuhahahahaa!) Ok, I promised marketing lessons for churches.

Let’s look at the way Marvel marketed this Avengers sequel as part of their BIG-picture plan to market all their films…and look at how we can apply these techniques to church marketing.

1. Marvel got “non-comic geeks” excited about these movies.

My wife and daughters are not comic fans but they are as excited about this movie as I am. Moviegoers don’t have to be comic readers to enjoy Marvel movies. Their story lines we beautifully lifted from classic comic book moments but if you didn’t know that, the stories are easily understood and explained. Bottom line, you don’t have to be a comic book insider to enjoy!

If you look at the trailers, posters and other marketing pieces, you almost forget The Avengers are from a comic book. Marvel is advertizing a movie to any moviegoer who enjoys Action/Adventure pictures. That is a key for churches when marketing, target the general public in your area, not just church people.

Marvel Marketing Tip #1: Create Marketing for People Who Are Not Already Fans

2. Marvel put the right people in the right roles.

One reason for this movie’s wide audience is the quality of actors cast. There is star power in the leading roles, Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Chris Evans (Captain America) etc. etc. That is expected in a blockbuster movie.

What is more amazing is the Academy Award quality in minor or supporting roles: Gweneth Paltrow (Iron Man’s assistant/girlfriend), Anthony Hopkins (Odin: Thor’s Dad), Natalie Portman (Thor’s girlfriend), and Samuel Jackson (Nick Fury).

Marvel Marketing Tip #2: Create Roles for People To Widen Appeal

When possible, leverage star power. The impact a quote from a local celebrity or a 15 second spot from a well-known guest speaker will draw people who would never be interested other wise. A testimony service from heavy metal legend Brian ‘Head’ Welch of Korn remains one of our churches biggest days.

Last thought on this…marketing doesn’t end at the front door, put quality people in support roles such as usher or café server to ensure people get a quality experience.

Beyond the celebrity drawing power, people must identify with your people. Ask some questions about whom you’ve ‘cast’ to represent your chfireproofurch. Is everyone in your marketing material a nicely dressed, thin, white, 30-something? Does your church look like that? More importantly does your city look like that? This isn’t about celebrity as much as having ‘characters’ people can identify with.

For example: Iron man is a flawed man. He has pride, daddy issues, a complicated relationship with his love interest, health concerns, and trouble getting along with others. To target real people, use people they identify with in marketing images and issues people identify with as topics.

3. Every movie has teasers about the next one.

One of my favorite things to do with my youngest daughter is to hang around the theater after the movie ends to wait for the teaser at the ending credits! This gets us thinking (and talking) about the next Marvel movie!

For example, two of the characters in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, were revealed in a post-credits scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier two years ago! I remember explaining to my family who they were including that Magneto from the X-men franchise was their father.

There are some teasers during the films themselves also. In Iron Man 2, Agent Coulson hands Iron Man a half-constructed shield that would later become Captain America’s shield alluding to an upcoming Cap film.

Marvel Marketing Tip #3: Find creative ways to give information about upcoming services or events.

When I send out a mailer advertizing a special service, I try to have a ‘bounce-back’ event included, like a guest speaker. An example of this was Brian ‘Head’ Welch, mentioned earlier, was a January event advertized on our Christmas mailer. We also made it a big deal during the Christmas services to say ‘mark your calendars’ and to show a 30 second teaser commercial. It can be as simple as announcing your new comers gathering on Easter. Leaking info about an upcoming event is a great way to get them to come back and Marvel knows it.

4. Marvel Merchandises EVERYTHING.

Marvel will make millions at the box office, but they will also make millions more from merchandise affiliated with the Avengers. There are action figures, toys, video games, posters, collectables, lunch boxes, clothing, and partnership deals with places like Subway. This is an area where Marvel has always outshined their comic book competitors but now that Disney, the best in the world at affiliated merchandizing, owns them, you see Marvel products EVERYWHERE.

Marvel realizes that the residual money from this kind of marketing can outsell even the biggest blockbuster’s ticket sales. What does this mean to churches? We aren’t merchandising products to get more money.

Marvel Marketing Tip #4: Use merchandizing to keep your church in people’s minds.

A pen with your churches name and website will be found in a purse a month later. A free mug is a reminder to get back to church with their morning coffee. A T-shirt can be a conversation starter for a long-time member who is shy about sharing their faith.

5. Marvel Announces release dates way in advance.

Marvel has told us there are at least two more Avengers films, a two-part series called Infinity War, (They revealed the villain Thanos in one if those teasers). The next Avengers releases in 2018 (yes, 3 years from now), with the second part coming in 2019. Leading up to these films, Marvel has: Captain America: Civil War in 2016, with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor: Ragnarok both in 2017. People are talking about them now because Marvel announces dates well ahead of time.

Marvel Marketing Tip #5: Get important dates into people’s hands early, and in writing.

Don’t assume people know the dates or times! Ok, we may know that Christmas is December 25th each year but what time is the Christmas Eve service? Easter? Forget about it, they move the date every year! In your announcements, mailers, TV commercials, newspaper ads…PLEASE put the dates and times on them. The most effective marketing I’ve done is to hand out invite cards to our people with the dates and times to give to friends.

A big opportunity churches miss is to have a countdown. Marvel is great at saying “Three days until the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes hit the screen near you.” Count down to your big days on your website or in your marketing. A mailer that says “Easter is less than two weeks away” grabs attention better than “This Easter come to Church XYZ”.

In closing, when we are looking at marketing churches we should look at companies that understand how to put butts in the seats. Marvel is certainly good at that. I hope these ‘marvelous’ tips (I couldn’t resist.) will help us all market more effectively to grow our churches and ultimately touch more lives for Christ.

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Personal Growth Part 3 – What is Your Plan?

If you don’t plan you won’t grow (see Personal Growth part 1).  So let’s get some concrete, measurable goals that we can make the most effective us of our lives for God’s Kingdom.

Psalm 90:12 – Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.

First, Establish a Daily Prayer Time

Psalm 57:2 – I will cry to God Most High, who will fulfill His purposes for me.

Commit to two things, how long and when.  Example: “I will pray for 15 minutes a day every morning.”  Let me say this, all of these are goals to help us to stretch ourselves and grow.  There’s no condemnation, no legalism…use these goals as guides.  If you prayed five days and missed one, don’t get all upset.  Say “I prayed for five days.  Awesome.  Let’s start again.”  Now if you look at your prayer time and you’ve missed three days in a row well, either your passion for God has slipped or your life is out of balance.

Second, Have a Regular Bible Study

Psalm 119:104-105 – Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.

Having daily Bible reading is very important but we should all have a weekly study time also.  In our study time we’re not just reading but spending time in a passage, looking up the meaning of words, studying what was happening during that time, looking up related passages etc.  In general going deeper on one section of scripture or studying one idea throughout the whole Bible.

Example: “I will spend fifteen minutes a day reading the word at lunch and One hour a week in study on Sundays.  This week I’m studying all the Bible references to gossip.”

Next Create Personal Accountability

Proverbs 15:32-33 – If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.  Fear of the Lord teaches a person to be wise; humility precedes honor.

Someone once told me “You’re only as accountable as you want to be.”  That’s a true statement.  No one can force you to open up and share your struggles or ask another person to encourage you pursue your calling. This really is the place where people either soar or crash.  We are all human and left to ourselves we will take the easy road.  We need godly input from people we respect.

Example: “I will make myself accountable by joining a Connect Group and opening up to the leader about my struggles.  I will choose one brother or sister who is strong in an area I am weak, to keep me accountable.”

Keep Church Attendance a Priority

Hebrews 10:24-25 – Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.

How can anyone think of personal growth apart from the local church?  A huge part of growing spiritually is the selflessness that comes from being part of a larger vision.  It’s no longer about me and my life but about what God is doing with our church and in our city.

The poor priorities we have where we choose kids sporting events, overtime and leisure activities over obeying scripture to gather together is one of the main things that causes us to stagnate.  We must seek firs the kingdom of God.

Example: “I commit to never miss church unless ill or on vacation.”  “No Molly you can’t play soccer Sunday at 11am because we have church.”

Work at Positioning Yourself

1 Corinthians 14:3 – One who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them.

Whatever your gift is use it to build the body up.  Don’t wait to be asked!  If you’re not skilled yet in the gift or if someone has told you that you have a gift, seek out mentoring.  Get around other people who are already succeeding in that area.  Study the word on the specific gift.  Etc.

Example: If you feel called to teach and there’s no opportunity to teach adults, position yourself by using my gift of teaching in the children’s church or in a Small Group.

2 Peter 3:17 – But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Give Generously

Mal 3:8-10 – Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you ask, In what way did we ever rob you? In tithes and offerings You are under a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, says the Lord of Hosts, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!

The tithe is the minimum to call yourself a believer.  Please don’t put comments out about how it’s Old Testament.  Abraham tithed 700 years before the law was written (Hebrews 7:4-10) and Jesus said you should tithe in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23).

We should all be giving above and beyond the tithe because it’s a supernatural thing that increases our faith!  What makes me laugh is when people say, “Well, I pray and just give what God tells me to.  I’m not obligated to tithe.  It’s legalism.” Because they always are people who give less than 10%!!  Do you mean the same God who raised all the standards for those under grace (not just don’t commit adultery but don’t even look at a woman with lust) is going to lower the standard for giving?  Ha!

Example: “I commit to tithe (10%) and to prayerfully give 3% to hunger relief.”

Serve God by Serving People

1 Peter. 4:10 – Each one should use whatever gift he’s received to serve others. (niv)

Serving is everyone’s responsibility.  There should be no spectators in the kingdom of God.  I was blessed by a dear sister who showed up for the back pack give away and said, “I want to help but I can’t stand long because of physical limitations.  What can I do?”  I had her sit at the table and stuff the back packs with the pencil cases.  Her attitude was she wanted to serve in any way she could.  Wonderful!

Example: “I will serve in the Lord by ushering and coming to the church work day.”

Obey the Sabbath Principle

Ex 16:28-29 – How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions?” the Lord asked Moses. “Do they not realize that I have given them the seventh day, the Sabbath, as a day of rest?

Mar 2:27 – The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath.

I wrote on the Sabbath in Personal Growth Part 2 so I won’t say anymore here.

Example: I will rest one day a week from my work (including phone calls) and take one week vacation a year with my family.

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Plan to Grow.  If you’re the same Christian you are next year as you are this year…If you don’t look a little more like Jesus, than you’re out of God’s will! Anything God blesses grows!