Building an Inclusive Community – Marvel Edition

If you told someone in 2006 that you’d be seeing a major superhero movie every year, binging multiple TV spin-offs, and waiting with bated breath for the newest Marvel commercial during the Big Game, they’d probably laugh at you. Fast forward to now, and you have everything from casual viewers to die-hard superfans coming together for a mixed multimedia experience. Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, known to fans as the MCU.

So how did they do it?

Marvel went from making movies meant to sell toys to the singularly most successful movie franchise in the world. How did they manage to create such an amazing and successful fanbase so diverse and unique?

We’ve boiled it down to three points, which we’ll break down further.

  1. Plan Ahead, Stay Ahead: Strategy equals success
  2. The Journey to the Right People: Pick people who are right for the job and you’ll get more diverse, unique, and successful stories
  3. Deep Lore: Building a story that entices both casual lovers and superfans

Plan Ahead, Stay Ahead

Initially, a floundering Marvel organization planned 10 movies to help them sell more toys, beginning with B-list character Iron Man. (Film rights to their more popular characters were sold to various other studios.) Little did they suspect that, thanks to the passion and planning of a few dedicated people at Marvel, that movie was the start of something huge. These people took a small idea and turned it into an intricate series of movies, each with a plan and its own flair.

Likewise, your planning phase is the most important part of your successful community. You need to make sure your community “thread” doesn’t get lost in the plot. When you’re building a story (or posts, or threads), each needs to have its own tale, but you’re creating every post with the goal of creating a larger story. You need those Easter eggs to keep your community on track and engaged in the right type of content, but you still want to develop distinct personalities for your content and engagement. After all, some of your community might like Thor more than Captain America.

So how do you then take this diverse community and unite it? No matter how amazing individual contributions are, they mean nothing if you’re not using them cleverly to build a story.

The Journey to the Right People

Before you perfect your customer experience journey, you need the proper people to make it successful. You need to adopt the same “man behind the curtain” philosophy as Marvel. Each movie’s production team had the freedom to cast, direct, and shoot the way they wanted to, as long as they adhered to the MCU’s master plan. Imagine an Iron Man movie filmed and stylized like Captain America -- it just wouldn’t work.

Each movie developed its characters on a personal level before introducing them as an ensemble. Similarly, not all your community interactions should look the same. If you’re not a diehard fan of Iron Man, maybe you’re more of a Thor stan? Interactions with your community should be unique to each topic or reply. 

That’s where your diverse talent comes in. Some people are going to be better at creating a funny, slapstick comedy, while others are going to be stronger at stylized storytelling. Some may excel at both. You need a variety of these people on your side in order to create a well-rounded story. Searching for the “right” person rather than the “popular” pick might take more energy, but it pays off.

Deep Lore

Here’s where we get into the nitty gritty of Marvel’s success. An appreciation of the developing lore of the MCU is where fans meet, from casual viewers to die hard geeks. People were trained to stay through the credits to catch tagged-on scenes that added to the MCU’s lore and teased events still to come. They developed viewers’ interest in stand-alone films before bringing their characters together for bigger, more epic adventures. Seeds for these big blowout films were planted years before in the earlier entries. Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of all the choices made in previous movies.

This is how you should think when designing content, by planning ahead and keeping your eye on the big picture. How will you use this content in the future? Perhaps you’ll create a poll that you can later convert into a graphic. Maybe you’ll drop a hint about a future product to create hype. By thinking ahead and using every piece of content as a chance to create a future story, you create buy-ins from fans of all dedication levels.

Plan for Your Own Endgame

So how can you build a strategy that mimics that of the MCU? Start small, remember the goal, build a strong team of creatives who are passionate about the work, and create “lore” around your company. Okay, maybe easier said than done. But it’s a goal that is attainable.

That’s where ModSquad can step in. We spend our careers building Marvel-level plans for our clients, and we’re ready to start building your plan. Give us a call.

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