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Your Brand Is Not Batman

IMB_BatmanLogo Today I had the chance to take part in an entertaining panel moderated by my friend Debbie Weil all about blogging and social media as part of a book launch event for David Meerman Scott's new book, World Wide Rave. Along with me on the panel were Greg Verdino, a fellow blogger and agency guy from Crayon, and Henry Posner, the social media and digital marketing guy from B&H Photo (probably my favourite NY photo store that I've purchased much of my photographic equipment from over the years). Our conversation ranged from blogs and Twitter to the role of social media in a broader marketing mix – and the difference between Batman and a Cowboy.

Batman has a utility belt. On that belt, he has batarangs, inflatable scuba gear, smoke makers, batcuffs, batraygun and just about anything else he could ever need. He's a crimefighter, and never knows what bad guys he is going to face next. He actually needs and uses all that stuff. A cowboy, on the other hand, carried just a revolver. He never needed all that fancy stuff, just one tool that did its job. The gun was the only thing a cowboy needed, and he used it strategically to stay alive.

Now think about this in relation to how your brand is approaching social media. Are you treating your brand like Batman, trying to have a presence everywhere, launch one of everything and using many things that you don't really need? The problem with that is that your brand isn't Batman … and you end up spreading yourself too thin and doing nothing really well. Instead, think of your brand like the cowboy and find the one tool you need to succeed. Comcast found Twitter. Blendtec found YouTube. Forget about creating a social media utility belt. Only Batman needs one of those.

18 thoughts on “Your Brand Is Not Batman”

  1. What’s funny about this is of all the things Batman DIDN’T carry, the absence of a gun is among the most notable, because of his recluctance to become like the common criminal scum he strikes fear into the hearts of.

    I’ve had great results from *sampling* everything that remotely interests me, but sticking with what gets results. It always gets narrowed down, but you need to substantiate your experiences.

  2. I’m not sure I agree with this analogy. You absolutely don’t want to be Batman and try to have any and every tool just because they might be useful. However there’s no reason to limit yourself to just ONE thing or to believe you can’t do a few things very well.

    The key is to pick which tools and campaigns make sense for you and putting the energy and effort necessary into making those ones you do chose successful.

  3. @Torley – good point about the importance of testing to find out what really has an impact.

    @Isaac – you’re right, they are probably shades of this utility belt. Indeed, many of the most pioneering brands using social media are succeeding because of the fact that they know which places to focus on … and it is certainly more than one. But for other brands starting out, I think the advice to focus on less but do it well is worthwhile.

    @olivier – Supervillains in social media? You’ve already got a good list going there. Unfortunately for us, there are already too many of those …

  4. Great panel yesterday, Rohit. As a former comic book marketing guy, I always appreciate analogies like this (in fact I used Spider-Man comics to talk about user interface design,

    I would modify the analogy a bit though. Batman has the utility belt so that he’s always prepared for any situation. But he doesn’t use the batarangs, the grappling hook and the sulfuric acid all at the same time to solve a problem. As marketers, we should be the same way. We need to have a strong knowledge of all the tools in our “social media utility belt” but we need to make sure we choose the right one for the specific marketing challenge. The Weber Grill – PDF case you mentioned in your talk yesterday is a perfect example of this.

  5. Don’t agree. I’d use McCain and Obama as the example; McCain suspended his campaign to “solveâ€￾ the financial crisis. Obama said a President should be able to multitask. Strong brands can multitask.

    If your audience is on multiple channels having (or can be engaged in) conversations on topics that you want to be associated with – and if resources/commitment allows – you should be there.

    I’d recommend any brand squat their brand name(s) on every channel as a defensive move at least.

    And if you put the investment into creating the overall campaign (and some good content/objects), it’s a small incremental investment to publish to all channels.

    The listening/engagement portion is where you get into the time suck – and the valuable dialogue and relationship building. But big brands should be making the investment there – and pulling from traditional areas if resources are scarce.

    Of course, measuring impact is key. Don’t just do social media because it’s the new shiny toy. If you get more sales/brand equity from a brochure then do that. Or nobody’s interested in you on Twitter, don’t try to force it (too much).

  6. Interesting analogy and comments. Cowboys did wear a pistol a lot of the time but they also had a few other tools. The rifle when they needed precision, the rope when they needed to get some leverage or grab something, spurs for when they needed more control and a little speed, saddlebags to hold some grub for the lean times and a bedroll for when they needed to pull an all-nighter on the range.

    But keeping it lean and focusing on getting it done does work in any environment. The clutter around us is pretty amazing and we all have to sift through it to get to the tools that work for us.

  7. I would agree with Isaac. It’s all about meeting buyers where they’re at. It’s not so much about being everywhere, but being at the right places. Not everyone who loves YouTube loves Twitter. To have only one focus would be to miss out on a lot of people.

  8. Wow – and AMEN to that! I am talking to so many people who are being pulled in too many directions. As a matter of fact we just talked about it at a meeting this afternoon. Glad you brought this topic up!

  9. A hearty “AMEN” to this post!!!

    So many businesses – both big and small – think they have to be EVERYTHING to EVERYONE in order to succeed!!!

    I absolutely ADORE the “Batman” vs the Cowboy illustration! PERFECT!!!

    Batman was up against all kinds of “imaginary” characters while cowboys faced Injuns and coyotes – both of which could be easily dispatched with a revolver.

    Truly Inspired!!!

  10. This is a fabulous comparison – and – it’s important to separate the Macro and Micro aspects of brand expression.

    On a Macro level, Batman’s “Bat-stuff” positively oozes “cool” and “high tech” with a touch of “dark magic.” As a Super Hero, that’s what Batman represents. Think about his Bat Cave, Batmobile, Bat Tools and Bat Weapons. They all express cool/high tech/dark magic.

    Likewise, when you define your own brand, you need to pinpoint the few core values that your brand delivers.

    Then, by creating a set of macro brand expressions that clearly convey these values, you’ll attract the people and companies that want what you’ve got.

    PS: Stay focused on “what” you deliver, (the macro) vs. “how” you deliver it (the micro).

  11. I like to call this theory contextual marketing. Literally, put your money where your mouth is. That mouth is where customers will talk about your product at the point they are interacting with your product/service!

  12. Great post. Too often people try to do too much and end up like you said spreading themselves too thin. At the same time, you’re capable of doing so much more than you think. It’s easy to sell yourself short too.


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#1 WSJ & USA Today Bestselling Author

Rohit is the author of 9 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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