4. Content marketing

Offline Content Marketing

While the comic book industry is even more on fire today, that isn’t the case for all of the offline channels where brands used to tell stories.

But, we can translate all of the lessons that we learned from them to today in one way or another.

I’ll walk you through three examples from content marketing history and then show you their modern-day equivalents.

Offline Example #1: Comic Books and Blogs

Stan Lee and his crew created Marvelas we know it in the 1960s. They tried to tell the best stories that they could, combining visual content with a great story.

Their initial comics consistently sold millions of copies each month.

Marvel still dominates the comic book space today with not only a crazy market share of about 34% but also sky high order numbers for individual comic book issues.

marvel 1 content marketing

And, even though the comic book industry made a whopping $1.2 billion dollars in 2019, it absolutely pales when you compare that to the sales of merchandise around those books.

In one year, consumers spent four and a half billion dollars on DC comic merchandise alone. And DC Comics isn’t even as big as Marvel.

Again: They made four and a half billion dollars from selling mugs, plastic figures, and t-shirts.

This number doesn’t include any money that they generated from movies or theme park entrance fees. That’s just from merchandise.

That’s mind-blowing.

That means:

  • Good storytelling alone = a crapload of money.
  • But good storytelling + great products= 80 craploads of money.

In DC Comic’s case, the story was the product, and then additional merchandise came along the way. And, their target audience gobbled it all up.

Even today, the story should come long before the product.

By far, the easiest way to tell great stories, around which you can build great products, is with blog posts.

You don’t need artists, painters, and a printing press to put out comics any longer.

If you’re talented at drawing or creating witty stories, you can outsource the other part for as little as five bucks and create high-quality content that attracts hundreds of thousands of readers each month.

All you have to do is release a strip a day.

Aggregating news around comics is just as valuable.

But remember that the content has to be valuable and relevant to your target audience.

That’s why brands like Excedrin celebrate major successes by developing a content marketing strategy for their headache pills.

excedrin 1 content marketing

On their migraine blog, Excedrin provides helpful advice for all migraine sufferers, free software to help track the source of the problem, and coupons for loyal customers and readers.

But, this kind of marketing strategy isn’t just for big brands. Single individuals can create huge audiences this way.

James Altucher is a great example. After blogging for five years and telling stories every week, his blog posts now routinely get thousands of social media shares.

Over time, he’s built a huge following, and all it takes now to sell his books or info products is an email to his 200,000 person email list.

Since running a blog costs next to nothing, it’s a great way to test if your stories are goodalready or if they need work. And you can always use it as a channel to provide helpful advice to the audience in your niche.

What’s more, you can do this before ever selling anything. You’ll build a loyal relationship with your audience before you have customers.

The result will be a long line of eager friends who are waiting to buy from you when you launch.

Offline Example #2: From Soap Operas to Netflix

Do you know why soap operas are called soap operas?

The first soap opera aired in 1930. The name of it was “Painted Dreams,” and it ran on the radio five days per week in the mornings and early afternoons.

The primary target audience was housewives.

The open-ended shows, which often presented a cliffhanger at the end of each episode, showed very dramatic elements that we previously only saw in operas.

While listening to the show, most of the housewives cleaned their houses. Naturally, the commercial industry jumped aboard the ship.

And can you guess what they advertised? You guessed it: They aired soap commercials during show breaks.

soap operas content marketing

The stories sold the products, and activities that led customers to listen to more stories connected the products.

OK, so how about today?

Do you have any ideas of what’s similar to a soap opera today? Something with cliffhangers, binge-watching episodes, and opera-like drama?

Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like Netflix?

With almost 204 million subscribers, the streaming service saw around $25b in revenue in 2020.

Several years ago, Netflix started producing its own original shows, such as House of Cards and Daredevil.

Instead of just bringing great TV shows and movies to users all over the world, the company decided to start telling its own stories to create more awareness for the brand and to expand like crazy in its first few years.

Netflix fully finances and produces Daredevil. And guess what: It’s a Marvel classic.

See how the content marketing wheel keeps turning round and round?

Netflix has since gone on to turn more Marvel comics into TV shows, such as Jessica Jones and The Punisher.

Offline example #3: From Sneaky Advertising Tricks to Viral Commercials

When Hasbro released their comic book series around G.I. Joe, they faced a dilemma.

They wanted to run TV commercials to promote their action figure toys and comic books, which was a new concept.

But, TV regulations stated that toy commercials had to show the toys and could only include up to ten seconds of animation in order to not mislead kids into thinking the toys could do more than they did.

In order to circumvent this problem, they decided to focus on the story, not the product.They completely took out the toys and just promoted the comic book series.

Never before had a TV commercial solely promoted comics, and, thanks to bending the rules, Hasbro was able to show 30 fully animated seconds of material.

The original commercial even made it to YouTube.

But back then, TV commercials themselves were still working. In today’s advertising world, where our attention spans have shrunk to that of a goldfish, TV ads hardly capture us anymore.

What does spark our attention are viral commercials like the ones for the Super Bowl.

The commercial not only attracted millions of viewers during the Super Bowl itself, but it’s also become a viral video on YouTube, garnering hundreds of thousands of views and social media shares.

And here’s the best part: It will continue to do so. Every Super Bowl commercial the company creates will become an online asset and collect views for years to come.

Customers are happy because they can spend hours entertaining themselves, and Kia is happy because it nurtures the relationship with its target audience while the executives are sleeping.

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