Warning: Major spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Avengers Endgame.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Avengers Endgame is the hottest movie ticket in town. The Marvel’s film broke box-office records and took in an astounding $1.2 billion in its opening weekend.
As with anything so massively popular, the internet is filled with discussions about the series – “Is this truly the end?” “Is Loki alive again?” and perhaps, most importantly, “Is Iron Man really dead?” Like, really?
I’ll admit it, the death of Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) brought me to tears. Of all the superheroes in this long-running film franchise, he’s my favorite. He’s ridiculously handsome (in my opinion), as well as a billionaire, genius, inventor, and philanthropist. He also has a wicked sense of humor. Tony Stark seems to have it all, and yet, he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
What’s not to love? (Full disclosure: I also have a thing for engineers.)
Apparently, I’m not alone in my admiration. A recent poll shows that Marvel’s Iron Man is the third most popular superhero, superseded only by Spiderman and Batman. But hey, I’m afraid of spiders and Batman is a little too dark and brooding for my taste.
So, what does this have to do with content marketing? There are reasons for the popularity of Marvel’s Iron Man, and those attributes can teach us how to make our content more effective. Seriously.
1. You need more than a flashy suit.
I realize that the men in the audience are enamored by Iron Man’s suit. I get it. The suit is amazingly high tech, allowing Tony Stark to fly, shoot, crush opponents and, of course, blow things up. But, under that metal exterior there is still a real man inside. Without Tony’s genius and his heart, the suit is just an inanimate (albeit very cool) object.
When we produce volumes of content just for the sake of posting a lot of stuff, we run the risk of becoming all flash and no substance. This is not what decision makers want.
According to a 2019 study by Edelman-LinkedIn, thought leadership has more influence on generating inbound leads than marketers realize. Thought leaders provide educational, useful, relevant information, which positions them as an expert on a topic. That leads to trust. In fact, 87% of decision makers say thought leadership increases trust in an organization, thus generating inbound leads.
Whether it’s in the form of research reports, videos, articles, webinars or presentations, thought leadership content is being consumed by a growing number of people. The Thought Leadership Impact Study by Edelman-LinkedIn found that 58% of decision makers spent an hour or more each day reading thought leadership content in 2018, versus 50% in 2017. In addition, 55% of decision makers use thought leadership as an important way to vet organizations they are considering working with.
And, if you’re a start-up or small company, thought leadership is even more important. A full 63% of decision makers believe thought leadership is necessary to build the reputation of new and small businesses. In other words, thought leadership content can give you superpowers to compete with the big guys! (For more on thought leadership, check out “Generate More Inbound Leads with Thought Leadership.”)
The moral of the story: A little flash is okay. In fact, it’s great for grabbing attention. However, be sure to provide substance in the form of thought leadership.
2. Admit your mistakes, make them right and then use them to help others.
Sure, everyone loves a success story. Reading about brilliant business decisions and winning campaigns can be inspiring. But people relate to mistakes because everyone makes them. Every Marvel Avengers fan knows that Tony Stark has numerous flaws. He’s arrogant, impulsive, stubborn and possibly sociopathic – and yet, these failings make him more likable. He has many of the same problems we all struggle with – he misses his Dad, though he never had a great relationship with him, he has romance issues, and wrestles with inner demons.
Though his impulsiveness causes others immeasurable angst, Tony can admit when he’s wrong and then goes to great lengths to make things right again. He can be self-deprecating, and we appreciate that.
As marketers, we can take a cue from this and include stories of our failures, as well as our successes. Say you tried a to employ a marketing automation platform without a strategy or an implementation partner and got less than stellar results. Why not share your experience and let others learn from it? Maybe your business has incurred severe growing pains or you introduced a new operating system that caused significant downtime. Your advice would be welcomed by other companies experiencing the same issues.
According to Seth Fiegerman, who edits the blog OpeningLines.org, a collection of case studies on the origins of famous careers, behind every success story is an embarrassing first effort, a stumble, or a setback. Feigerman says “When you see someone who’s very successful, you almost imagine that it was a foregone conclusion, that they’re a genius destined for great things. But, failure and setbacks, far from being uncommon, are in many ways essential.”
Just as Marvel’s Iron Man went through numerous “fails” before designing the ultimate weapon, and Tony Stark makes a myriad of missteps while saving the world, we all suffer setbacks. Sharing them, along with how we made them right, can help others avoid mistakes or make improvements.
The moral of the story: Content should not only highlight your successes or brag about how great your company/products are. Include some valuable advice based on your failures. People will relate.
At first blush, Tony Stark seems like a loner. But we all know that’s just a façade. Once he became an integral part of Marvel’s Avengers, he learned the value of teamwork. He also relies on Jarvis to provide information in critical situations and the help of his friend Rhodes. And let’s face it, Pepper Potts is really running the business. Without assistance, Iron Man would be far less “super.”
In the same way, the best content involves collaboration. Sitting alone in a cubicle or the corner of Starbucks may give you time to write, but eventually your ideas will become stale. The best content addresses customer pain points, so ask your sales team what those problems are. The folks in sales can also help you discover where and why leads are falling off the path to purchase. This is the perfect place for some consideration phase content that addresses these issues.
There is a wealth of useful ideas within your organization, from the C-suite to the production crew. Talk to them. Ask them for ideas. Collaborate. As a result, you’ll produce more relevant, useful content that helps customers and generates leads.
The moral of the story: Even someone as smart as Tony Stark and as well-equipped as Marvel’s Iron Man needs help. Collaboration enhances your superpowers.
There are plenty of other lessons that Iron Man can teach us, such as: persistence is important; maintain a sense of humor (even in the face of impending doom); there’s always room for improvement; and the competition (aka the villains) never sleep. And finally, “Never drink and fly.”
Personally, I’m still grieving the death of Iron Man and hoping that some miraculous time-space continuum or computer consciousness story line brings him back. If not, he leaves us with more than a decade of entertainment and some great lessons.