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Three Things "Guardians of the Galaxy" Can Teach You About Content

When Guardians of the Galaxy opens next Friday, Marvel Studios will score a huge opening – currently predicted at $68 million – for a group of obscure characters that are not even well known among most comic book fans.

This is the latest in a string of successes for Marvel, and it is due to the brand’s adherence to some core tenets. You can apply many ideals of the Marvel method to your own work, and create content that succeeds in a crowded field.

Take Risks

Marvel: In a recent Blastr article, Trent Moore asked, “Why has Marvel pumped in an estimated budget of at least $150 million to make a movie about a comic no one has ever heard of? Because they’ve spent the past decade taking risks, and they can’t keep cranking out Captain America and Iron Man sequels forever.”

Marvel has made a fortune by taking risks. Their first fully self-financed film, Iron Man, starred a (then) washed-up Robert Downey Jr. playing a (then) c-list super hero. The studio has gambled on allowing lesser-known directors to take their shot at blockbuster filmmaking. Marvel’s Avengers strategy relied on an unprecedented five-film lead up designed to familiarize audiences with the major characters (The Avengers grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide).

Guardians is another risk, but it is meant to continue to introduce audiences to new characters. Audiences will grow tired of Tony Stark, just as they are tiring of Spider-Man and Optimus Prime. Unlike the Spider-Man and Transformers film series – each of which had their lowest-grossing entries in 2014 – Rather than counting on Iron Man 4, 5 and 6, Marvel is continuing to introduce new waves of characters and potential new franchises. If one misfires (like 2008’s The Incredible Hulk did), Marvel has enough other irons in the fire to stay afloat.

Any growth requires you to step out of your comfort zone.

You: Any growth requires you to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t rely on the experts within your own company – start to interview influencers in your field. Trust your staff with access to social channels and try to find your internal brand influencers. Learn about new social and distribution channels and how to use them.

Set goals for yourself in learning new platforms; if you don’t tweet now, set a goal of five per week. Find a new network that your audience might use. In short, get out there, and take chances that other companies don’t.

Create unique, authentic, quality content

Marvel: Marvel continues to change up the formula of the super hero film. They allow each film to fit the unique personalities of the character – Thor presented with Shakespearian overtones, Captain America as a political thriller, and Guardians as an action comedy.

None of that matters, however, if the product isn’t good. Marvel has yet to produce a film that was rated “rotten” (indicating that less than 60% of reviews are positive) by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Iron Man (91%), Iron Man 2 (73%), Iron Man 3 (78%), Incredible Hulk (67%), Thor (77%), Thor 2 (65%), Captain America (79%), Captain America 2 (89%), and The Avengers (92%) all averaged good-to-great reviews.

As Moore notes, “Guardians is the gutsy gamble to prove audiences will turn out for something weird, so long as it’s good.”

You: Produce relevant content that stays true to your brand. Brands like Subway and REI create content that lives the mission statement – that is authentic, useful and relevant to their customers. The content is not created to make a sale, it is created to build a community.

That is the difference between content and advertising. However, that hasn’t stopped marketers from trying to hijack the content train. McDonald’s Moms Quality Correspondents content reads like it was written by the company's PR department.

Unlike McDonald’s, Subway, REI and Marvel know who they are and who their audience is, and they are attempting to make real connections with them, not to fool them.

Go where the audience is

Marvel: No film this summer has broken $250 million, which is a rare occurrence. One reason is oversaturation. Action films Amazing Spider-Man 3, Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past all opened within four weeks of each other, and all underperformed based on previous estimates.

The year’s big winner, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (258.5 million) opened on April 4 and had the whole month to itself. Similarly, Guardians has a wide-open August. Neither of these brands are as strong as Spider-Man or X-Men, but they will do better business than those big names by moving into a less competitive playing field.

You: Are you getting creative with your content distribution? If you are simply posting to Facebook and Twitter, you are shooting your content into the middle of a battlefield, where it will be extremely difficult to be seen.

Start to think of a more focused content distribution – as a scalpel and not as a cannon. What unique audiences might be interested in your content and where do they like to get their content? What influencers can you engage and how can you reach them?

What are your tips for creating content that gets seen and shared? Please let me know in the comments.

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