Tag Archives: contextual marketing

The Comics Are All Right: Marvel, Geo-location, and Contextual Marketing

Last week Marvel announced they were making some changes in their email program and would start advertising comics in movie theaters and on television. The news was covered with some praise, which it deserves, but beyond the announcement itself there wasn’t much as to what they were actually doing. So, this felt like the perfect opportunity to go into more depth as “The Comics Are All Right” column’s point is to point out the negative, positive, and present things with actual facts and data.

But, to better understand the Marvel announcement about geo-location and marketing, you need to first understand email. I’m not talking about the email you send to one person, I’m talking bulk email where special programs are used to send thousands or even millions of messages. When these messages are sent there’s a few extra steps compared to a one off message you send to a friend, and one of those is adding more information to the email. That info might help track people who open or click the message or it might change parts of the email like adding your first name to the message or changing an image. Usually, that is based on static information in a database, like a first name or a product being sold based on past purchases or your behavior on a website.

What Marvel is doing is doing that, but it’s on steroids.

By teaming up with the company Moveable Ink, a leader in what’s known as contextual marketing, Marvel is able to leverage more information than what’s in a database and also able to power their email program in a different way. Moveable Ink is a technology leader in what’s known as contextual marketing. This type of marketing delivers content based on behavior and data. You probably experience it every day without noticing. Moveable Ink makes that marketing easier in email through their toolset.

In the announcement, Marvel said they’d be including information for local comic book shops in the emails they send promoting their spring comic launches like X-Men Gold and Secret Empire. In the past, that information would be static. Marvel would use information like a zip code to match your location with a local shop and that information would be merged into the email. Where this program differs is that the information can constantly change. If Marvel leverages Moveable Ink in the way it’s supposed to be used an email you’re sent can show different shops based on your actual physical location. In one location on Monday you’ll be shown one shop and in another location on Tuesday you’ll be shown a different shop. The email evolves based on your physical location.

The above the scenario is what Marvel touched upon in their announcement without that much detail and also left out is the cost of it all. Moveable Ink is not cheap. For 600,000 opened emails a company would pay around $15,000. Marvel has an email list of about 1.5 million and averages about 14% opens per email. So, they’re spending about $5,000 per email sent using this system. But, it’s a successful tool and can boost sales, though I haven’t ever discussed real world purchasing with Moveable Ink only online sales when it comes to their success stories.

And that’s a big question to me. How success will be measured? A digital sale is easy to measure, but driving someone to a store to buy a physical product is a bit more difficult. The publisher can look at opens and then cross reference sales to a store, maybe, but it’s not an easy task laid out. Add in the fact this will need to boost comic sales by the 10s of thousands to be profitable and you have to respect the task at hand.

But, what Marvel didn’t lay out in their announcement email is the other uses of the tool. Sales can be updated when they end. New release information can be swapped out. Events can be better tailored to the individual and promoted. The same email may look different in the morning than it does in the evening. There’s a long list of possibilities and to see what they do with this new found tool will be interesting.

This is a big leap for the comic industry, one that is woefully outdated in the marketing and promotion. This technology has existed since 2010 and I’ve been aware and working with it in my political email career for 4 or 5 years at this point, and was checking it out for years before. Hopefully, other publishers take note of this move and truly understand how powerful this technology is and how much it can benefit them. Someone needs to be first and Marvel has stepped up.

Marvel Embraces Contextual Marketing like Moveable Ink

Marvel announced today it’s giving a shot to its online advertising and email program through geotargeting technology that will allow the company to connect comic fans with local comic shops. The technology is nothing new. Known as “contextual marketing,” it has been in use for years now but this is its first use in the comic industry. The technology, usually based on location information like cellular location or IP addresses, allows tailored messaging to be delivered to individuals.

I first wrote about this sort of targeting in 2010 and two months ago called for Marvel to begin this exact program. In the job that actually pays the bills, I’ve been using this technology for about 5 years now.

One leading provider in this area is Moveable Ink. Started in 2010, the company is the leader of “contextual marketing” in the email industry. The technology provides personalization at point of click, not point of send. Generally, email is tailored at the time of sending creating a static message that might vary. A single email may have 5 different versions that can’t be changed once sent. This technology allows for even greater targeting at a considerable price. Using geolocation data, it allows Moveable Ink to deliver data such as the closest comic shops based on your actual location. If you receive such information then fly across the country the email will update based on your new location. This is real time data delivery instead of the more common aspect of using pre-populated information. In the scenario I previously described you may get a message with a local shop based on your zip code and that content won’t change if you physically move around in the real world.

This technology is even more powerful than Marvel has hinted at, and here’s just a few examples of how they might use the technology:

  1. Instead of sending emails about current sales, app updates, or new releases, Marvel will be able to update emails based on the date. While you might get this week’s new releases, the same email could deliver you next week’s new releases when it’s release time.
  2. The email you receive in the morning could be updated. That same email could display something different in the evening. For example an image could have the sun in during the day and moon at night, all based on what time it is locally for you.
  3. As online sales ramp down, Marvel can update the emails they send with the latest information.
  4. One email sent can update individuals on the local signings or conventions based on your location.
  5. The comics advertised could be tailored to the individual’s preference.
  6. Ads can be tailored not just to inform on local shops but with images and text tailored to the individual.

All of this comes at a pretty penny. Marvel with this announcement has indicated they are willing to invest in marketing. These types of programs can cost in the 10s of thousands of dollars and in the case of email depends on list size. 600,000 opens would cost about $13,000. And that’s a low quote. I’d estimate Marvel has about 1.5 million email subscribers.

Below is Marvel’s full announcement:

The fun and excitement is happening each and every week at your local comic shop! Today, Marvel is excited to announce a new marketing initiative specially designed to increase comic store foot traffic and bring new readers into stores through the use of GeoTargeting technologies.

“Marvel is always looking for ways to get more people through the doors of their local comic stores,“ says Marvel SVP Sales & Marketing David Gabriel. “With these new tools at our disposal, we’re looking to tap into fans of Marvel television, films, animation, games and even our licensed product and turn them into comic book readers. Not only will these prospective readers learn exactly where their nearest shop is, but all the great Marvel comics waiting for them when they get there!”

Once again leading the way in how comics reach larger audiences, these new technologies will provide both new, casual, and hardcore fans with information about comic shops in their area (location, store hours, phone #) and the exciting Marvel Comics waiting for them inside! Embedded within Marvel e-mails, shared across over Marvel social media networks, fed through advertising partners, and more – this ambitious program is estimated to reach millions of prospective readers – both new and existing!

“Comic book shops have been and always will be the lifeblood of our industry,” says Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. “It’s Marvel’s mission to not only keep those retailers stocked with exciting comics, but to keep fans coming through their doors week after week to engage with those communities. We have a lot of exciting ideas for how to reach new and lapsed fans in 2017, and this is just the start.”

Rolling out first with spring Marvel comic launches, including X-MEN GOLD and SECRET EMPIRE, Marvel is set to reach entirely new audiences in 2017! The biggest characters and creators are waiting for you at your nearest comic book retailer!