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Disney Buys Marvel: Designing
3D Brands
by John Sviokla
AUGUST 31, 2009

Many comic fans around the world, my eldest son John included, will bemoan today’s
announcement that the Disney entertainment zaibatsu will swallow up Marvel Comics and its
5,000 characters for $4 billion. Years ago I, too, spent my hard-earned shoveling money on
Spiderman, The Hulk, Fantastic Four, and especially Iron Man. (I’ve seen all their recent
movies, too.) But when Disney is on their game, their 3D branding machine creates new and
exciting customer entertainment.

Disney, perhaps better than any other company on the planet, can perform what I call “3D
Branding.” 3D branding begins with the idea that a great story is at the core of all human
motivation and brand relationships. 2D brands have a selling message — not an embracing
narrative. 3D branding embodies the notion that there are no transactions, only experiences,
and the burden of linking all customer interactions into a seamless web of experience is the
job of the company providing the service — not a burden borne by the customer. 2D
companies may add a Twitter account, or web community, but they are unlinked to other
parts of the buying or using experience.

The 3D approach also realizes that brands grow as people interact with them and contribute
to the story. Walt Disney did this early on with his theme parks — where the designated
“Kodak Spot” locations told people where to take a picture so that they became part of the
story. By contrast, the 2D brand marketer keeps his or her customer at bay. Today, with the

robust social web, the job of the 3D company is to give their audience the best, most fun, and
simplest tools to add content and create connections with the broader world. Lastly, 3D
branding realizes that every company should make themselves easy to find and easy to buy;
as Larry Light pointed out to me a few months ago, “convenience is no longer a brand

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