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If God did not exist…

The French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire, never went to San Diego. But had he managed to procure a pass to Comic-Con, he would have smiled. A whole festival dedicated to proving his aphorism: “ If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” In fact, make that Gods: if you look at our culture, it is clear that we are pantheistic.

To a historian studying 20th century culture, the dominant deities of the day might well be Kal-El and Bruce Wayne, not to mention an obscure Greek goddess of the hunt called Nike. They are worshipped in grimy bookstores and conventions, by an astonishing range of devotees, with a fervor and canonical knowledge that beats most church-goers.

So what can marketers learn from this? In agency conference rooms, we often hear that a new era of realism is upon us. People are no longer succumbing to the lure of the superhero, the larger-than-life leader. The internet has made us all too smart for that.

For those people, I have two words: Spiderman box-office. Actually, here’s another 2 words. Harry Potter. Is it that fanciful to imagine a future where there is an actual religion with rituals around Quidditch games and a sacred temple called Hogwarts?

Superheroes provide meaning and order – whether 2000 years ago, in order to explain the forces of nature, or today, in order to control the chaos of daily life. They are the purest manifestations of our hopes, fears and dreams, especially our desire to control our environment and our destiny.

What’s the lesson for marketers? Brands provide consistency and meaning. Superhero brands provide meaning at an epic scale and command matching levels of loyalty. Find your brand’s heroic mission and convert consumers into followers.

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