Two Disney powerhouses face off in today’s episode of John’s daily email. Each works as the president behind the two biggest franchises in cinematic history: Marvel & Lucas Films.
And despite being attached to cinema, there’s also a powerful email marketing lesson embedded within. Who woulda thunk?
Alright, without further ado…
In one corner, weighing more than 30 movies deep, many of which have exceeded the mystical $1B box office, we have Kevin Feige of Marvel.
And in the other corner, weighing 5 or 6 movies deep, a few of which have exceeded the mystical $1B box office, we have Kathleen Kennedy of Lucas Film.
Now, it’s time for the fight:
Even if you’ve never watched a superhero movie in your life, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with Kevin Feige. Not only have I mentioned him several times in these emails, for his groundbreaking success with creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). And even though the MCU has fallen off Mt. Everest lately, and I’m in no way, shape, or form even a little excited for what the future of Marvel has in store… you can’t discount Feige’s incredible impact on the entire genre of superhero films.
At one point, which I don’t believe is still the case, but I could be wrong, Feige produced over 25 movies that have averaged a $1B in the box office — in a world where most movies don’t even sniff a Billy.
On the other hand, you have Kathleen Kennedy. Even considering how shyt Marvel movies have been since Avengers: Endgame, nobody killed a franchise quite like Kennedy killed Star Wars with the sequel trilogy.
The first movie was a complete rip off off the original Star Wars (episode 4). And the worst part, is this blatant rip off has since become the best of the sequel trilogy. The second sequel movie made the first one irrelevant, with Rian Johnson ignoring everything that the first movie set up. And the final movie in this new trilogy was the biggest pile of steaming dogshyt masquerading as a movie that I’ve ever seen in my life.
Which herein lies the point of this email:
Couple days ago, I watched someone defend Kathleen Kennedy, particularly when she was pitted against Kevin Feige.
Kathleen Kennedy, in terms of average box office profit, is a better producer than Kevin Feige.
While that’s true, it’s a perfect example of how numbers lie:
Star Wars was a massive property when Kennedy took over. Massive. It wasn’t even in the same ballpark as Marvel.
But, at almost every turn, Kathleen Kennedy tried to crucify the franchise. And Star Wars movies only outperform Marvel, again, on average, because it was such a big franchise before. The first sequel movie made out like gangbusters at the box office, and each movie since then has been in a consistent decline. Or, in other words, a failure: Both in terms of outperforming the box office and in terms of creating a good movie with a good story.
Meanwhile, during this time, Feige took Marvel (who had recently sold off characters like Hulk and Spider-Man to other studios because Marvel proper was so bankrupt), and inspired an entire genre of superhero films which also act as an ongoing television series, where nobody wants to miss one episode.
Marvel has cranked out 30-some movies and TV shows at this point, compared to Star Wars’ 7 or 8 movies and TV shows (most of which sucked).
And yet, some fool on the internet still made the argument that Kathleen Kennedy is technically (when it comes to profit) a better studio head than Kevin Feige.
I don’t buy it and you shouldn’t either.
But how tf does this relate to email marketing?
Lemme tell ya:
1. Numbers lie
Most marketers obsess too much over numbers. I get it, direct response marketing 101 tells you to worry about your numbers. But like Star Wars, these marketers have a short-term focus:
To them, they’d rather pump and dump their list, continually offering higher and higher discounts, burning through their email list like Kennedy has to Star Wars fans, and try to extract as much moolah as possible from these “chumps” (as they’d refer to people on their email list) before they realize they got duped by a money grab and that the creators of the products they bought didn’t give one rat’s arse about the general experience of their customers.
Would you rather send 10 emails that average $5,000 in revenue (a total of $50k revenue)?
Or would you rather send 50 emails that average $2,000 in revenue (a total of $100k revenue)?
The former is what Star Wars did and short-term marketers do. The latter is what Marvel did and long-term marketers do.
3. Everyone has a critic
Many of the brands I work with get their feelings hurt when someone unsubscribes. They take it as a personal attack, and after it seeps their way into their subconscious, they then design a strategy to try to limit as many unsubscribes as possible.
But unsubscribes are gonna happen regardless.
And designing a strategy that caters to the unsubscriber usually comes at the expense of increasing your revenue and improving the general experience for your customers.
Again, this is Star Wars vs Marvel all over again:
For example, about a year or so ago, Star Wars created the Obi-Wan TV series for Disney+. It was a steaming pile of dogshyt, like most of the stuff outta Lucas Films for the past decade.
But the biggest complaint I had—as well as most Star Wars fans—is this:
Obi-Wan should’ve been a movie. In fact, a fan even edited the TV series, cut out most of the dogshyt, and turned it from a 6-hour TV series into a 2-hour movie. This fan edit was beloved by the community, and proves that the general experience of Obi-Wan was better served as a movie than a TV show.
But Star Wars and Kathleen Kennedy didn’t care:
They took the shortcut, had a short-term focus, and very literally released Obi-Wan on Disney+ to avoid people canceling (or unsubscribing) from Disney+.
Marvel always took the longer term approach. That’s how they created an entire universe that’s put DC behind the 8-ball for decades because they’re trying to copy Marvel’s success without a Kevin Feige.
I’m running out of real estate here and realize this email was very much written in a stream of consciousness way. I recommend reading it back several times until you viscerally understand the differences I laid out.
And if you need help turning your emails into a Marvel Cinematic Universe instead of doing the short-term Star Wars route that will make your biggest supporters turn against you…
Hit reply, and let’s chat.