Why Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse is a masterclass in Brand Revitalisation

Written by:
Dan Salkey
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Much like a spider delicately weaving its web Sony carefully crafted a series of blockbuster films centred around Spider-Man that grossed over $9.8 billion over the last decade and a half.

Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse added $120 million of domestic sales to that number and as the second-biggest film opening of 2023 it also gave brand managers everywhere a front-row seat into how to revitalise a brand.

To do so it requires you to picture MARVEL as a house of brands, the Unilever of comics if you will, and the superheroes that they create as their household names - Dove, Axe, Magnum etc.

Spinning Back - A look back at History

One of the first steps in brand diagnosis is looking back at the heritage of the brand. If done correctly the spirit of the founders, and places of a brand, no matter how old, should be prevalent in its makeup. Spoiler alert, this film is dripping in Spider-Man heritage. From the 280 versions of the character used in the film, plucked from 60 years of comics to the subtle animated Kirby Crackle used in homage to Jack Kirby, the web head’s creator. This film feels like Spider-Man was supposed to.

A Spider’s Code(s) - Identifying the Brand DNA

Spider-Man along with Captain America, and Iron Man has his own set of codes people associate with him - from the red and blue suit to his iconic spider emblem and his quipping personality. Brand revitalisation is all about putting the strongest of these codes front and centre. And yes this film does all of that, whether that’s his plethora of iconic villains or making sure a minute doesn’t go by where a spider isn’t on screen. But without giving much away the film’s biggest win is actually in bringing lesser-known but universally unique codes tied to Spider-Man’s backstory to the fore. Brand experts like Jessi Rominchauk would call these assets with investment potential.

A Whole New Spiderverse - Asking What the Brand Looks Like Today?

After looking back over history and cementing the strongest brand codes the real secret to brand revitalisation is asking how this brand can be made relevant for today. Whilst Peter Park, a nerdy straight white male from Forest Hill Queens felt like a radical alter ego for a superhero in the 1960s compared to the chiselled looks of Clark Kent, he just doesn’t cut it in 2023. This film instead pokes fun at Peter Parker and they even killed off a version of the character in the first film

The decision to build a film around Miles Morales and Gwen Stacey (Spider-Gwen), versions of the character only created in the last decade or so, would feel like a titanic risk in isolation. But by filling the film with heritage and the core Spider-Man codes that people still love it becomes the blockbuster’s greatest strength. Refreshed, revitalised, awesome.

After 2 reboots, Marvel striking a deal to bring the property closer to its connected universe and Sony moving onto new franchises like Venom the masked web-slinger was in need of new life. Spiderman: Across the Spiderverse (and its predecessor Into the Spiderverse) totally rewrote the script for what a Spider-Man film should be whilst staying true to the core of the character. It’s truly a masterclass in brand revitalisation for any aspiring brand managers who watch closely enough.