Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Real Man of Tomorrow: Branding Lex Luthor

Welcome back to Funding the Kryptonite, a blog that will take a look at comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.

I’ve previously discussed Lex Luthor in regards to his data analysis handling and his ability to do some great message targeting, but today I want to discuss the concept of Lex Luthor and his portrayal in the miniseries Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. What does that name evoke when you read it, and why does it do that, in the eyes of the Metropolis public and the world. In essence, this is what branding is all about and I want to discuss Lex Luthor as a brand.

Branding; Not Just For Cattle!:

While the world has moved away from actually taking burning metal to imprint your logo on things your company owns/produces, branding still remains an important element of the world around us. Images, names, slogans, and a host of other brand-related elements are still incredibly present around us. Companies spend a lot of time and effort to put out a perception of what those brand elements should mean and should cause as a reaction in people. A brand is, in essence, the message you want all those elements to communicate to your audiences.

At the same time, it is not a one-way street. A professor of mine was fond of saying that branding is more about what other people are saying about you than what you want to say about yourself. This is because if what you are trying to portray yourself as to the world is not what people actually think/feel about you, you’re losing control of your brand. This can happen for myriad reasons, ranging from specific incidents (BP after the Gulf oil spill or Exxon after the Valdez) to shifting social acceptance of your products (tobacco companies). So brand is not just your message, it's a combination of many messages. The key is to try to align as many of those messages as possible to what you want it to be.

Lex Luthor as Savior or Savage:

The brand of Lex Luthor, to the average reader, is obviously that of an obsessed and power hungry supervillain. His name evokes distrust, associations with plots to destroy Superman and rule over Metropolis, and other such negative emotions. From an in-character perspective, that view is shared by many people who are aware of Lex’s wrongdoings. The staff of the Daily Planet, for example, is largely anti-Luthor.

But what about everyone else? To the world at large, he’s a successful businessman. His companies produce the goods that everyone loves, he’s a philanthropist, and a humanist. He’s even managed to get voted into the office of President of the United States! In this mini-series, the reader is given a storyline from the perspective of Lex Luthor and his point of view on how he views the city and Superman. Kal-El is depicted as an alien overlord, oppressing humanity by his mere presence and Lex Luthor is a visionary who wants to uplift mankind and allow us to realize our true potential.

The Little Things:

Lex’s brand management is not just limited to how he views his struggle against Superman though. In this miniseries, he shows a deep level of personal respect for his employees, he puts forward a magnificent new science center, called the Science Spire, as a not-for-profit institution for the city, and even creates a competing superheroine named Hope to serve the people of Metropolis. And these things work, as shown by the respect he in turn receives from his employees and the people of the town.

Closing comments:

Branding and brand management is a huge topic and I imagine I’ll revisit it a few times. But this brief overview of the Lex Luthor brand, and how he struggles to maintain the image he wants to project against the damage he does to it with his plots against Superman.

That being said, it’s a testament to the power of his character that, for the reader, he is generally always known as a brilliant bald man who wants to destroy Superman

Final Rating: Good business!

What’s real, can’t be argued with. There are chemical reasons that happen on a molecular level that make grass appear green… I can’t change the color of grass… but can I change the way it’s perceived?” –Lex Luthor (Lex Luthor: Man of Steel)
Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.

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