Superheroes and superbloggers: The blockbuster personalities of our time


I pass this store on my way to work; it’s something like a nerd’s nest with a careful selection of books, films and records. Unsurprisingly, the store owner also seems to have a weak spot for comics. Lately, both 75 Years of DC Comics – The Art of Modern Mythmaking and Marvel: The Untold Story have been sitting front row in the store window.

These almost historical blockbuster personalities (Captain America alone is 73 years old) still capture the attention and fascination of new generations. In a time when a youngster’s attention is tougher to crack than crack itself. Sydney Stockholm – the digital publisher we run – has got one sole core target: Create and commercialise influential individuals. The blockbuster personalities of our time. But why are we all continuously so fascinated by them?

Photo: JD Hancock

Last year Anita Elberse, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, effectively explained the commercial aspects of this in her book Blockbusters. It looks at what drives success in the entertainment industry and how these lessons can be translated into other sectors.

According to Elberse, the notion of smaller bets being safer is a myth. It is safer to make bigger bets because they are likely to have bigger outcomes. That’s not to say that every effort to make a blockbuster succeeds but rather that scale brings marketing advantages. Additionally, the blockbuster strategy fits the way consumers behave – they want to be able to talk with others about what they watch, listen and read.

Likewise, companies seeking spokespeople are better off betting on the A-list stars. Pepsi paying Beyoncé $50 million for a multi-year “partnership” is, in fact, a safer bet than recruiting a less expensive B-level star. But that move makes it more pressing for the strategy to succeed. Elberse finds, that in most cases, these “big bets become self-fulfilling prophecies” because companies and individuals understand how high the stakes are and are more driven to produce great outcomes.

In the world of bloggers and social media stars, we often encounter what I call the “candy store strategy” – brands approaching us with the ambition to collaborate with a certain influencer on one piece of content, one Instagram update or similar. Small bits and pieces here and there that usually lead to nothing. They all risk being merely small, scattered and unnoticed bets in a very crowded space.

Combining those small bets into one large and focused investment, however, will allow everyone involved to roll up their sleeves and dig in. This is happening all around you already; the biggest clubs can afford the biggest DJ’s, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show has turned into a blockbuster event thanks to a roster of blockbuster personalities and Red Bull is, well, sending a blockbuster guy to freaking space.