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The Avengers Movie / Avengers Assemble – What’s in a name?

by philhampton on 16 April 2012

'The Avengers'. That's what I'm going to call it at the cinema desk anyway.

I’m so looking forward to watching The Avengers movie when it opens in the UK on 26th April.

Only it’s not called ‘The Avengers’ over here.

Nope – in a wonderful move of marketing confusion, the movie’s been lumbered with the moniker ‘Avengers Assemble’.

And all because of a TV show that ran from 1961 – 1969 in the UK (see pic below left), with bowler-hatted spy John Steed (Patrick Macnee) being accompanied by a number of shagtastic hotties over 5 series.

A movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman was made in 1998, but it sunk without trace, being nominated for 9 categories in the Golden Raspberry awards.

 

The Black Widow admired Hawkeye's new 'Umbrella Arrow'

Here’s how I imagine the discussion went at Marvel Studios:

Number two: “Sir, we’ve got a problem with the Avengers movie name.”

Number One: “Don’t tell me Warner Bros. owns the rights.”

Number two: “No, it’s not as bad as that sir, but it could affect our UK audience figures. Google tells me that The Avengers was a spy show running in the 1960s.”

Number one: “Like James Bond?”

Number two: “Um, not exactly. More like Austin Powers on a shoestring budget.”

Number one: “So what’s the problem?”

Number two: “Well sir, with people who associate the name ‘The Avengers’ with the TV show, there’s a slim chance that they’ll get confused by the movie poster and so may not want to watch our movie.”

Number one: “And how old are these people likely to be?”

Number two: “Probably between 45 and 70.”

Number one: “And how old is our target audience?”

Number two: “7-35.”

Number one: “Hmmm. What could we change the name to?”

Number two: “Well, our marketing team have thought about it for a whole 90 seconds and decided that the team’s catchphrase would be best.”

Number one: “And that is…?”

Number two: “Avengers Assemble.”

Number one: “Say what?”

Number two: “Avengers Assemble. They say it every time they go into battle.”

Number one: “Even in today’s comics?”

Number two: “Um, yes sir.”

Number one: “Sounds like something a Transformer would say. So how much would a name change cost?”

Number two: “At least a quarter of a million dollars.”

Number one: “God damn! What would be the repercussions of changing the name?”

Number two: “Apart from the cost, only a heap of adverse fan feedback, and people thinking that we’ve lost our marbles.”

Number one: “But would that stop them going to see the film?”

Number two: “Nope – 90% of potential viewers in the UK will have already seen one of the solo superhero films, have watched one of the trailers, or have read the comics. We’ve already got them hooked. And 9% are parents who get dragged along by their kids. We’re worried about the remaining 1%”

Number one: “Well, what are you waiting for? Make it so!”

Okay, I’m being slightly facetious, but it highlights a valid point. How important is the name of your product? And, more crucially, should you change it once it’s already in place?

Lost in Translation

There have been some horror stories about products launching with names that translate badly abroad.  For example, the UK car maker Vauxhall released a model called the ‘Nova’, not realising that the word translates in Spanish as ‘it won’t go’. There’s a hilarious list of marketing translation mistakes at http://www.i18nguy.com/translations.html

On the other hand, ‘Twitter’ is probably a rude word in Mongolian, but that hasn’t stopped it being mega-successful.

Should You Change Your Comic’s Name?

I’ve thought before about changing the name of my website.  I chose ‘The Comic Academy’ a couple of years ago when I was thinking about covering a broader topic than just Comic Book Marketing.  And in any case, at the time comicbookmarketing.com had already been registered (it came up for sale about a year ago, at which point I registered it and redirected it to this site).

The name still causes confusion, with some people thinking that the site trains comedians, or that it’s some sort of multi-faceted school instead of just little old me.

I could still rebrand, but most of my followers know this site as The Comic Academy, and it’s a technical and logistical pain to change your URL and your ID on Twitter and Facebook whilst trying to keep your followers.  Plus it’s not my highest priority task.  Maybe one day…

If you haven’t yet decided a name for your business, character, comic or other product, just keep the following in mind:

  1. Is it simple? Does it trip off the tongue?
  2. Does it convey what you are trying to achieve with that character/product, and what you may want to achieve in the future?
  3. Has the name already been used elsewhere, and possibly copywrited? If so, then try to think up something unique.
  4. Does the name translate badly overseas? Remember, even British and Americans use different terms of phrase that can become embarrassing or confusing across the pond (in the UK there’s a brand of dog food called ‘Barf’!).

But at the end of the day, you should only really change a well-established name when there’s  a very good reason for doing so (like the risk of getting sued, or the name no longer reflecting what the business or product is about).

I’m sure Marvel had a very good reason for changing the movie name, but I can’t for the life of me think what it was!

If you enjoyed this article, please ‘like’, ‘tweet’ or ‘+1′ it, or leave a comment below!

All the best,

Phil Hampton

The Comic Academy

Phil Hampton founded The Comic Academy to help comic and webcomic creators and entrepreneurs market their work and make money in the comic book industry. Download your FREE exclusive report ‘The 7 Steps to Comic Creator Success’ at http://www.TheComicAcademy.com

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Burton April 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Hilarious dialogue, phil.

I remember when WOrld Wrestling Federation had to change their name over being sued. The WWF was the same letters as World Wildlife Fund. I remember thinking as a kid “who’s this world wildlife fund? And what are they doing to my wrestling?”

The now WWE had a hilarious campaign throughout the change, after losing the legal case, to coin the motto, “Get the F out”. Another case of when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. If I didn’t know better, i’d say Vince lost the case on purpose just so he could use this advertising gimmick. I think the campaign strengthened his core base and gave a catchy slogan to his fans so they could get on the bandwagon with him through the change.
Daniel Burton´s last blog post ..How to be and Expert Narrative Art Comic Book Marketer

philhampton April 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Thanks Daniel!

That’s a great example of how to turn an adverse situation to your advantage. Pity Kevin Feige couldn’t do a better job of explaining the situation at a recent Avengers press conference!

All the best,

Phil

Andre Breville May 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Actually its the other way around. The very first issue of the Marvel Avengers was copyrighted and published in the U.S. in 1963. Although the T.V. series of the other avengers was aired in 1961, it was copyrighted ONLY in Britain. And when it came over to the U.S. Marvel already owned and copyrighted the name, Avengers. In that case, What Britain did was illegal.

philhampton May 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Hi Andre,

Thanks for the clarification. Shame on us Brits! If something like that happened today, Marvel wouldn’t hesitate to take legal action.

All the best,

Phil

The Original Avenger May 19, 2012 at 2:27 am

Hey Phil hang on a minute.

What Andre says seems to suggest, and I think what most Americans believe, is that the US own the rights to everything if it doesn’t already exist in the US! How else can you explain that they decide to name a sport “football” when there was already a sport of that name played everywhere in the world for approx. 100 years!!

The idea that something has to be registered in the US or else it has no validity is absolutely absurd! Marvel should not have used the name as it already existed and they knew it. How else would they have come up with it. Americans never used the term “Avenge” they used “Revenge”.

But this is what America does. For example, making an “American ” version of something that already exits. Everywhere else in the world it’s called stealing!!

So I am absolutely delighted that in the UK The “Avengers” movie was rightfully retitled . “The Avengers” IS a British tv show. It has been sold to more countries than any other TV show in history, has won numerous International awards and is STILL shown worldwide 50 years on. And I cannot wait for the name to be rightfully reclaimed in the future.

Emma James-the original Avenger May 20, 2012 at 2:36 am

The fact is that Marvel took the name from the TV show. Just because the name wasn’t registered in the US doesn’t mean it didn’t rightfully belong to the creators of the TV show.

philhampton May 21, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Hi Emma,

Thanks very much for the clarification. It’s strange that an American comics book called ‘The Avengers’ can be sold in the UK, but not a movie entitled ‘The Avengers’.

Legal stuff can get very confusing…

Kind regards,

Phil

Alisa Rude January 1, 2013 at 8:44 pm

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Alisa Rude´s last blog post ..Alisa Rude

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