- Disney was already the leader in movie merchandising. Then they bought Marvel… and Star Wars
- There is a clear correlation between movie releases and traffic to sites offering movie merchandise with the Marvel Cinematic Universe making a real impact
- Amazon is the leading retailer for Disney franchise merchandise with Marvel and Star Wars changing places at the top based on movie release patterns
With Avengers: Infinity War reigning as the #1 box office smash across the planet and with Intergalactic Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you!) just around the corner, we decided to take a look at these massive Disney properties to see how their merchandising and online marketing is impacted by the release of each new movie in the franchise.
Since the start of 2016, there have been 10 major movie releases featuring Marvel superheroes. Of these, six were produced and distributed by Disney with Spider-man: Homecoming being a joint production with Columbia Pictures and distributed through Sony. The remaining three movies, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse and Logan, featured Marvel characters whose movie rights are currently not in Disney’s hands.
Traffic to marvel.com rose and fell throughout the past 15 months with the release of each Disney-distributed Marvel movie. Throughout the period the trend was up, culminating in the release of Black Panther in February of this year which has recently overtaken Titanic as the third highest-grossing movie of all time at the US domestic box office. The impact of this month’s Avengers: Infinity War on traffic to the site is still being calculated.
Turning Visits into Sales
Marvel’s superheroes are driving sales of their merchandise at shopdisney.com as well as the subdomain at marvel.com, shop.marvel.com. In early 2017, visits to shop.marvel.com accounted for around 2.4% of traffic to marvel.com. By the time Black Panther hit its stride, the proportion of traffic going to the shopping section of the site had increased by almost 60%.
Disney Merchandise on Third-Party Sites
Ever since George Lucas rewrote the book on merchandising with the first Star Wars movies in the 1970s, franchises have built themselves around all the toys and other branded paraphernalia that accompany every major release. The range of keywords featuring The Mighty Avengers such as avengers infinity war, avengers, and avengers age of ultron sent more traffic to amazon.com than any other site.
Looking at onsite search within amazon.com itself adds a further dimension to understanding the impact movie merchandising has on retail sales.
Leaving aside classic Disney characters, Star Wars is by far the most searched for franchise among Disney-owned merchandising, but in the first three quarters of 2017, searches for The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and the individual superheroes that make up The Avengers combine to outperform the Star Wars merchandising juggernaut. Only in Q4 2017, as Luke Skywalker returned in The Last Jedi, did Star Wars lead onsite search once more. The release of Black Panther in Q1 2018 will see the needle swing back towards The Avengers, but the real battle will be in Q2 when Avengers: Infinity War and Solo: A Star Wars Story go head to head at the global box office.
The Disney empire was built on merchandising its characters and movies around the world. In recent years the acquisition of Marvel and then Star Wars has extended the stable of characters that drive revenue for Disney. With multiple movie releases every calendar year, there are more and more opportunities to place Disney products in the hands of eager collectors. Even as the rate of these movie releases has ramped up beyond all expectations, there are no indications from the online marketplaces that consumers are close to reaching saturation
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