Entertainment

Marvel’s Newest Heroes Have an Awareness Problem

Awareness of new characters, and those featured in ‘Shang-Chi,’ ‘Eternals’ and other recent films, is low among the franchise’s fans, per new polling

Even the majority of self-identified Marvel fans said they don't know much about these characters. Just 8 percent and 7 percent of Marvel fans have heard "a lot" about Ikaris and Sersi, respectively, the "Eternals" characters pictured at center. (Disney/Getty Images/Morning Consult artwork by Sara Wickersham)

MARVEL'S NEXT PHASE

This story is part of a nine-part series considering the business future of Disney’s crown jewel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of the most lucrative properties in the history of entertainment, the MCU is suddenly threatened from multiple fronts: Several of its beloved heroes have been retired, the theatrical model is in peril and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated massive shifts in the media consumption habits of superhero fans. Marvel’s future success is not necessarily guaranteed. In order to continue its dominance of global culture over the course of its next phase, the Disney-owned brand will have to adapt.

“Avengers: Endgame” marked the end of a superhero era as audiences said goodbye to Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America — and prepared to say hello to the new heroes tasked with leading the next stage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, known as Phase 4. 

New Morning Consult data shows that the Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios has its work cut out marketing these new characters to the world. The majority of self-identified Marvel fans don’t know much about the next wave of superheroes, and they aren’t all that excited to see them in new films or TV shows, either.

New Marvel Characters Lack Buzz Among Franchise’s Fans

Respondents were asked how much they have seen, read or heard about the following characters:

Poll conducted Nov. 19-22, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, including 1,526 Marvel fans, with margins of error of +/- 2% and +/-3%, respectively. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

What the numbers say 

  • When asked how much they have heard about Marvel characters who are set to star in upcoming films and TV shows, Marvel fans were most aware of Groot, the anthropomorphic tree introduced in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” with 57 percent of the group saying they’ve heard “a lot” or “some” about the character. Blade (49 percent), Shang-Chi (41 percent) and Ms. Marvel (38 percent) also had some buzz among fans, though the data reveals there’s still plenty of work to be done to raise awareness. 
  • The majority of Marvel fans have heard “nothing” about characters featured in Marvel Studios’ latest film, “Eternals,” such as Makkari and Kingo. This also applied to superheroes such as Ironheart and Moon Knight, the main characters of two upcoming Disney+ series.  
  • Marvel fans are most excited to see projects starring Groot (63 percent), but also expressed excitement in films and series starring Blade (57 percent), Ms. Marvel (53 percent), Shang-Chi (50 percent) and She-Hulk (49 percent)— a diverse lineup of heroes that contrasts with the predominantly white and male cast that served as the focus of Marvel’s early films.
Most Marvel Fans Say They’ll See New Films at Home First

Respondents were asked how they plan to first watch the following movies, if at all:

Poll conducted Nov. 19-22, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, including 1,526 Marvel fans, with margins of error of +/- 2% and +/-3%, respectively. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

What the numbers say 

  • Most Marvel fans said they initially plan to check out upcoming releases, including “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” at home, rather than in theaters. Marvel films have consistently performed well at the box office, but the emergence of Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, has allowed fans to watch Marvel movies on their couches either shortly after, or sometimes at the same time as, those movies come out in theaters.
  • A quarter of Marvel fans said they have no plans to see the upcoming “Dr. Strange” or “Ant-Man” sequels. 

 

The impact 

Based on these numbers, Marvel’s newest heroes appear to have a branding problem. If Disney plans to rely on once-secondary characters like Dr. Strange, and new faces like Sersi, to carry its multibillion-dollar franchise for the foreseeable future, it will need to retool its marketing and outreach to make fans more aware of these new characters. (Disney did not respond to requests for comment.)

There is hope, though. Iron Man and Captain America didn’t become beloved heroes overnight, as it took several years of movies and memes to make them household names. Disney is banking on being able to do that again. 

The survey was conducted Nov. 19-22, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, including 1,526 Marvel fans, with margins of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points and plus or minus 3 points, respectively.

Morning Consult