Lucy’s view: Ben Affleck as Batman? Just think of it as a rebrand

2nd September 2014

Posted by in Common Interest, Film

There seems to be a lot of negativity around the decision to cast Ben Affleck as the new Batman, and I can see people’s concerns. But let’s face it, this is not the first time this has happened and it will not be the last, I am sure people remember the media hype around Daniel Craig being cast as James Bond, and look how that turned out. For the record, I am aware James Bond is not a superhero, but his character is treated in a very similar way. Everyone has a favourite ‘Bond’ just like everyone has a favourite Superman, Spiderman, and obviously Batman, and I think it’s pretty obvious that every actor brings something different to the role.

We oppose change

We humans are creatures of habit, and tend to resist change, and this is true across every aspect of our lives. And shaking up the casting of our favourite superheroes is always going to cause a stir. But superheroes are not the people in the suits, they are the characters with compelling stories, from comics dating back to the 30′s (DC was founded in 1934, Marvel in 1939). Having a brother who is majorly into his comic books, I am learning that there are so many different story lines and variations in characters, that there is no way that the films can even keep up!

Also, these superheroes do not seem to age much. Kirk Alyn was the first actor to play Superman, way back in the 40s, there is no way he could still be playing the role now! And I am sure there was some upset when he was replaced, just like what’s going on with Batman now.

Another factor to consider is that different comic book writers have brought their own spin to the characters, take the Tobey Maguire “Spiderman”, and Andrew Garfield “The Amazing Spiderman”, both actors are portraying a different Spiderman, created by two different sets of writers. Both required different actors, as both are essentially different characters, just they have the same name. It’s a lot more complicated than it seems on the surface, which is why I trust the people casting for these roles, they know what they are doing! Ultimately, times change, roles and actors change, and thus people are replaced.

Tobey Macguire Andrew Garfield Spiderman

“It’s simple we kill [rebrand], the Batman” - The Joker

Whilst thinking about the news of Ben Affleck’s casting, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this situation and rebranding, as essentially, that is what’s happening. Batman is still Batman, there is just a different guy behind the mask. He still has the same name, he just looks and acts a bit different, within the constraints of the character. Sound like a rebrand to you?

Batman is technically a brand, his suit and logo are icons of his brand, and it is a brand’s icons that stick with you as a consumer. But, as Interbrand so succinctly put it:

“Icons are tremendous assets with incredible value, however they require regular updating to infuse them with new and relevant meaning.”

As much as we like things to stay the same, we sometimes have to admit to ourselves that things have got a bit tired, or, if we’re savvy, we may decide to freshen things up whilst we’re still onto a good thing. And this is when we decide to rebrand. It’s probably a good job Christian Bale got out now, soon we’d be complaining things had become too ‘samey’. At some point, you, or in Batman’s case Warner Bros., have to take a leap and change things, and wait for both the positive, confused, and negative reactions. Nobody is ever going to please everybody!

We feel strongly towards our favourite characters because we have empathy with them. When a different comic book writer writes about a well known character, or a new actor is cast for our favourite superhero, they are going to bring their interpretation to the table, it is still the same character, but just slightly different. Superficially our feelings may change towards the character, maybe because we don’t like the new writer or actor as much, but remember, it’s the writer or actor you’re not keen on, not the character itself. The same rules apply to rebranding, people may initially not warm to a new look, but it’s what’s underneath that retain customers and keeps people interested. Like a brand, the suit and, the character’s name, are just the first of many layers that people experience when interacting with a brand.

Change is good, but remember your story

itv logo before and after

In a rebrand, you may change your logo, colour palette and strap lines, you may even change your name! But underneath you are the same company, probably with the same mission and values. You are essentially the same, you just look a bit different, you may even act a bit differently. During a rebrand you might strengthen your policies, tighten your internal operations, and become bigger, bolder, and better. One of the most important things to remember in business is that your brand will mean different things to different people. Individuals will interpret your brand in different ways, and this is how a unique business to customer relationship is formed. If you change things peoples feelings may change, but you are likely to attract more people to your business if you are brave, change things, and throw yourself out there. What makes you shine more than any of this is your story, both as a company, and as an individual, this is your continuity, what carries through your old and new brands, this is what people buy into.

As previously mentioned, the decision to cast Ben Affleck has caused controversy, but the experts have selected him for the role, and I am sure they have considered Batman’s characteristics when making this decision. In the same vane, when undertaking a rebrand, it is important to consult experts. You know your brand better than anyone, but it’s the expert that will help you to unearth the true potential of your brand. An expert will help you to reinvent, reinvigorate and rejuvenate, whilst making sure that there is a clear continuity between old and new.

Let’s not write Ben off just yet, let’s embrace change and give it some time to become the norm, then we can start complaining all over again when Warner Bros. decide it’s time for another recast, sorry, rebrand!

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