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The ever-changing brand identity of Batman

Over its 75-year history, the Batman logo has evolved and transmogrified almost as many times as a Batmobile Transformer toy.

There have been at least 28 different iterations of the Batman symbol over this period. Some have been camp, some have been dark; some have placed great emphasis on the Batman cape – more resembling a man in a costume to a bat – while others have been sleeker and sharper, with pronounced bat wings.

In fact virtually every film or TV series of this long-running entertainment franchise has seen a dramatic new brand identity introduced. The current logo for “Batman v Superman” is larger and clunkier than its predecessors in order to accommodate Superman’s ‘S’ symbol.

So many different identity changes over such a relatively short period of time appears to fly in the face of some brand theorists who suggest that consistency is key to achieving recognition.

However the learnings from the DC Comics creation suggest that these multiple identities and ability to adapt has been key to keeping Batman relevant to viewers. In creating and adapting the brand icon, the franchise has been seen as something authentic.

Moreover it isn’t the brand symbol that people find important (it’s unlikely that anyone but the most die-hard Batman fan would have conceived that there had been so many iterations of the logo over the years), it’s the brand actions – Batman has always been a Superhero, and not just a brand icon.

The real learnings, therefore, are possibly less to do with the brand identity and more to do with Batman’s superhuman actions. This chimes with the current theory that we are now living in an Age of Marketing, where everyone and everything communicates with a marketing filter – a theory espoused by Emily Fairhead-Keen in her IPA Award-winning paper.

Fairhead-Keen pointed out that once the advertising industry could be secure in the knowledge that the work it produced was distinctive and unique. However the Age of Marketing has threatened this – there is a belief that everyone and everything can do the job of people in advertising.

In order to compete against everything and everyone it is the job of brands (and their agencies) to rise above this and act as Superheroes. They must use their Superhuman powers to rise above mortals and humans by exceeding expectations, delivering extraordinary ability and performance – just like Batman has over the years.