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Business, Politics & Society

Expanding Your Brand: Marvel Acquisition Case Study

Bob Iger

Lesson time 6:39 min

Bob shares the strategy behind folding Marvel into the Disney brand, and he discusses how to capitalize on well-loved brands to maximize growth.

Bob Iger
Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership
Former Disney CEO Bob Iger teaches you the leadership skills and strategies he used to reimagine one of the world’s most beloved brands.
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- What's this doing here? - That's it. Bring that to me. - You know what this is? - It's exactly what I need to make this work. [MUSIC PLAYING] - Because the Disney brand is so valuable and so important to the health and well-being of the company, both present, past, and future, when we acquire another company, we do spend time thinking about whether the company that we're acquiring-- and, in particular, the brand that we're acquiring-- is going to be an enhancement to the image of Disney and its brand, or whether it's going to detract from it. You can very quickly damage a brand by acquiring a company whose brand reputation is substantially lower than the brand reputation of Disney or, in some form or another, could actually do damage to the brand by being associated with it. So we are extremely careful when it comes to acquisitions on the impact of them on brands. [MUSIC PLAYING] When the idea of first purchasing Marvel was raised, there were people that believed that Disney could not own Marvel because the brand attributes of Marvel storytelling-- namely, that they were a little bit more violent, perhaps-- would potentially damage the Disney brand. And actually, there was quite some time that the company didn't consider buying Marvel because of that. When it came time to reconsider the acquisition of Marvel, which we did in 2009, we carefully studied the potential brand damage that we could incur in buying Marvel. And I felt, in examining the Marvel brand more carefully, than in actuality, the Marvel storytelling shared many of the storytelling values of Disney. And where it strayed, it strayed in a way in a way that was exciting to Marvel fans and I didn't think, necessarily, damaging to Disney. And so we talked about it a fair amount and ultimately concluded that as long as we managed them separately, and Marvel was Marvel, and Disney was Disney, and it's not Disney's Marvel, that we would be all right. Another thing we considered is whether, in buying Marvel, we should sanitize it a bit, which would essentially mean that we would tame it down somewhat. And I decided that if we did that, then we'd destroy Marvel brand value, and it wouldn't be worth what we paid for it. - He's mine. - There are elements of Marvel storytelling that were, in fact, too edgy, but not so edgy that they would be deemed wholly offensive to people who also love Disney so much. And obviously, in becoming part of Disney, we were careful that we didn't apply Marvel's brand attributes to Disney and we didn't apply Disney's brand attributes to Marvel. And so it's a fine line that you walk when you buy a brand whose brand attributes aren't exactly what your brand attributes are, but there is a way to manage brands separately, respecting both and adhering to each brand's attributes, still under one company's brand, and that's what we've done with Marvel. And that's what we did with Star Wars. And, in many respects, that's...

Embrace risk, build resilience

In an era of disruption, former Disney CEO Bob Iger led one of the world’s most beloved brands to unprecedented success with the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. Now, through case studies and lessons from 45 years in media, Bob teaches you how to evolve your business and career. Learn strategies for expanding a brand, leading with integrity, and making big moves—from risk management to the art of negotiation.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

As an owner of a broadcast company. Bob Iger's leadership insight is valuable and I will put to work the notes I took to grow my business.

This class helped me refocus on some main objectives and how to go about completing them.

Excellent lessons on business success and some good life lessons too. Highly recommended.

Loved it. Took tons of notes. Excited for the next class!


Nicholas C.

Wished this topic went deeper. It's amazing what Disney has accomplished in this regard. The many brand custodians that work on this requires a lot of empathy.

Ignatius D.

I appreciate the context of carefully considering brand damage. Expanding the company strategy and implementation plan through acquisition expansion is a good point Iger made. One side note, Disney has certainly changed the Marvel brand. Not looking forward to see what they do once they get their hands on the X-Men "brand"...from Fox.

A fellow student

Just watching growing the brand, when Tony Stark came on with Captain American shield, my 3 year old ran into room at exactly the same time with his 5 year old brother carrying a toy captain america shield, how bizarre is that!

Val M.

I will never forget the moment in Frozen when poor Christophe (literally poor, which is also very important in questioning the traditional 'best' partner) says to Anna, "You are marrying a man you JUST met? That day?? I don't trust your judgement!" Fantastic!! A really, really important for society. Thank you!

Vlad G.

So good to see how all these brands are preserved as well as expanded on. Can t wait to see what happens next.

Marcus M.

This is a great lesson. However, I wish it was more in depth. Although Marvel may be the new kid on the block (as opposed to Pixar or Star Wars), the films are some of the highest grossing films EVER and the way the stories were told was incredible. I actually would love to see a MasterClass with Jon Favreau....

A fellow student

So basically Bob has been building a "house of brands" under the umbrella brand Disney. Nice job

Ryan D.

"Another idea was to tone it down somewhat. I decided against that, because if we did that then we'd destroy Marvel Brand value and it wouldn't be worth what we paid for it." I like that; excellent point. Also the point on how you don't need to have each brand represent each other. They're separate brands. Let them breathe on their own, as they have been doing for decades.

Andrew L.

Definitely a Marvel fan and thrilled to have them at Disney! That said - I worked for a company in senior management where leadership was to only look at the data. That only tells part of the story and it was great to hear how the experience and insights from customers can really enhance or change what you look at when you see only the data.


Interesting to see how the essence of brands like Marvel and Pixar has been preserved.