What Makes Marvel Studios a Successful Business | Wallaroo Media

How Businesses Can Learn from Marvel Studios’ Success

Marvel Studios logo

Since 2008, we’ve all witnessed the awesome box office domination displayed by Marvel Studios with the establishment of its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), that has produced hit films such as Iron ManMarvel’s The AvengersCaptain America: Winter SoldierGuardians of the Galaxy, and most recently, Avengers: Age of Ultron. To date, the MCU films have amassed more than 8.5 billion dollars worldwide, and that number grows each day that Age of Ultron remains in theaters. Marvel will most certainly cross the 9 billion mark with its upcoming release, Ant-Man. But what is it exactly that has led to the success of these films and Marvel Studios as a whole? What has Marvel (and Disney) done to warrant such massive profits? Take a closer look and you just might find some tips that can help you expand your own business.


Initially, starting a business may come down to just one entrepreneur: you. You may have the talent and the drive to get things started, but in order to hit that next level of success you’ll need a talented team. In order for your business to thrive, it’s crucial that you bring in the right talent for the right positions, whether you’re filling out management roles, sales, IT, design, marketing, etc.

Example: Along the way, Marvel has sought after talented professionals for each one of its properties. Sure, some have enjoyed more success than others, but Kevin Feige’s mindset has consistently been to find the right people for the right job. Marvel could have easily gone after the most bankable names in Hollywood, but there have been instances when Marvel decided not to settle on the sure bet. For example, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth were known in Hollywood, but neither had hit superstardom, nor had either one been solely responsible for a franchise.

Kevin Feige and the Captain America: The Winter Soldier team.

Some fans even expressed concern over Evans’ casting based on his less celebrated role as the Human Torch in the abysmal Fantastic Four films. Regardless, Feige and team saw the right stuff in Evans for their version of Steve Rogers. The talent was there. Same goes for Hemsworth as Thor and the teams assembled behind the cameras on each film.

Bottom Line: Feige didn’t settle on the sure bet. He and Marvel went after talent, but more importantly, the right talent for the right roles. Look at the position you need to fill, and thoroughly assess the candidates to find not just the most qualified person, but the person best suited for the job.


There are some bosses who fill positions beneath them only to micromanage. While there may be some instances when that is necessary, you should trust your team to fulfill their respective roles. Once you establish your team, it’s vital that you listen to their input. Let’s look to Marvel.

The Walt Disney Company, who owns Marvel, allows Kevin Feige and team to continue their game plan. No doubt the two companies collaborate, and I’m sure that there are times when Disney makes specific demands of their subsidiary, but for the most part Disney allows Marvel to do its job.

Likewise, Kevin Feige listens and trusts the teams he has put in place. Feige has all the reasons to boast and act as the all-knowing ruler of massive empire. He doesn’t. Yes, he oversees and orchestrates many plans for the MCU films, but he trusts those he hires and allows them to bring their expertise and insight to the Marvel world.

Example: When 2008’s Iron Man was in pre-production, Marvel President Kevin Feige had the vision to create something truly special, not just a standalone film, but the introduction to a whole new world of films. According to IMBb, the role of Tony Stark was either offered to or being courted by profitable names such as Tom Cruise and Hugh Jackman. Director Jon Favreau fought hard to get Robert Downey Jr. in the role, as he felt that Tony’s character and Robert’s past reflected one another. It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when Downey was not the bankable name he is today. At the time, he was considered a risk due to his troubled past.

Director Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr on the set of Iron Man.


Nevertheless, Feige and Marvel ended up listening to the director they hired and the rest is history. Today, no one can imagine any other actor playing the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man.

Bottom Line: Feige listened to the director he hired, whose input and belief in Downey helped successfully launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe in spectacular fashion. When you hire talented employees, listen to their input and let them do their job. Their contribution may end up paying off big time.


With the astounding success of Marvel’s The Avengers (making over $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office during its original theatrical release) it seemed that Marvel could do no wrong. Sequel films for the Avenger characters guaranteed continued success, but there was one property which raised some eyebrows, even among some of Marvel’s most loyal supporters: Guardians of the Galaxy. When the film was first announced, many scratched their heads in mutual confusion and simply asked, “Who are they?!”

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Example: The Guardians were not a well-known property, even among comic book readers. The project only garnered more skepticism when the cast and crew were announced. The film was being helmed by a man who had never before directed a big budget blockbuster. James Gunn had captured the attention of many Hollywood studios with his indie-horror film, Slither, but he had yet to prove himself as a director capable of handling a high-profile project, let alone one that was not relying on a well-known property.

With a lesser-known director and a generally unknown property, surely Kevin Feige would insist that the star of the film be an actor proven to put bodies in the seats. Think again. The lead role went to Chris Pratt. Pratt was mostly known for his supporting role as the lovable, yet dimwitted Andy Dwyer on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Though he had shown up in small roles on the big screen, he definitely was not a name that was guaranteed to bring in big bucks, despite what Jurassic World’s recent box office success may indicate.

Suddenly, the project was labelled as Marvel’s biggest gamble. And yet, even in taking this risk, Feige did what he had done so well before: sought out the right talent and trusted his writer-director to put his own unique personality in the film. The result? A bonafide hit that surpassed everyone’s expectations both critically and commercially. The film scored a 91% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and earned just over $774 million at the worldwide box office. Today, Guardians of the Galaxy is hailed as one of the best and most entertaining films in the MCU.

Bottom Line: There is a time and a place to take risks. Marvel had already established themselves as a powerhouse studio and finally felt comfortable enough to take a risk. The point is that they were brave enough to take that risk. Ask any successful entrepreneur and it is safe to assume that the vast majority can pinpoint a time when they were brave enough to take a risk that ultimately led to their success. There will come a time when you need to take a risk to bring your business to that next level. Even when taking the risk, stay true to what has worked for you in the past. Marvel stuck to their formula when moving forward with Guardians: they sought the right talent and allowed that talent to do what they do best.


It’s easy to become complacent when things seem to be working. After all, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, right? While that line of thinking may not necessarily hurt your thriving business, it may also not be enough to push forward towards expansion. There are also those who declare that you’re either moving forwards or backwards; there is no middle ground. Don’t get stuck in complacency by making the safe, expected choices. Perhaps it’s time to think a bit differently.

Example: After the enormous success of Marvel’s The Avengers and its follow-ups, Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, Marvel decided to make a different kind of superhero film. When approaching the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel recognized that it wanted to try something different with the superhero genre: transform it into a political thriller. Treating a superhero film as such is already a unique spin, but Marvel’s choice in directors was just as surprising, if not more so.

Kevin Feige decided to hand the film off to brothers, Anthony and Joe Russo, a writing team more known for their comedic work on hit TV shows such as Arrested Development and Community. The Russo brothers had never handled a big budget Hollywood blockbuster in their career, and neither had experience with action thrillers. There were a decent number of fans who scratched their heads at Feige’s choice in directors.

Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened in April of 2014 to rave reviews, and it broke box office records for the month of April. Many fans now argue that Winter Soldier is the best standalone film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was praised for its storytelling and its realistic, gritty action sequences that relied on intense choreography and practical effects. After the film’s success, Kevin Feige secured the Russo brothers to not only helm the next Cap film, Captain America: Civil War, but also the epic two-part installment of Avengers: Infinity War.

Bottom Line: Businesses should always have an eye towards the future. Complacency has no place for a thriving business. Sometimes it requires a different path. The Russo brothers were the least likely candidates for an intense action film. Nevertheless, Feige recognized their passion and listened to their pitch with an open mind. The result has benefited both Marvel Studios and the Russo brothers. Don’t be afraid to find candidates that you normally wouldn’t consider.


Ideally, we’d all like to prosper and get along for years and years down the road. Partnerships can be fruitful for both parties; however, it’s important to know when those partnerships should move on in different directions. Some businesses are able to handle these splits with a high level of professionalism and respect, while others burn bridges due to poor and tactless decisions.

Example: For years director Edgar Wright had been developing a live-action adaptation of the Marvel hero, Ant-Man. Wright was brought on while Marvel Studios was still building its cinematic universe, and Feige was excited about Wright’s vision for Ant-Man. However, once Marvel had established its universe with a clear goal for its future films, the vision that Wright once had no longer fit in with MCU. It’s hard to know what debates and possible arguments occurred over private emails and behind closed doors, but it appeared that Marvel Studios and Edgar Wright were both able to recognize that it was time to part ways.

Original Ant-Man director, Edgar Wright

Ant-Man is now scheduled for release later this summer, so it’s unknown if the film will be a critical and box office success, but what should be clear is that this new version of the film will fall in line with the continuity and tone set by the other Marvel films. Wright had nothing but kind words to say about Marvel, and Marvel was thrilled to have collaborated with Wright.

Bottom Line: There are partnerships and employees that may work for a time, but that does not mean they always will. Ideally, both parties can recognize that their paths are no longer in alignment and are able to move on amicably. However, there may be complicated situations that require you to look out for the future of your company, which may also require letting someone go who is not in line with your vision.


Marvel Studios has had an immaculate impact on the superhero genre and film in general. Other Hollywood studios are now scrambling to find their own franchise or two that can try to keep up. With the recent success of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel does not look to be slowing down, with films scheduled to be released through 2019. Of course, nothing lasts forever, particularly in Hollywood. Nevertheless, one must stand in awe at what Marvel has accomplished in recent years. No doubt there’s a lesson in their strategy for every business and entrepreneur.


Todd Ortiz

Team Lead + Content Strategist