Monday, May 14, 2012

What Our Communities Can Learn From The Avengers

Fraternities and sororities have a lot to learn from the blockbuster that grossed $200 million in its opening weekend. For those of you out there who think you are allergic to all things nerdy, put your Benadryl away and buckle up.

We’re not here to discuss green meatheads or gods of thunder, but the way the masterminds at Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures persuaded a national audience to love characters most people who don’t own pocket protectors had no clue about five years ago. We’re talking about building brand familiarity. About cultivating trust.

So how did they do it? How did they take a few well known and several other obscure characters and weave an ensemble adventure even people who watch The View buy tickets to see?

Marvel blatantly rejected a model that many student affairs professionals, fraternity and sorority leaders, and alumni wield like Thor’s hammer. It’s a theory supported by Greek Weeks everywhere, by joint recruitment events and homecoming parades that present fraternities as a collective body of awesome. It’s the base assumption we’ve all made: Presenting a united front, a collaborative face to those who don’t know us, means they’ll see how cool we are.

Wake up, we’re wrong.

It’s important to remember that The Avengers, with its ensemble cast of geniuses, berserkers, primadonnas and egotists, was not the first movie ever launched with these characters. Before it, Marvel slowly and carefully introduced each character in their very own movie, one by one. Presented with the origin of a single character, we were able to carefully digest their flaws, insecurities, character, and strengths. We were confronted with both the good and bad, up close and personal.

And what effect did it have? We loved it. Even though we might resent the ego, the rage, and the recklessness, we saw vulnerability and humanity. We saw people doing the impossible because of belief. We saw the values that each character holds dear in a unique, intimate way.

And by the time Marvel decided to say, “Surprise! All of these heroes are part of a mega team,” we said, “Yes, please. That’s awesome.”

If you’re skeptical, ask yourself this: Do you find it easier to introduce yourself to a crowd or a single person?

We thought so.

Like Marvel, we need to realize that presenting a mix of semi-confused, sometimes values-driven or abrasive personalities to the masses all at once is confusing. How are they supposed to easily digest what we all stand for as a community when it takes tons of focus just to figure out what the heck one of us is talking about?

It all comes down to sharing the message of our founders in an intentional and meaningful way, without rushing into collaboration for its own sake. Instead of asking your entire community to reach out to all of non-Greeks at once, consider understanding the strengths each of your chapters and individual community members bring to the table.

Suggest that your members or organizations who get scholarship reach out to those in the community who are invested in it, such as faculty members, or parents. Delegate tasks like residence hall move-ins and meet-and-greets to those individuals who are warm, honest, and genuine. If a chapter doesn’t register for your Greek-wide service event where you partnered with other campus associations, don’t fret: You are better off without sending a confusing signal about our commitment to our community.

Basically, we’re saying let your Iron Mans, Black Widows, and Hulks do what they do bet best first, and then resolve to show how those individual strengths support one another.

No comments: