Battle of the Brands: Superhero Franchises

October 26, 2017 - 5 minute read

According to Business Insider, the Batman franchise has grossed $3.4 billion; X-Men $2.4 billion. In total, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed some $10.9 billion dollars since 2008.

It is no wonder that superhero movies seem to be coming out more frequently than ever; we already have 9 out in 2017. With this sizeable increase in Superhero movie production, Attest has conducted research to pit the most popular franchises against each other.

In this article, we look at who the most popular superheroes are, why people watch these films, and what they like about them; this culminates in the big question: which superhero movie has the greatest Net Promoter Score?

The first question we asked our panel was: When thinking about superhero movies, which come to mind? We allowed more than one answer. This word cloud gives the responses.

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 14.56.39.png

There are three clear favourites: Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. Superman is the most frequent response, and, despite being a well-known movie franchise, there could be the possibility that this superhero in particular is thought of because of his name: ‘superheros’ triggers the word ‘superman’ - it is an easy shortcut, and the reason for this can be found in our article on The Availability Heuristic.

Our next question was: Which of these films did you see at the cinema most recently? While it is important to recognise that this question has a time prompt, and will find favour with the most recent releases - rather than indicating general preference - there are interesting findings in the data.

Wonder Woman was the most popular answer, with 18.5% of the vote, probably because it was the most recent release of all the answer options.

51% of respondents were women, and yet, only 45.7% of respondents who answered ‘Wonder Woman’ were women.

The results show that the most popular recent superhero movie with female audiences was X-Men, where women made up 61% of responses.

Wonder Woman was particularly popular among younger people - among those aged 25 and below, this film received 24.1% of the vote.

Our next question was: What one word would you use to describe the film they had seen most recently. While this question relates back to each specific film, the combined answers also give a flavour for what strikes people about superhero movies in general.

This word cloud shows the responses.

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 14.56.51.png

The predictable answers rank high: awesome, amazing, great, brilliant.

‘Funny’ also ranks highly. What’s particularly interesting is that if you select only those who said they would describe the movie as funny, their Net Promoter Score averages a very healthy 50, versus just 14.3 for those who would primarily describe the film as ‘action.’

The next question we asked was: How likely would you be to recommend the film to a friend or colleague?

Firstly, the raw information is itself interesting: 23.7% of those surveyed, regardless of the film, would 10/10 recommend the film they saw. Digging down into the data, we can see which films attracted such fervent support.

Wonder Woman, which received 18.5% of the ‘most recently’ question, receives a healthy 23.9% of the 10/10 NPS vote, and this rises to 26.9% of the 9/10 NPS vote.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy enjoyed the highest NPS with 44.8, while Batman received the lowest with 10.4.

There is a notable link between those who would not particularly recommend the film they saw to a friend, and the film that they saw being one of the less popular ones.

Of the question, ‘Which of these films did you see at the cinema most recently?’ Batman received 9.6% of the vote, X-Men 5.6%, and Iron Man 5.4%. However, respectively, these films received 21.1%, 13.2%, and 10.5% of the 6/10 NPS score.

There are several possible reasons for this. The films that people were less likely to have seen recently were also the films that came out a longer time ago; it could be possible that, perhaps, a bad experience of a film means they haven’t returned to the cinema; or maybe those who watch films less regularly, and therefore those who haven’t seen a new film, are generally less likely to recommend a film, because, well, they don’t really like superhero movies anyway.

Or perhaps time dulls favour for a film; if you have just seen Wonder Woman, you are more likely to recall it all, and therefore more willing to recommend.

The final question we asked our respondents was: What's most important when deciding to see a superhero movie?

‘Storyline’ easily ranks as the most important factor here, (31.1%). This rises to 50% where people described the last movies they’d seen as ‘funny’ - corresponding to a very high NPS.

In other words, people are looking for a more nuanced, balanced movie with a decent plot, and not just mindless action.

Females were more likely than males to think storyline was most important,

Interestingly, those who put most emphasis on ‘Reviews’ were by far the most likely to hold a negative view of the film afterwards, with an average NPS of -11.6


The number of superhero movies and franchises is accelerating, and, like all growing things, gathering the data is important; that’s why it is useful to know and understand what’s driving the trend. Particularly after a disappointing summer for Hollywood, which has bet big on the continuing popularity of its superhero franchises.

A touch of humour and strong story seem to be two of the most important factors when it comes to driving a strong NPS, helping to balance out an over-reliance on pure action.

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