Legend of the Undertaker: A Masterstroke of Marketing Strategy

Chinmay@@iTsChinmaySenior Analyst IIMay 30, 2010

Before I proceed further with my article, I would like to clarify that I will not be looking at the character of Undertaker from wrestling point of view. My objective is to look at how WWE developed the gimmick and how they built the brand of Undertaker.  

Secondly, if we look at the successful marketing strategy, it has many elements. The process itself is also complicated and intriguing. I have always believed that WWE has been a great school of marketing for all these years. They are dynamic and innovative. True, we cannot use identical yardsticks of marketing strategy for other corporations and WWE. Therefore, on simple basis, I can think of a product lifecycle that can describe the strategy of WWE.



  •        Invention
  •        Innovation
  •        Cashing on the Attraction and curiosity
  •        Building a brand
  •        Making it a foundation for future



The late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a peculiar period in WWE’s history. At that time, WWE was full of cartoon like characters. Unreal and fiction was the name of the game. Creative team and VKM were pulling many rabbits out of the hat. Out of nowhere at the survivor series 1990, they pulled out the real surprise, the undertaker. They launched the character that was unique and singular in every sense of these words. The character was of a person, who was supposed to be dead and who then has come back. It was height of the fiction. However, it was truly original. It was completely new and it caught all the fans off guard. The character managed to create a huge buzz. But the real tough part began now.


It is always easy to create something new, but it is equally difficult to maintain it so. Here came the innovation. The character of the undertaker was totally out of the world. In order to maintain the hype, they had to create an entirely different world. They used lights; they used pyro techniques on a scale never seen before. Technology played immensely important part in making the gimmick of undertaker grand and surreal. Entrance of the undertaker served the purpose equally well. Attires of undertaker were also a significant factor. The character needed a powerful visual impact. Use of black, blue and ultra-violate colors created a mystique atmosphere. As we can see, these techniques were completely innovative and without them, there could not have been the phenom.

Cashing on the Attraction and curiosity

So now, background was ready and preparations were done. Fans across the globe glued on to television sets and flocked to the arenas. Everyone anticipated the progress of the character. WWE played another smart card here.

Feuds with Hulk Hogan, early title reign made Undertaker a main event. Feuds with Yokozuna, Jake the Snake Roberts and other superstars only helped further. Arsenal of the Undertaker was also different from others. Another masterstroke was Undertaker vs. Undertaker match.

 Dominance of the undertaker was unprecedented. His gestures were freakish. The way he sat up after taking hellacious beating impressed the audience like anything. His pain-taking ability was shown as the supernatural. Paul bearer was the tailor made manager for undertaker. He used an urn as the source of power. Effect of these antiques was awesome. They further introduced new stipulations of matches for the undertaker. Casket match, Buried alive match, then hell in a cell match and inferno match were introduced.

Building a brand

Pardon me if I am sounding naive, but I will claim that in the history of marketing Undertaker is arguably the apex success story of marketing strategy. Never forget that a character of such unreal virtues had every chance of failing. Instead, undertaker went on to become the success of highest magnitude.

I would like to share something here. I live in India. Trust me; in remote parts of India where natives have never learnt English and have not seen WWE in life, people know the name of Undertaker. It is astonishing. It is on par with the success of VW beetle, Coke and Pepsi.

How did they do it? The way Undertaker won almost every match, and even then he could hardly grab the gold was the smartest move on WWE’s part as far as storylines are concerned. They kept fans tantalizing. They played a blonde here who would always keep her lover wanting for more.

Movies in different languages and in different parts of world alluded to the Undertaker or featured his dummy. In fact, the person who played duplicate Undertaker in Undertaker vs. Undertaker match has played undertakers role in several movies.

The streak as we all know it is another integral part of the brand undertaker. It hold’s 7th place in ‘The Mirror’s’ list of sporting streaks. Secondly, the way Undertaker used to take a hiatus was also novel. He was killed numerous times and he returned in equally dramatic way.

Therefore, in these ways WWE created a brand of invincible and unconquerable undertaker.  

Making it a foundation for future

Any product can be called an ultimate success, if it can multiply the returns. In case of automobile industry the reason Toyota, Volkswagen are leader for generations is that they have used their monumental brands as the means for further success, not as the end itself. It applies for the undertaker too.

Within a decade, Undertaker had become a legend, the most recognized wrestler in the world. Stage was perfectly set for the next step. WWE took this step and that is why today we have legends of Randy Ortan, Edge, Cena, Batista, HHH to name a few. If anyone wants to dominate WWE, if anybody wants to become bona fide main event, then defeating the Undertaker has been the most valid way to do it. Beating the deadman is an honor today. Facing him at WM is no less than a title opportunity. WCW had similar opportunity with the Goldberg, but they squandered it. I hope, I need not discuss this point any further.


in this way the legend of undertaker was created and cemented. it was process that has gone on for two decades and still goes on. it faced some hitches in between, but otherwise it has been glorious story. It is a simple tribute on my part to such an amazing creative team and Mark Calaway, an ageless performer. 

So, my dear readers, I have attempted to analyze this subject from a different aspect. Please let me know, how you find it.