Legend of the Undertaker: A Masterstroke of WWE’s Marketing Excellence
The Undertaker is a legend for a lifetime.
At some point in time, all of us have fallen in love with the Deadman, often marveling over the character that is the Undertaker. We all are equivocal about the fact that WWE will never be the same without its backbone, The Undertaker. Almost every writer here has written on the phenomena of the Undertaker.
There are many factors that have made the legacy of Undertaker. His aura is something that transcends everything we have seen in the ring. His presence, his entrance, that famous gong, rolling eyes, so on and so forth, the list is of unique selling points is longer than we ever realize.
The Undertaker has given many new things to the business. He has accounted for the introduction of several gimmick matches. His legacy is used as a platform for each and every new bug thing of this generation. His mystic gimmick is a household name in almost every country of this world. It would not be an exaggeration if I claim that Undertaker is the biggest global star this industry has ever seen.
I had written an article on the Undertaker as well. Here I am going to refurbish that article. It has the same core concept as the former. However, this version goes deeper and has more details.
If we look at the second paragraph of the slide, then it could be said that every attribute I have mentioned about the Legacy of the Phenom is a part of universal marketing strategy. Yes, I am going to present to you all the marketing efforts WWE have essentially used to build the Legacy of the Undertaker. The Undertaker, as a character, is the most successful example of marketing strategy by the WWE
Don't forget that the character had every chance of failing when it was initially introduced. Heck, had it gone wrong, we would have a companion for the Shockmaster. However, it never failed. It was not magic, it was marketing that held on. Let us now dig further.
Introduction to Marketing Strategy
There are several models of marketing strategy. I have chosen one customized model that fits the Undertaker.
If we take a look at any iconic product, then we would see that it goes though five stages of evolution or in other words, profit maximization.
- Cashing on the novelty
- Brand building
- A platform for further success
I will not explain what these concepts are right here. Every coming slide will take you through each of the concept and how does Undertaker fits into it.
“A new device, method or process developed from study and experimentation”—thefreedictionary.com
Above is the dictionary definition of the word invention. In layman's terms, whenever any new product has been introduced and has never been seen before, we can call it an invention.
Now let’s see whether the Undertaker fits the bill. The character of the "Deadman," in other words a zombie, was most certainly one of the most novel gimmicks that we have seen.
There is no well known example of similar gimmick in the history of wrestling. This is just the surface. This character was known to be impervious to pain. It was made clear that he will not sell the offense of his opponent. It was certain that this guy cannot be killed.
Secondly, any invention does not come out of the blue. There is always an inspiration behind it. That inspiration often comes from current cultural trends. The Undertaker’s character was similar to the trend of popular ideas in comic books and horror films.
As Mike aka "The Professor" mentioned in his comment on the original article, Mr. McMahon grasped the popularity of the series like The Addams Family. He recognized the direction of the wind and decided to cash in on it.
There we had the introduction of The Undertaker. Now let us go to the next point.
Cashing in on the Novelty
Whenever you invent something, there is a risk of failure. The product is an unknown entity, and you have to convince the world that your product doesn't stink, but actually rocks.
However, on the positive side, you are the leader in this segment of the market. Because you are the only manufacturer, you have no competition.
Would you now wait for the customer to come, or would you go all out and market your product and create some buzz? Of course, any businessman would take the second route. WWE did the same.
The debut of the Undertaker was hyped a lot. Ted DiBiase was hyping his fifth member for the survivor series bout for weeks. His description itself was enough to generate immense curiosity.
Once the Undertaker was introduced, his dominance in the match was a masterstroke itself. His no-selling of pain went over very well with the audience.
For weeks to come, Undertaker remained one of the biggest attractions as WWE travelled throughout the country. He had turned into a must-see segment of every show. WWE hyped his every appearance as well.
Now the novelty of the gimmick had served its purpose. The juggernaut of marketing had already created a phenomenon, their cash cow. The next step had to be creation of a brand.
Building Up a Brand
Now another question, if you have to create a brand out of your product, would you sell it in some obscure environment or the biggest stage possible?
WWE had already used the biggest heel for the introduction of Undertaker. We can take the time span of 1990/91-94 for this particular process. Because this was the period when the Undertaker as we know was founded.
WWE used every single superstar to get the Undertaker over. In just one year, Taker defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF championship. This was a significant risk by Vince McMahon during a time when Hulk Hogan was still a big draw. This one match established Undertaker as the true mega force.
Following this success, Taker defeated each and every superstar thrown at him (except for the Ultimate Warrior. I want to sidetrack for a moment. Warrior for some reason did not like put two young guys over. It started with the Undertaker and continued with Triple H).
Several unbearable superstars were introduced only to challenge the Undertaker. Whether it be the Giant Gonzalez or anybody else, they served one and the same purpose: establish Taker as a major superstar.
There is one more factor that has to be mentioned. The use of lights. The Pyrotechnics were totally out of this world when it came to the Undertaker. This helped cement his brand, because the impact of his introductions was so unique to him. No other WWE superstar at the time got this treatment.
A brand was built by 1994. However, you can’t sell the same product all your life. Competitors arise, customers grow weary and demand something new. This is where innovation comes in.
In case of pro-Wrestling we can identify "innovations" as face and heel turns. But in the case of Undertaker it goes beyond that. The foremost reason is simply the fact that a dead person can never be good or bad.
There had to be some changes in the Undertaker, something new. He required new types of matches, new foes who could defeat him. There are few people who played a big role in this process.
One man that was imperative was Paul Bearer. Granted, he was with the Deadman since the beginning, but the role he played in 1994-1998 helped the character of Undertaker more than anything else.
The introduction of gimmick matches, such as the Casket Match, Hell in a Cell, Inferno and Boiler Room Brawl which made sure that Undertaker will keep on giving us new thrills.
The Undertaker's ascension to heaven during the Royal Rumble 94 promo after the match was over, the Undertaker vs. Undertaker match, the introduction of Mankind and the arrival of Kane were the four most important events in these years, all of which kept the Undertaker interesting and intriguing for viewers.
By the beginning of Attitude Era, the Undertaker had already become an Icon.
A Platform for Future Success
Any iconic product has the capacity to make other products of the company more lucrative and profitable.
In Undertaker's case, we can say that he was the ultimate test for any up-and-coming superstar. Whenever some cocky gentleman would say “I have defeated every person in this company,” there was Deadman's gong.
There are countless names, including Stone Cold, the Rock, Triple H and Mankind; these four heroes of the Attitude Era were put over by Taker at some point in their career. Without him, their legacy would have been different, possibly less significant.
Then we have Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, Edge. All these stars entered into higher realms after their feuds with the Undertaker.
People often complain that Taker never lost cleanly to anybody. What they fail to realize is he has been projected as the mission impossible in WWE. Beating him even dirtily is a big deal.
As long as company does not trust a superstar, Taker would not lose to him. It is as simple as that. He is the biggest production of Vince and the company. It is impossible that he would lessen the dignity of his creation for some random guy.
Win or lose, Taker's opponents were much better off later in their careers, simply because they were in the same ring as a legend.
We have reached the end. We have discussed how the Undertaker has gone through a masterly crafted cycle of WWE’s marketing. There are several things that I avoided, like the streak, for instance.
The streak is an independent phenomenon in a way. It gained importance after taker was already a legend. Had he lost at his second mania, it would have made absolutely no difference to his legacy.
To all the people who have read this article so far, I would like to tell you all that there is a second part coming. This will take a look at the person behind this gimmick, Marc Callaway.
Let me know if you disagree or agree. If you liked my article, then click on the Like tab below. Thanks for reading.