Posted July 24, 2010 12:39 pm by with 4 comments

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comiccon2010-3463.jpgThis weekend, the eyes and ears of the world are focused on San Diego as a crowd of over 120,000 descend on the city for Comic-Con! What started out in the 70’s as a small gathering of scifi and comic fans has grown into the media event of the year. And despite the name, it’s not all about comics. Actually, it’s tough to even find a booth devoted to comics in the deluge of TV, movie, video game and toy brands that flood the convention floor. That’s because the convention has become the place to get the buzz going about nearly any media project and that’s marketing money well spent.

So in honor of this yearly media-madhouse, I give you 5 Marketing Lessons You Can Learn from Comic-Con

5. Think Small

Comic Con got its legs by appealing to a very specific niche audience and even though the con has grown to include other properties, the sci-fi / comic crowd still rules. By continuing to cater to the niche, instead of turning the con into a more mainstream convention, Comic-Con has developed the kind of brand loyalty most businesses only dream of. Look at the potential audience for your product or service? Is there an underrepresented group that you can cater to? That small focus could lead to big returns.

4. Learn the Art of the Tease

As soon as you get within blocks of the San Diego Convention Center you’re bombarded with cryptic messages by way of handouts, posters and even banners pulled by airplanes. The messages are all part of a giant puzzle designed to get you interested in a brand you may not even know about yet. Like the teaser videos shown at the con, these bits and pieces pull in the audience and give them something to talk about. Done right, a teaser can generate ten times the buzz of a straight-forward advertising campaign and it’s not hard to do. Anyone can build a scavenger hunt into their website or leave weekly Facebook clues that add up to the location of a giveaway page. Which leads me to. . .

3. Make it an Event

The World Cup. The Olympics. Comic-Con. You may thing that’s a ridiculous comparison but take a look around. Every major media outlet is covering Comic-Con from Entertainment Weekly to the Wall Street Journal to CNN. Comic-Con and related topics will trend all weekend on Twitter and Google. And right now, Google news is showing over 1,000 articles on the subject posted in the last 24 hours. Now, you’re not going to launch an event of this size overnight, but you can create an event sale or a Twitter party or a Facebook virtual meet-up. Make it a special date and people will come.

2. People Love Free Stuff

Vampire Diaries, TheOne of the things people love most about Comic-Con is the swag bag. A trip around the convention floor is like Halloween for fan boys and girls as studios hand out millions of dollars worth of free buttons, T-shirts, DVDs, comic books and clever tie-in items. Warner Brothers does a yearly bag giveaway that creates riot conditions on the convention floor whenever they hand them out. The bags are so popular and so anticipated, that it has become a kind of badge of honor to collect all of them in a weekend. Never underestimate the power of a giveaway.

1. Have Fun

No one takes themselves too seriously at Comic-Con. Costumed fans mingle with big name celebs and everyone is having a good time. But when they pack up the tents on Sunday night, you can rest assured that people will go home wanting to see that new movie or try that new video game. I’m not saying you have to put a funny video on your website, but it wouldn’t hurt to add some humor to your weekly email, or develop a game application that goes along with your product. If people enjoy the experience, they’ll come back for more.

Comic-Con is proof that any small idea can turn into a lucrative business if you have the drive to see it through. May the Marketing Force be with you.

  • Jon

    Great, fun way to rehash these basics.
    We all know to give away free stuff, and make it an ‘event’… but so often it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, and apply what we know to new endeavors.
    Nicely done, and tied into real life.

  • Cynthia,

    The internet has enabled the sub-niche communities to thrive. Each searcher has an implicit intent on the information they are searching for and this can go all the way down the Long Tail.

    It’s interesting that so many tradeshows and conventions still rely on pumping in tons of money to the event. They rarely focus on the external community before an event and simply expect a dedicated following to be created from nothing.

  • It pretends to be important, it pretends to be real. It’s entertainment. We should enjoy it as such, as did the attendees who snatched them up as souvenirs.

  • I really like your fresh marketing angle on Comic-Con. I blogged at length from a tradeshow marketing specialist perspective but really liked your ideas on staying focused on your target market, on the art of the tease, and of course, the famous WB bags. Thanks for a good read.