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Hal Licino

Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Comic-Con’s Explosive Growth

Feb 14 2012, 07:50 PM by

A recent article on Forbes.com dealt with the 7 Secrets of San Diego Comic-Con’s Success, and in case you’re among the few who still believe that superheroes are the exclusive domain of hapless nerds collecting comic books in their parents’ basements, you may want to note that the annual gathering has become one of the nation’s largest conventions, pumping nearly $200 million into the local economy. Not bad for a bunch of adults running around in brightly colored spandex. Comic-Con’s astounding growth can be instructive for any small business that wishes to emulate their success.
A Cannes with Vulcan Ears
Comic-Con is not just a comic book expo, but a celebration of everything that is science fiction, fantasy and geek culture in America today. The four day event encompasses movies, television, video games, anime and much more, and attracts as many movie stars, directors and producers as any of the greatest international film festivals. Visualize a Cannes where instead of bikinis on the beach you have people running around with pointy Vulcan ears, light sabers, Batbelts and Thor hammers… and you’re getting close.
Provide a Quality Experience & Benefit from the Buzz
When the first Comic-Con was held 32 years ago, 300 fans showed up. The latest iteration attracted 130,000 and filled nearly half a million square feet of exhibition space. This mushrooming growth rate is certainly enviable and it was surprisingly accomplished by implementing a “grow slow” policy. At the beginning, organizers adopted a viral marketing strategy to spread the word locally and among hard core fans. What makes this fact remarkable is that viral marketing essentially did not exist in the Seventies, so the pre-social media version of what is now commonplace centered on producing an entertaining event that ensured that the vast majority of attendees left the convention enthusiastic about the content and spread the word among their friends for the next Comic-Con. This Stone Age version of social media evangelism and advocacy reflects that the more things change the more they stay the same, as providing a quality experience and benefiting from the “buzz” is a timeless truth of business.
Rich Content Catering to the Attendees’ Interests
Comic-Cons are also unique in the sheer volume of hands-on features, workshops and classes that are presented for the benefit of the attendees. Over the course of the four days, up to 600 hours of programming is conducted, ensuring an overwhelmingly rich and gratifying experience for fans of every type. Although your business may not be producing a massive convention, the same concept can be applied to any marketing strategy, especially those aspects that are conducted online. If you can provide your followers and fans ample targeted content specifically designed to suit their particular preferences and requirements, you won’t have to overly motivate them to turn them into your brand advocates, as they will spontaneously spread the word about the outstanding amount of relevant information you are providing with your social media presence and through your email marketing.
Amply Reward Your Supporters
Comic-Con has just a couple dozen full time employees, relying on a work force of nearly 3,000 volunteers to handle the mind-boggling logistics of such a massive event. The organizers offer free admission to the entire event in exchange for working just a single three hour shift, an incentive many find irresistible. The convention producers could easily have required much longer work commitments in exchange for the free admission, but setting the obligation at such a readily achievable level is key to keeping the volunteers happy and continuing to benefit from their “spreading the word.” When an online marketer provides an inducement to drive followers to a particular goal it must be almost irrationally generous to truly make an impact. The old chestnut of “give and ye shall receive” certainly applies in these cases.

Comic-Con’s success is firmly based upon a clear comprehension of their market audience and what they want to see in a convention event, proving that profound consideration, along with generosity and quality content, are the best ways to ensure business success.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Growing Your Business

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