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Forget “Carmageddon,” the biggest traffic jam in North America will be this week in San Diego. Excitement is building for Wednesday evening’s opening of the Comic-Con International convention. The annual gathering of comic book devotees, sci-fi lovers, fanboys, fangirls and pop culture observers will make this year’s event more jam-packed than ever. And many notable first-time moguls will be in attendance this year, including Steven Spielberg, who will be collecting an award and promoting a new motion picture, The Adventures of Tin Tin. But don’t just ask Spielberg — or other high-profile attendees such as Francis Ford Coppola, Taylor Lautner and Justin Timberlake — why Comic-Con is the most important pop culture event of the year. Just look at the influence Comic-Con has over thousands of products and services that depend on a good showing at “The Con.”
Showing well at Comic-Con has extended well past its roots in 1970, when 300 fans attended the first Golden State Comic Book Convention. When you add up the event exhibitors and throngs of people who venture to San Diego to be part of this phenomenon (over 584,000 out-of-town visitors will rent 737,820 hotel room nights resulting in an immediate economic impact of $1.4 billion), one can start to understand the power of Comic-Con.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like marketers should take a cue from Comic-Con — hyper creativity and a little magic go a long way when attracting consumers old and new. Also, capes.
OK, maybe not capes. But aside from building buzz for comic books and comic-inspired content (whether it be in motion pictures, music, on the web, toys and/or video games), thousands of products and services depend on positive buzz coming out of Comic-Con. And developing marketing programs to introduce new products often include positive feedback at Comic-Con. Take for instance how Vertical Marketing Network drew crowds to promote the new NOX Audio gaming headsets in 2010. With a wig and a mic, a colleague served as the NOX Audio Master of Ceremonies for the NOX Audio Accessories Auction, giving away limited edition Comic-Con gaming headsets and iPads. Crowds like this don’t lie. And neither do numbers. But why has Comic-Con transitioned to being the most significant pop culture gathering in North America, and perhaps the world?
Speaking to Reuters, Brannon Braga shared this prediction: “I don’t know what to expect this year, but one thing I can expect is that it’s going to bigger than it’s ever been.” Never heard of him? Braga, who first attended Comic-Con as a fan in the 1980s, will this year present the first hour of the $16 million two-hour season premiere of sci-fi adventure TV show Terra Nova, which he co-produced with the Steven Spielberg. Fans will surely thrill at this sneak peek and others, like the much-hyped plot reveal for 2012’s The Amazing Spider Man or Thursday’s early release of Captain America: The First Avenger in the San Diego market only. Fans are clearly the priority here, and they’re not just reaping the benefits of the convention’s creativity and magic, they’re being rewarded in a way that appeals. It’s no wonder spinoffs abound. One insider writes about Tr!ckster, a free bar/gallery/pop-up shop across from the convention center that will showcase emerging talent from within the comic world, which “has the potential to drum up some underdog buzz.”
No wonder Comic-Con 2011 will have bumper-to-bumper activities this week. And for the next Carmageddon in 2012, Comic-Con will continue to be a real life superhero promoting to the pop culture masses!