Adventures in Marketing at San Diego Comic-Con

Fanatics have made their way home, crews have cleaned the streets and organizers are breathing a sigh of relief as Comic-Con International: San Diego 2015 is finally over. The annual event drew around 110,000 people to Downtown San Diego and highlighted the popular arts that stem from the love of comic books.

This year I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the magic-filled, four-day convention!

Working at a full-service advertising agency, you can’t help but take notice (and even admire) the marketing efforts other brands are making. Sometimes they’re phenomenal, other times they’re lackluster. I learned a lot from both the victories and the failures. The best part? These opportunities in success and learning aren’t exclusive to Comic-Con. Take these things into consideration when your brand is hosting an event or attending a trade show of any type!

Brand superheroes

Brands that market at Comic-Con have a unique opportunity. Attendees traveled from around the world (met some cool people from England, myself!) and thousands of people flocked to the internet, TV and social media, clamoring to be a part of the nerdy, celebrity-filled madness. Sure, you could argue you don’t need to market to the people who are your most ardent supporters, but these are the people who will promote your product on social media, tell their friends about it and be committed brand ambassadors.



The company doesn’t always have to be the brand superhero. In this case, you have a fan who loves both Spider-Man and Captain America (and is a cosplay master). Other fans are stopping him in the street just to take a picture. Those photos get uploaded to social media and get shared around the world. This superhero is doing wonders for your brand and you didn’t even have to do anything…well at this point in time. Brand loyalty is something that is built over time. In Marvel’s case, developing great comics and movies that legions of fans can connect with.





The best thing a brand can do is the give these super fans a shout out. Let them know you love them just as much as they love you. Twitter comes alive with the spirit of the convention; the opportunity to thank your fans is very prominent. If there’s one lesson I took away from this convention, it is the fact that it is ALL ABOUT THE LIKES/RETWEETS.

Brands, take a few moments during the con to send some social love.

Plus, who doesn’t love to see two corgis dressed up as Captain America and Thor?!


Measuring your success

This is the hard part. You’re putting time, effort and money into this project, but it all means nothing if it doesn’t work, right?



Syfy’s Sharknado 3 flashmob (one of several throughout the whole weekend) had all the elements for getting media coverage. Fun outfits, loud (but understandable) chants and tons of free swag to give out. Easy win. When all is said an done, the Syfy team will be able collect all of the data, which in this case is how many times Sharknado 3 appeared on any media outlet. You can break down that data even further into different news categories: print, digital and television.





IMG_4526CBS’s new show Limitless was also a success in earned media coverage. In a convention where there are lines for everything and fans are waiting to see the next big celeb, hosting a radio show with real actors outside of a coffee house is a draw in itself. Not only can you measure the number of reporters on site, but the radio station can also pull listener data for the show. Limitless also upped the ante by giving away FREE coffee and wifi, along with setting up phone charging stations. By branding their coffee cups, the coffee shop can provide CBS with the number of cups of given away and believe me I saw tons of those coffee cups in the hands of convention attendees. The possibilities for measurement here are limitless (haha, get it?).


IMG_4543Giving out free swag to your audience, but want to get some positive kick back on that? Offer to take a picture of them on their phone and encourage them to use your hashtag! This was clever if only for the fact that I didn’t have to ask someone to take my picture. I have a fun memory captured that I can share forever. Look at this set up, for example. Your audience won’t forget the hashtag and even if they don’t hashtag the photo, anyone who views the photo can search the hashtag as well.

P.S. The free sunglasses and commemorative buttons were totally worth it.

Lessons to learn for next year

While the adoration and fun is in overdrive, not every plan goes off without a hitch. Here are some of the mistakes we can learn from.


KFC decorated seven, wifi-enabled Colonel Sanders (good in theory with their new marketing efforts) and placed them around the Convention Center and downtown. It was fun to search for them, but they were extremely fragile. Handlers were stationed at each Colonel Sanders barking orders not get too close – total buzzkill. Plus, their wifi network didn’t make the top 10 list of connections my phone could find and they were intermittently out of service. And it was hard to recognize Colonel Sanders in costume. Next year, let’s try something different. Make the Colonel more noticeable, add some KFC logos or give out a special coupon to anyone who connects to the wifi.


img via insta moonlight009 marcella anjos


NerdHQ, the hub for free off-site events, had a great system to keeping track of how many people have entered and left the building. This was a GREAT tool for measuring success and the bracelets were cool bracelets. However, making a wristband that is impossible to take off without cutting it off. I understand you don’t want anyone to lose their bracelet. But we also want attendees to shower during the four-day conference and to do so, they’re probably cutting it off after the first day.

(Photo via Instagram: Marcella Anjos @moonlight009)


What was your favorite moment this year? For a quick recap, check out BuzzFeed’s list of the greatest moments of the 2015 convention here.

-Nicole Maul, Account Assistant