Cleverly disguised as a convention packed to the brim with marketing appeals and information-starved attendees, San Diego Comic-Con is a hotbed for trade show success, and event exhibitors and managers in every industry can stand to learn a few things from it. Though every exhibition can't benefit from Batman and Benedict Cumberbatch, the convention's marketing genius and wide variety of event solutions can teach even the most seasoned professionals a few things about reaching a specific demographic in an engaging and profitable way.
"No longer just a nerd fest" for advertisers
AdWeek released a compelling article following the convention in the summer of 2013 that legitimized the event as more than an excuse for debuting trailers and displaying new, highly intricate fan costumes. For marketing executives and small-town bloggers alike, Comic-Con is an opportunity for lead generation on a massive scale by first appealing to a specific swath of passionate fans who are willing to travel far and spend a lot to interact with industry taste makers.
"The convention also functions as something of a publicity starter pistol around prime-time shows slated to debut in the fall," the source stated. "Execs can gauge reactions to new material and either gear up for a hit or batten down the hatches for a flop (Comic-Con's midsummer time frame doesn't allow for much last-minute tinkering)."
While the convention's cast and crew panels are what gets the most publicity, network executives also take advantage of the willing test audience to audition new fall pilots and concepts to inform what shows will hit the air later in the year.
The power of the fan attendee
Though each panel and screening can only fit about 4,200 people, many of whom are decked out in impressive costumes and role-players, these folks are the ringleaders who will spread the word to the blogging community that voraciously consumes entertainment content. San Diego Comic-Con is a veritable Christmas for niche writers who operate their own websites and maintain social media presence – it's one of the only events outside the major award show season that feature so many influential entertainers in one place.
In addition, the exhibition does plenty to increase its reach by harnessing cloud-based tools like video streaming, extensive social media promotion and live blogging from the comic and entertainment industry's most influential fixtures. According to Wall Street Journal contributor Andria Cheng, San Diego and other major conventions like ones held in New York and Boston can send waves through the fan community faster than would be seen in almost any other industry, as fans of comics and TV tend to be extremely Internet-savvy.
Where trade shows can sometimes gain a reputation for being stuffy, events like San Diego Comic-Con blow this assumption out of the water. With social media, video sharing and celebrity fever at all-time highs at this point in American culture, there's never been a more exciting time to embrace fan culture and encourage lead retrieval across major demographics.