I was pulled into attending Comic-Con in Baltimore this past month, and man, was it interesting. The audience was quite diverse: white suburbanites and their kids, weird little nerdy high schoolers, and urm… studly people like myself. I’ll be honest, it really wasn’t my scene and it definitely wasn’t my tribe. It’s okay though, I managed to have a good time walking what seemed like miles inside the confines of geekdom mecca.
What struck me most about Comic-Con wasn’t just the size of the event , or even the egregious surplus of scantily clad plus size Harley Quinn’s (it was bad), but was rather the shear lack of uniformity in the demographics. I literally couldn’t make sense of it. All the notions that I had in my head regarding what nerds and geeks should look like, had little to no basis in reality. This tribe was everybody and nobody at the same time.
The Tribe Of Geek
I walked around the event talking to random people trying to understand what this was all about. My level of geek begins and ends with batman because he kicks ass and has lots of money. Aside from my interest in the multiple batman sightings, I was really struck by the comic book vendors and their art.
I met people who ran comic book stores, made podcasts, and created their own series of comic books as a profession. A lot of these people probably make serious cash.
The tribe of geek all have a shared belief in the magic of fantasy and dreams, and they fuel a pretty big market. Comic books, comic movies, and comic book memorabilia are big business . It’s silly, interesting, and demographically amorphous in a weird way.
Three Marketing Lessons I Took Away From Comic-Con
I’m always interested in understanding what connects people with ideas and products. Walking around the venue and passing by the various booths provided me with some interesting insights. The three things below jumped out at me the most.
1.Everyone Needs A Purple Cow
There were hundreds of booths at the event and I stopped at very few. One of them that caught my attention was a booth that had 3-D printed figures of comic book heroes in the form of Buddhas. It was different, strange, and interesting — it was a purple cow! Purple Cow is a book written by marketing genius Seth Godin describing the need to be unique in order to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace. I spotted a purple cow in the video below.
We all need a purple cow. Do you or your organization have one? What makes you different, and why should I care about what you have to offer?
2.You Can Choose Yourself, And You Probably Should.
I met all sorts of weird and interesting people at Comic-Con. One guy I talked to told me the story about how he started making comic books for kids in hospitals. We live in an amazing time. You can be weird, like weird things, and create communities around your weirdness.
You can form tribes and interesting niches around your passions and make tons of money doing it. As author James Altucher puts it, you can “choose yourself.” You can literally monetize your passion. It’s absolutely incredible.
3. Context Matters
I was really hoping to get some political commentary from the superheroes at Comic-Con. Instead, I was confronted with a weird uneasiness when asking the questions to my costumed friends (see below).
Context matters, period. This question was ill-placed. Comic-Con isn’t about politics, or the ills of the world; it’s about escapism and fun. What’s the story you are telling? Connections happen when the story you are telling is the same story that the person on the receiving end believes. Seth Godin (I love this guy) wrote a book on this titled, All Marketers are Liars.
I was telling one story (for giggles), but it wasn’t the story for Comic-Con. This question would have been perfect for CPAC or some other venue, but here, it was irrelevant. I even asked the question to Batman’s arch-nemesis Joker, and received the same level of hesitancy. When thinking about marketing, it’s important to know not only who your message is for, but also the appropriate medium to deliver it in.
Becoming A Superhero Marketer
Every person and organization is in the business of marketing. Whether you are creating a personal brand, or working within a company to connect with new customers, understanding marketing in a networked economy is vital to your future success. Mad Men era mass marketing and industrial level advertising are dead.
Standing out in a crowded marketplace, choosing yourself by embracing your passions, and using the power of emotionally compelling storytelling with a focus on proper context, are all real life marketing observations from Comic-Con that I plan to apply in my own work. Hopefully these tips will help you or your organization go full hulk and smash your marketing game. Let me know!
P.S. If you are interested in exploring these marketing ideas further, I highly recommend the following books:
Purple Cow by Seth Godin
We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
Choose yourself by James Altucher
All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin