Grassroots Marketing Done Geeky: What Brands Can Learn from Comic Con
San Diego; “America’s Finest City” and California’s second largest city on the picturesque Pacific Coast. However, for just a few days every year, this city hosts Comic Con — a mecca for superheroes, movie stars and more than 130,000 deeply dedicated fans and press outlets. In fact, dedication doesn’t quite capture the level of fervor, excitement and obsession that these fans often exhibit. From burgeoning blogs to creative cosplay (dressing in costume, for the uninitiated), these fans take fandom seriously.
Surely, this level of fandom extends beyond the world of comic books, video games, and movies; We see similar instances of sports fanatics when it comes to game day. But the lesson that I believe we can all pull from what is now a mainstream “nerd culture” is this audience’s grassroots marketing impact from a business perspective.
Aim to produce a product or provide a service that your audience will evangelize.
This year, Warner Bros. (WB) Pictures had a huge showing at Comic Con, presenting exclusive trailers for wildly anticipated films, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. These sneak previews were meant to be exclusive looks at the upcoming films, only to be seen by Comic Con attendees. However, to no one’s surprise, fans filmed and uploaded these previews, sharing them with the information-hungry masses over the Internet. Overnight, these films received what may be millions of dollars worth of free press, just because their fans are genuinely invested in their product.
You may assume that WB was thrilled with this publicity — but you’d be wrong. Instead, the company labeled the leak as “piracy” and, with much chagrin, posted the full, high-quality version on YouTube. What WB may fail to realize is that the fans that they have labeled as pirates (rightfully so, arguably) are their biggest cheerleaders and a most valuable, grassroots marketing resource.
A famous quote credited to writer Andy Sernovitz is, “Advertising is the cost of being boring.” Though we’d like to believe that marketing strategy is most definitely an essential, he does make a point. If you produce a truly unique and high-quality product, your fans just may do much of the advertising heavy lifting for you — but only if you allow them. This is where blogging and an active and responsive social media plan will come in extremely useful, providing a place for your fans to share word of how awesome you are.
Though “make good stuff” may seem like rudimentary and overly simplistic advice, if you focus on business practices that people can get behind while providing a fertile digital environment for your audience to both champion your brand and interact with you, your marketing dollar will go much further. Never underestimate the power of grassroots marketing from a dedicated, nurtured and respected fanbase, as it’s often your customers that help your brand become truly superheroic.