It’s that time of year again – where the once geekiest event of the calendar has become the go to celebrity event of the North American summer. Enter San Diego Comic-Con 2017. Stars from across the globe take a break from their vacations and summer projects to give the people an extraordinary experience.
In 1970, the convention was held in the basement of one of the dodgiest hotels in town. In 2017, the convention, and its sub-cons have descended upon the city, with somewhere in the vicinity of 200,000 visiting fans. That doesn’t come close to the number of enthusiastic followers around the world who have bought, booked and signed on for exclusive digital content.
How did such a humble event become so popular? What can we, as business owners learn from their ascent? As avid con nerds, the team at Make it Peachy have plucked the top five things we have learned about business and communications from San Diego Comic-Con.
We all just want to feel connected
One of the most salient messages of so many comic books and science fiction novels, films and TV shows is the notion of feeling included. Traditionally creators and fans of this style of entertainment have been outsiders; nerds searching for their own sense of belonging. Naturally, a lot of their content is designed around these same themes. Think X-men, or even Superman, the ultimate outsiders, desperate to feel included. The cool thing is that because Comic-Con created an event designed to make people feel included, more and more people have found their voice and place.
This is a great lesson for us. Create content, services, products with the intention of including, rather than excluding. When your audience feels connected, they will return to you and bring their friends.
If you build it, they will come
Comic-Con and its brother and sister events around the US are designed to connect their audiences to the latest, greatest and most interesting activities, products and events. They do their research and understand what their audience is looking for. With that research, they build more and more impressive events every year. They’ve created something that more and more people want to be a part of, and now cosplaying and mainstream blockbuster fans stand side by side in applause for an event well created.
Research. Understand. Create. Engage.
When you create a product, a piece of content or a service people genuinely want, they’ll come to you. But, as Joss Whedon said, “Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”
Be confident without being cocky
Back in 1970, the founders of Comic-Con were wildly searching to nab some impressive industry types to add a little spark to the convention. According to Rolling Stone, they’d tracked down Sci Fi legend and Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury and were angling for him to attend. When Bradbury agreed, for the scary equivalent fee of US$30,000, the boys were stuck. Still, in its infancy and without a real purpose, they were in the unique position of establishing the convention as a not for profit – so without thought, that’s what they became. Bradbury came for free. They saw an opportunity and jumped, adapted and changed to get where they needed to.
It’s so important to be confident in your capability. If something seems out of your realm, don’t immediately close your mind to it – learn, adapt and work to expand your capability.
Comic-Con was built by a group of comic book dreamers, intent on creating an engaging experience for fans. What that involved as evolved a thousand times in the last 47 years and as a result, its popularity just keeps rising. One sad story told in the Rolling Stone article is that of founder Sheldon Dorf. Dorf was instrumental in networking and schmoozing the right people to get the convention off the ground. Many nod to him as the creator and ideas behind it all. But Dorf was also a jealous man, set in his ways and approach. As Comic-Con grew, Dorf isolated himself and refused to change. While the convention soared, Dorf licked his wounds and walked away.
We all need to remember that times, needs and ideas change. We know from the giant splash made by social media and digital communications that people change the way they communicate. As business owners, we need to be able to move with those needs. Just because the same old has worked until now, does NOT mean it will tomorrow.
The cyclical nature of trends – keeping up with the…who even knows who to keep up with anymore
The final lesson we are taking away from the success of Comic-Con is about awareness. Awareness of the ever changing, ridiculous and cyclical nature of trends. It’s important to understand what is trending and where. It’s important to understand what people are following and illustrating your knowledge of those things. But you know what else? Trends come and go. Comic-Con has built itself on the notion that fandom, whatever form it takes, is valid and cool in some way.
By all means, find a way to connect with your audience. Let your passion and your interests and your knowledge guide that. Authenticity matters more than manufactured trends.