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Fanboys, Fangirls, and Cosplayers — OH MY!

How marketers connect and engage fans at comic-con…

Every summer, thousands of fans make their annual pilgrimage to the Gaslamp District of San Diego, California, to embark on five days packed full of festivities for Comic-Con [1]! It’s quite the experience if you haven’t been; a crowd larger than life that is dressed in head-to-toe cosplay walking through the streets of downtown – and that’s considered normal!

Inside the massive San Diego Convention Center, you will witness hundreds of booths ranging from comic book artists, authors, collectors and sellers all the way to massive booths from film and television studios, and video game companies. Then there is Hall H, the elusive hall where the biggest stars make surprise appearances, where highly anticipated announcements are made, and where the biggest stories are generated; people stand in line for hours or even days just to try their luck to get inside and be a part of Hall H history.

Outside the convention center the spectacle continues. You can roam the convention lawn where there are a multitude of different activities to engage in, visit the wide range of entertainment set-up in and around Petco Park (yes – the baseball stadium that is home to the San Diego Padres) or roam through the streets that are full of celebration throughout the Gaslamp District. There is so much more to see and do – it’s hard to digest everything as it’s all exciting and enticing!

This convention isn’t going anywhere and it’s only going to continue to grow. Comic books are no longer the sole focus like it was back at the inaugural convention in 1970 at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. It has transformed, while still keeping its comic book roots, into a massive pop-culture convention. With the interest and participation from the major film and television studios, cable networks, gaming and tech companies, there was no stopping it from blossoming into what it is today. They create content that is relevant for this audience; whether it is a franchise superhero movie, television show, or new games, and they use Comic-Con as the platform to highlight them.

Now, here is the real question: How, as marketers, do we break through all of that clutter?

The honest answer: there isn’t a cookie cutter way, its all relative. However, there are definitely key things to keep in mind as you go forth and conquer the world of San Diego Comic-Con.


Fanboys and girls alike are spending their annual vacation in San Diego where they are hoping to be the first to see, experience, and/or collect something that is only available to those physically attending the convention.


Dream big and build big, you want to create something that is going to be the talk of the town; the must-see or must-do item on their long checklist.


Engage the fans with what they want to be a part of or collect, do it for them and ONLY for them.


The element of surprise is a powerful, non-verbal tactic and by adding this element, your overall impact will be maximized and organically create a buzz to continue your conversation.

Remember why the fans are at Comic-Con and cater to their wants and needs. They are the reason you are there in the first place – this point can’t be stressed enough. While you need to be sure you are utilizing your marketing funds wisely by staying on brand, you need to think outside the box to create a specific story catering to the fans. By doing this, you will make them your biggest advocate; their opinion speaks volumes in today’s world of social media. You want to engage with them and arm them with the tools that will help them make it part of their personal story while they are amplifying yours. That is a win-win!

Have a smart, well thought out strategy with an end goal that is tangible. Once you have completed this task, you are ready to take flight on your mission. Grab your cape, an escape car, and tighten your mask – you are ready to soar!

Remember by finding a breakthrough way to create a real human connection between your brand and Comic-Con fans, you will build a relationship that lasts far beyond the event.