The other day I was prepping for a talk on marketing at an NYU publishing class, and reached out to the Twitosphere to ask what were “the notable comics marketing success stories over the last year” and the Twitosphere responded with a bunch of smart and savvy suggestions:
@Comixace Zenith Collection.
— Chris Weston (@westonfront) November 19, 2013
@Comixace The Last of Us was good video game cross marketing. Attack on Titan was part luck, part good social marketing w/Kodansha
— André ^_^ (@andrepaploo) November 19, 2013
— Sally Jane Thompson (@SallyThompson) November 19, 2013
— alison sampson (@itsthatlady) November 19, 2013
@Comixace East of West. DC’s digital comics, notably Injustice. The Walking Dead’s continued spread into other markets.
— B. Clay Moore (@bclaymoore) November 19, 2013
@Comixace March – hands down the biggest winner in terms of high profile, quality placements.
— Jonah Weiland (@jonahweiland) November 19, 2013
— UjO (@hUjOw) November 19, 2013
@Comixace batman 66 for sure.
— Darrin O’Toole (@darrinotoole) November 19, 2013
— David Hyde (@superfanpr) November 19, 2013
— Ben Mayfield (@UndeadAvenger) November 19, 2013
@Comixace monkeybrain and thrillbent stuff is showing every indie creator how to do it. Proving a lot of naysayers wrong.
— Christopher Kosek (@ckosek) November 19, 2013
— Concrete Park (@ConcretePark) November 19, 2013
— Marc Bernardin (@marcbernardin) November 19, 2013
@Comixace image expo, the idea and execution of the event
— john siuntres (@johnwordballoon) November 19, 2013
@Comixace The new Sandman comic? The All-New X-Men comic. East of West by Image as a breakaway hit.
— Shoshana Kessock (@ShoshanaKessock) November 19, 2013
— Spencer Scott (@spencer_cscott) November 19, 2013
— Dr. NerdLove (@DrNerdLove) November 19, 2013
@Comixace The Phoenix, Valiant, Titan have all been especially on form this year, I think. Image Expo was a big deal
— Steve Morris (@stevewmorris) November 19, 2013
@Comixace I really like the mini-comic subscription model that Oily Comics, Retrofit and others have used. It’s nice getting mail.
— Ryan Catcher (@RyanCatcher) November 19, 2013
— Keith Callbeck (@CubReporterK) November 19, 2013
— Matt (@gamoid) November 19, 2013
— Aaron Bourque (@TheMadWhitaker) November 20, 2013
@Comixace Pretty Deadly. One amazing teaser image with team names present sold that book. Excellent pre-order print form as well.
— timdaniel (@enormouscomic) November 19, 2013
— Filip Sablik (@FilipSablik) November 20, 2013
A couple of things that got multiple mentions seem worth discussing. First, the success of Panel Syndicate and “The Private Eye” is the one thing no one can plan on—when a few superior creators, in this case Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente, launch a new webcomic, people are going to pay attention even if it is only a single, unexpected press blast. Bravo on that.
Image has really done a killer job this year, and the Image Expo obviously reinforced that. The idea of making a bunch of big announcements a few weeks BEFORE San Diego captured pent up enthusiasm and didn’t get drowned out. Their books just keep hitting and hitting.
Valiant, obviously, have really been promoting and marketing themselves smartly, with the Unity rollout a particular standout in a market full of crossover burnout. As suggested, Titan and BOOM! also found ways to stand out in a crowded market.
Thrillbent and Monkeybrain have been able to keep the spotlight on their digital platform when a lot of similar efforts have faded. In almost every case, it’s the high level of creative talent involved that fuels the interest. Both have also used creators with existing social media followings to make sure that releases get attention—when you hire someone with a lively Twitter feed, you’ve hired an ancillary marketing department all in itself.
Marvel’s One Word teaser campaign was also a big success, even though it wasn’t always easy to find out just what the word was actually referring to. It brought back some of the excitement and speculation that the New 52 rollout perfected. (The New 52 is really the gold standard of comic book marketing in recent years, although surely a $1 million budget didn’t hurt.)
As for DC, although no one mentioned it, Villains Month has to be considered a huge marketing success. As confusing and problematic as the execution was, it had people talking constantly, and a huge payoff.
Another DC marketing scheme that got mentioned was the TV ad campaign for Sandman Overture. I must confess, I was startled while watching American Horror Story: The Coven to suddenly see a very brief ad for Sandman bust out.
AHS is a great pick to advertise Sandman—this year’s storyline is a mostly female-focused tale of warring witches in New Orleans—but the ad had a major fail for me: no call to action. At the end it announces that the book is available in print and digitally but no place to go: no URL or social media hashtag, both staples of modern advertising. No idea what’s going on there, but it seemed odd.
In case you’re wondering, the book I chose to spotlight in my little talk was MARCH, because in graphic novel terms, it’s had the biggest and most successful rollout of just about ay single book I can think of, with multiple very high level TV appearances. Granted, it had a serous subject and the involvement of a real American hero in Rep. John Lewis, so it was kind of a pre-sell. (If, say, Lisa Hanawalt showed up on the Rachel Maddow show to discuss My Dumb Dirty Eyes, that would truly be the greatest marketing job in comics history.) Still, I’ve seen well meaning projects fail before. On paper, MARCH looked like it couldn’t miss, the the plan to maximize its exposure was executed flawlessly.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.