SDCC ’14: Defending the “Superfan” to the NY Times

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As just reported, the NY Times delivered a pretty strong diss to the economics of Comic-Con, and I’m sure con vets and observers will be responding very soon, as Marvel’s CB Cebulski already did:

In the meantime, the Bonfire Agency’s founding partner Steve Rotterdam</strong> penned a response for the Beat. The Bonfire Agency specializes in crafting ad campaigns to the geek demo, so they have some thoughts on branding strategies in general:

Sadly, the NYTimes article reflects the writers’ misunderstanding of the relationship the brands cited have with pop culture consumers, in general, and SDCC attendees, in particular.  Most of the brands cited in the article are, in fact, returnees and many have extended their sponsorships to other pop culture “superfan” conventions throughout North America. More importantly, these brands have come to know that overt, hard-sell, commerce-before-content posturing and tactics at such events not only do not work with attendees, but have a tendency to backfire – particularly in the social realm. So what is dismissed by the writers as laid-back soft sell is, in fact, the best strategy for success when sailing through fan-infested waters.  

Be it at the San Diego Comic-Con or at a local comic shop, brand support that smartly celebrates the passions of the geek demographic pays off in increased brand awareness, loyalty and word of mouth.  Because when brands like Hyundai, Dr Pepper, Pizza Hut, Schick, MAC Cosmetics and Uber help superfans better connect to what it is they care about, they better position themselves with these discriminating, socially influential consumers for when the time comes to buy.

One thing the writers did get right. Compared to attendees of other conventions and trade shows held in San Diego, attendees at Comic-Con don’t spend as much to wine and dine themselves at area restaurants. First of all, the majority of them don’t arrive with expense accounts.  More importantly, they prefer to direct their indulgences and dollars to the dealers and vendors on the exhibit floor.