Saturday, August 5, 2023

Comicon as a Catalyst


Other than serendipity, there are few shortcuts to making a brand beloved, but there’s a catalyst.

There are too many characters in the world of comics, animation movies and anime to track, so observing the crowds outside a Comic Con (or Comicon) is usually a guessing game for me. My ignorance notwithstanding, the strong sense of belonging that a Comicon fosters among its attendees leaves me in wonderment. After all, it seems like a lot of effort (and pocket money) for teens to buy or make costumes, travel, stay at a hotel and spend two days in character.

The fervor at Comicon ought to be the envy of, and inspiration for, every business organization that aspires for longevity and timelessness of its brand.

I do not know if the pair in Ketchup and Mustard costume was paid by Heinz; perhaps Colonel Sanders wasn’t an attendee but just a walking ad for KFC. However, both were extremely popular.

To see attendees dressed up as their favorite comic characters or to see them don the persona of their favorite anime characters is fascinating from an industry perspective. The conference naturally begins to feel like a carnival even before one walks in. For the conference organizers, keeping attendees entertained is simply not an issue. Attendees aren’t camera shy. They instantly get into character and pose for other attendees to take pictures. The playfulness in every human interaction is infectious. The various vendors who have set up their exhibition booths also seem to have fun while also doing business. Nobody seems to notice or wince at the prices of the tee shirts and stickers, but I digress.

Comicon held a powerful lesson for marketers.

There is immense value in personification of a brand. A personified brand finds it easier to become a part of pop culture. There is value in making a brand’s perception as a playful and friendly one among the next generation. It is in their future (as consumers, employees, influencers, shareholders, or suppliers) that a brand must find a place.

Personification of a brand is easier when manifested as a mascot.

In any college football game, there is the official mascot that engages in goofy acts to get a cheer from the crowd. It gives the college’s brand a distorted but relatable human form. Commonly seen in tire industry commercials and in fast food brands, a mascot helps memory recall.

The holy grail for any brand is to be entrenched in the collective memories of families for generations. Seeing personified commercial brands parading around at Comicon is a clear signal that a brand has become a household name. That lowers various costs such as the cost of customer acquisition and the cost of hiring a workforce that embodies the brand’s values.

A mascot mingling at every Comicon might be the catalyst that a brand needs to start turning iconic. More importantly, mascots can be birthed by any company irrespective of its industry.