FanExpo took place in Canada late last month. I’ve never attended myself but I know a lot of folks who have and although it takes place not too long after San Diego Comic-Con and right between Baltimore Comic Con and Dragon*Con, seems to be a pretty popular show. That being said, Jenn, Emmy and Christine who make up The Dangerous Ladies had some interesting comments about DC’s marketing at that show via their Tumblr.
The post that sparked the thoughts on marketing was one titled “Didio & Me” where Jenn, a big DC fan, had this to say, “I had been at the DC table earlier and seen how sparse it was –– practically nothing. Just the big New 52 posters seen previously at SDCC, some white tables, the odd signing and freebies. Not even new freebies, mind, these were the same leftovers from SDCC 2009, things that actually said ‘coming in 2009, Batman and Robin!’ and stuff like that. Promotion-wise, the DC booth was a total bust. They had TV screens playing commercials for the Supernatural anime, for some reason, and the 52 commercial popped up on a cycle, but otherwise there was nothing.”
Bear in mind, this event took place on August 25, right before the relaunch and release of Justice League #1. The convention may not be a top priority for DC, especially just after SDCC, but freebies from 2009? Jenn and the others (who are the Bat-ladies above) actually spoke with Dan DiDio about this. “Last year, we had kind of ribbed Dan for the boring booth. He had promised us something really spectacular this year, so I teased him about the lackluster booth. Dan looked surprised — he hadn’t been in there yet, and didn’t know what was going on at the booth. So I told him, and expressed my surprise that DC wouldn’t capitalize on this weekend to really get people going for this new 52 thing. His response was that “Well, this is the last week of the old DCU. We’ll let it have its last hurrah before we start the new stuff next week.’”
“I can’t pretend to know much about how marketing works in the comic book industry,” Jenn continued, “but the conversation shed a lot of light on something I’d been wondering for months: how, exactly, was DC supposed to be reaching these new readers? Would the average TMZ reader decide to start picking up comics because Superman and Lois broke up? When Archie finally picked a gal, his books were available in check-out lines in major department stores, not in specialty shops… would people look for that stuff? How was DC going to get these new readers paying for their stuff, and from where? Who is to say that editorial’s vision for the New 52 is being carried out by marketing? Doesn’t that say a lot about DC’s commitment to diversity, too?”
Her point is of course, and she actually goes on to say it later, DC dropped the ball. “Why would they miss opportunities? Maybe FanExpo really wasn’t all that important to them, but what is with these mixed signals? Why would they miss a chance to show 70,000 convention attendees — a vast majority of whom I doubt are current readers — what they have in store, and hook them right on the spot?” she wrote.
Why they miss opportunities like this? That I can’t answer. This kind of thing has bugged me for a while but after discussion between other tumblr users, Jenn came up with a list of ten perfectly logical ideas to market through the DC booth at conventions. Here they are:
1. Galleries. If DC could have gotten their hands on some original panels and stuff, or even fractions of scripts, put ‘em in nice frames and set them up so people could walk through the booth and take a look, you’d get not only people looking at them, but also frantically tweeting/taking pictures of whatever infinitesimally small detail you could pull from them.
2. Costume contests and photo ops. I think Marvel had a fair bit of success with this — I’ve seen tons and tons of galleries online featuring their booth, precisely because they took their fans and showed them off. I can’t imagine how many people got pictures taken on that stage of them playing with Marvel props, in front of Marvel logos.
3. New content in general. We’ve seen those posters and those freebies and those television spots. Hell, other booths did a better job of pushing DC properties than DC did — the WB booth had limited edition Smallville figures, all sorts of awesome merch like Wonder Woman totes, etc. DC doesn’t have to do money transactions on the spot, but I want stuff I can pick up and poke at and lust after… and not just some stupid poster/booklet I can get for free at my LCS or that I’ve gotten at previous cons. Do you have any idea how many Black Lantern rings I have? Try something new.
4. Relevant content. Why was the Supernatural anime playing? I really liked DC’s booth at SDCC last year because I could stand there and see brand new trailers for DCUO, Young Justice, Arkham City, Smallville, so on and so forth. I was awed at the amount of people who just stood around to watch the content on the screens at SDCC, while at FanExpo you sort of forgot the screens were even there because they were playing the same very short loop over and over again with a limited range of content. They don’t necessarily have to be all new commercials, but if it’s DC related, they should be pushing it. You can’t tell me DC doesn’t have enough new projects and properties to be filling up the screen with tons and tons of content.
5. Doubling up of features. I found it a touch bizarre that they’d feature artists — like yourself — at the booth for limited hours when they could walk right over to those artists’ tables at any other time during the con. When I realized that, I realized the booth had one less thing going for it — exclusivity.
6. People running the table. I didn’t have any bad experiences, personally, but Emmy was really upset when someone snapped at her for flipping through a New 52 booklet and then putting it back, instead of keeping it. She brought it up numerous times over the weekend and didn’t want to go back because of it. I donnnnn’t think that’s the kind of impression you wanna make.
7. Entertainment. This is actually something Christine and I have talked to Didio about a few times over the years, albeit very briefly, but we would happily — HAPPILY — stand there in costume and do promo stuff and interact with fans (even in character!) We love this company and want it to overcome its faults and failures to succeed. And it’s not even about us, really, it’s just about having more interaction — which is cooler, having someone (male or female) who looks the part, in costume, handing you a promo item, or just shuffling by the booth in a zombie line to pick stuff up? FanExpo 2008’s WB booth did this well by having a fun guy in a great Green Lantern costume doing photo ops. Lots of booths have promo people, rather than just handlers. Why not make it a bit more lively? I’m sure the booth people would love to get the energy going.
8. Speaking of energy and the freebie zombie shuffle, how about some pizazz? Play music. Get some energy going. Run games on a little stage, pit nerds against nerds in DC trivia contests, have a corkboard and note pages where people can write what they love about DC and stick it on the wall for everyone to read. Stage some guy in a Joker costume sneaking around the booth and have Batman jump in and take him down for a photo-op. Get playful, guys! Your superheroes are supposed to be the fun ones, make Marvel look boring in comparison.
9. Bean bags. This sounds stupid but why do people (other than Christine) hang out at the G4 booth? Not because they care about G4, but because they have a bunch of awesome bean bag chairs they can sit down on and take a break… while a G4 screen shows them clips from cartoons or something. People will drown in your content if you give them a comfy seat, and they will come back to drown again.
10. Embrace what you have! Look, even if you’re not talking about the reboot, DC has so much more to offer. You might be the comics branch, but why aren’t you hyping up Young Justice? Why aren’t you pushing more than just Green Lantern and Batman? Why aren’t you capitalizing on your media and making the public more aware of it? I have never ever played Assassin’s Creed but for some reason lately I have gotten the urge to play it, and I fucking loved their booth because they had all those glass cases with books, figures, props, etc. How sweet would it be if I could actually see everything DC is coming out with soon, whether it’s DC direct or a novelization/adaptation, or whatever? I want to be able to press my face against the glass and drool about wanting it… but how can I do that if I don’t know it exists?
I could comment on each of those but I think that says it all. Some of the items happen in varying degrees depending on which convention you go to but I’ve never seen art galleries or costume contests at the DC booth and I think both would be extremely popular. What do you think, is DC doing enough to market their relaunch whether it be at conventions like FanExpo or outside of them?