Our Favorite Brand Activations at Comic-Con 2019

By Rory Kaluza, Experience Strategist

You might be familiar with the San Diego International Comic-Con, the biggest conference featuring entertainment brands in TV, toys and gaming. Images of crowds shambling past booths or comic fans taking selfies with their favorite comic character are flooding the internet this time of the year. Brands such as LEGO, Marvel, and Star Wars use this opportunity to take over large footprints with exclusive retail drops and live activations to connect with their biggest fans. With such high attendance, it is easy to gain an audience but challenging for brands to capture a measurable share of voice.

Not every activation works. There are some general best practises that contribute to a strong ROI for your experiences, like clear signage and brand communication to help guide the experience, personalization of characters with digital takeaways, live demos, and a variety of programming to keep people coming back.

Lego x Star Wars at ComicCon 2019

Lego x Star Wars at ComicCon 2019

Best Practices

This year, we visited Comic-Con to see what’s out there and to get some insight on how brands use experiential marketing to elevate their positions. Here’s what we saw, based on key insights that turn activations into effective experiences and examples of brands who were able to connect their physical engagements with the massive digital conversation. 

Disrupting the Parameter 

By driving heat outside the exhibition with mobile activations, brands created extra noise resulting in higher social share of voice. NBC’s cable and satellite channel Syfy had their Karaoke Bus. The brand earned massive attention for taking attendees through downtown San Diego around the block party areas and also 5th avenue with a wrapped double-decker bus and live karaoke blasting on top. Another example is Star Wars Storm Troopers where live storm troopers wandered the conference, reenacting scenes from the movies to promote the next Star Wars film.  

Live Social FOMO 

Some brands choose to create intrigue, FOMO and brand immersion by adding an extra layer to the brand experience, with additions such as mystery box prizing and surprise engagements. Brands like Starz and Nickelodeon used immersive builds where the experience was more exclusive and audiences needed to be physically inside a private area to truly engage. The toy and board game company Hasbro invited curiosity with their new line by interviewing toy designers live on their Pulse Instagram TV Lab, driving engagement back to their booth and social channels.

Creation and Personalization

Overall, we’d say the brands that stood out were ones that offered a deeper level of personalization with a simple output, for example the Adult Swim #Rickflector Avatar. Rick and Morty allowed fans to create their own avatars in arguably the most shared personalization at the conference.

Scenes In Real Life 

The past year we’ve seen installations at conferences such as SXSW, where scenes are recreated for fans to experience them in real life and become part of the story. Continuing this trend at Comic-Con, AMC created a live zombie world with real scenes from the Walking Dead, titled #DEADQUARTERS. South Park brought characters and sets to life with a mini golf course on a major walkway to the convention center. Another example was Krusty Krab shack from Nickelodeon. Not only did they recreate a real SpongeBob space for fans to immerse themselves in, they delivered a pre-drop of the Nike’s Kyrie x SpongeBob sneakers. A collab that perfectly blends generations and cultures, making the experience even more exclusive and memorable. 

2020 and Beyond

We expect the cult of Comic-Con will continue to grow as movie franchises, eSports and toys continue to influence mainstream culture.  In 2020, it’s important for featured brands to consider their desired brand position as the conference can make or break that message.