Suddenly, it's cool to be geek. It's cool to read comics. It's cooler when comic book characters become runaway Hollywood movie blockbuster successes (The Avengers, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Batman, etc...). Is it any surprise that more that 30,000 people showed up at last weekend's Montreal Comic-Con to comic book bin dive?What comic books are doing that books are struggling with. It's hard to define "collectible." It's hard to define "fan." After walking the floor at Montreal Comic-Con for a few hours on Saturday, one thing became abundantly clear: the majority of the commercial activity that was taking place at this physical event cannot be duplicated or replicated in a digital format. You see, people weren't there to buy comics. Any serious collector knows where to find the true comic book rarities online and how to best negotiate the deal. The majority of attendees were there to be together.
It wasn't just about snagging an up-skirt photo of the all-female Avengers that were prancing around the showroom floor. It was to be a part of something more. People paid north of $150 to have their picture taken with both William Shatner and Patrick Stewart (where else will you find Captain Kirk and Captain Jean-Luc Picard at the same time?), they were paying $60 for an artist's rendition of Iron Fist on a stretched canvas and they were even paying $25 for an autograph with Kevin Sorbo (remember Hercules and Kull The Conqueror?). You can't buy these types of experiences in the online world, can you?What all media can learn from Comic-Con. True fans want more than content delivered fast, easy and cheap. We live in a day and age where brands are trying to become producers of content. Some have done it successfully, while the majority struggle to create something that isn't thinly veiled marketing muck. Whether it is comic books, science fiction or the horror genre, these brands understand that true commerce comes when you create something that your advocates can't get enough of.
Close to 10,000 people waited over 90 minutes on a Saturday morning, and paid for the privilege of walking on to the Comic-Con Montreal trade show floor to wait in more lines to pay more money to meet, greet and get autographs and pictures of their favorite comic book characters and creators. They did this with smiles on their faces and with pride.
It's not a zero-sum game where that industry is faced with digitization and shrinking revenues with no alternative money-generating streams. By cultivating true fans and giving them unique opportunities to connect, share and yes, even enlarge their collections through specialized and unique items, they're not only keeping alive a traditional media channel (or two), but they're inventing new and fascinating ways to extend their characters and build interest. You could argue that it's easy to do this when you have content that sparks the imagination. I would argue that if you have someone buying something from you, and it delivers (or over-delivers) on the promise, they have a keen level of interest for more. The only thing stopping them from buying more? The brand's ability to get creative and be compelling.All people interested in media should take a field-trip to a Comic-Con in a city near you. Bring your wallets. Mitch Joel is president of Twist Image -- an award-winning digital marketing agency. His first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his highly-successful blog and podcast of the same name is a business and marketing bestseller. His next book, CTRL ALT DEL, will be published in Spring 2013.