Get ready, San Diego Comic-Con 2018 is days away. Time to dry clean your cosplay outfits, binge the last season of Breaking Bad in preparation for the highly anticipated reunion, and make sure your smartphone has plenty of juice to capture every moment you're about to experience. This is the big dance in the world of experiential marketing - brands will be out in full force vying for attendees attention, praise, trust, and purchases. On the other end, attendees expect to be dazzled, delighted, shocked, and surprised.
Pop2Life has had an annual presence at the convention, activating for brands like NBC, AMC, TBS, Comedy Central, and Starz. This year, our team will be back on the west side with AMC, Comedy Central, and TBS.
Fans should be sure to check out Dead Quarters, the official fan zone of AMC's The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. The immersive experience will feature a curated walk through of settings from both series, including The Sanctuary and a thrilling 22-foot zombie slide, inspired by the one in Fear, as well as photo opportunities with the walker composter and Negan’s “flaming Lucille,” among other activities.
Comedy Central will be expanding their presence at Comic-Con this year, as well. We'll be returning to the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center for a South Park-themed Escape Room as well as on the convention floor for the South Park Member Berries Challenge where a host will be asking South Park trivia. If you guess wrong— Randy will vomit Member Berries juice on you.
Team Coco and TBS are bringing Conan O’Brien’s unique brand of comedy to SDCC in a nightly pop-up comedy club. TEAMCOCOHOUSE will be open Wednesday, July 18th, through Saturday, July 21st. Located at 327 Fourth Ave, a few blocks off from the Convention Center, TEAMCOCOHOUSE will showcase a daily lineup of stand-up comics handpicked by Conan, podcasts, panels, screenings, giveaways and special appearances by friends of Conan.
Fans in protective "vomit gear" answer South Park trivia during the Member Berries Challenge at New York Comic-Con in October 2017. The activation will be on the convention floor at SDCC later this month
In order to be genuinely noticed at Comic-Con, brands have to focus on creating innovative marketing experiences rather than safe, or worse, interruptive ones. But what works for SXSW or the Super Bowl simply won't translate at here, as the worlds of comics, pop culture, and celebrities collide in such a way that brands need to be both fantastic enough for the Comic-Con purists and mainstream enough for those just looking to take a selfie with Ryan Reynolds. Successful brands looking to tap into the 160,000+ attendees can still engage them on their own terms.
We asked the Pop2Life team what their predictions are for #SDCC2018. From who's attending and who's not, to changes in security this year, check out what our experts think will go down this weekend in America's Finest City:
"As more and more brands buy into the convention floor frenzy, I think we'll see a shift to bigger activations happening offsite. This strategy will allow brands to make a connection with the Comic-Con audience while creating fully immersive, and transformed spaces that exceed the typical 30x30 convention floor booth."
— Evan Bryson, Experiential Manager
"It's an interesting year as Marvel, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars will all skip this year due to scheduling and timing. It's a loss for lots of fans, but gives other franchises a chance to steal a bit of the available limelight. With that, I'm hearing some really compelling buzz about what Taco Bell and Demolition Man as well as the DC Justice League Franchise are up to. My gut is you will see the bar continue to be raised — curated, immersive and world building experience have been hot and getting even more popular. Fans expect more and brands are stepping up to deliver which is great for everyone."
— Jeff Bardin, Executive Director, Business Development
"I’m most looking forward to having so many un-ashamed Pokemon Go companions."
— Laura Ostendorf, Senior Project Manager
"I think we'll continue to see a lot of big pop-ups in the Gaslamp. The inside gets too packed and now that they are keeping people without badges away from the center, I'm expecting downtown to be wild. I'm interested to see how the lack of Marvel does at Comic-Con this year, but I am sure they'll still be plenty to see. Personally, I am hoping that the Taco Bell Demolition Man pop-up will be worth it. Free tacos and swag to my favorite food establishment? I'm in."
— Anthony Dobrini, Project Manager
"This year I think we’ll see brands build out fully immersive environments rather than relying on VR or whatever technology is popular at that moment. These unique types of “in-show” experiences, where fans can interact with another physical world as they engage with their favorite characters, are beyond memorable. They also naturally inspire people to share on social media."
— Alicia Haberman, Senior Designer
We also recruited Pop2Life's founder, turned Founder/Managing Director of concierge.com, Eric Murphy, to detail how brands activating at SDCC could benefit from the guest management software's offerings and services:
The best use of concierge.com would be for all of the VIP parties, screenings, concerts, and product launches that take place outside of the convention center. The software could be utilized to sell tickets, invite guests, manage different levels of access, and provide real-time guest communication via text or email. With so much going on at Comic-Con, and so many brands vying for attention, the right communication at the right time makes a huge difference in getting the right people to an event. People will be drawn to events that feel more important, more "VIP" and less like a clusterfu*k (which is often the case). Our event concierge team can be on-site (using the guest management app) to handle last-minute additions, communication, check-in (by name or using a barcode), and VIP services. Finally, after the event, it's the perfect opportunity for digital gifting using our partners at THNKS. As people are departing, they receive an email or text message with a link to a free Uber ride, a curated gift, or anything available on Amazon (yep, that's just about everything). It's a pure "surprise and delight" moment!