Comic-Con International 2011, one of the country's largest consumer conventions, opens its doors today in San Diego. The event will feature hundreds of exhibits and is expected to attract nearly 130,000 attendees between July 21 and July 24 — many of them in costume.
Although it has its origins in comic books and science fiction/fantasy entertainment, Comic-Con is far from being a geek and fan-boy enclave. Since its inception in 1970, the convention has grown into a consumer marketing bonanza and entertainment showcase. Many companies use the event to roll out new products and campaigns, and to generate buzz for upcoming projects.
While comic book companies will always play a role at Comic-Con, movie studios, television networks, video game companies, and toymakers will have a dominant presence at the event this year.
Some of the major firms exhibiting at Comic-Con 2011 include Mattel, Hasbro, Sony Electronics, Disney, Capcom, Activision, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, MTV Networks, Penguin Group, and Random House. Even Hallmark Cards will be making an appearance.
Simply put, Comic-Con is too big to ignore. Brands are leveraging the event to build closer relationships with fans and customers, and using it as an opportunity to receive direct feedback on their latest offerings. Most importantly, perhaps, Comic-Con provides a chance for companies to better understand the community — to experience how their consumers talk and dress, to see what they get excited about and what elicits their disdain.