Today I received my first San Diego Comic-Con 2018 (#SDCC) exclusive e-mail from Factory Entertainment (you can read it here).
Convention exclusives offer multiple strategic advantages to those who pursue them.
Associate beloved properties with the brand. Factory Entertainment isn’t the first name you think of when someone says Wonder Woman. But if you want the God Killer Sword Prop Replica ($299, limited to 50 pieces. Available here), you will need to get it from Factory Entertainment. Factory Entertainment receives a positive brand association from its licensed properties.
Strategic relationships with the owners of coveted intellectual property, such as characters, props, and catchphrases. The ability to execute on an exclusive, which means delivering a quality product for the promised event, reinforces the partnership worthiness of the company. And that translated into future licensing deals.
Build brand awareness and customer loyalty. Companies that keep getting the rights to produce exclusives build a reputation that builds brand awareness and customer loyalty. To maintain their position they need to continue to innovate, deliver quality, and identify deals that generate audience enthusiasm and revenue.
Building a market. San Diego Comic-Con created a platform for exclusives. A self-reinforcing market emerged. Exclusives created lines, lines created buzz, and buzz brought bigger lines. Year-over-year more companies got into the exclusives market and the market grew to the point that exclusives represent the second-highest reason for an SDCC traffic jam. The first, a celebrity at a booth, also represents a form of exclusivity, one you pay for in time rather than money. (How long did you stand in line for that wristband?) That exclusivity benefits the actor/actress and the studio/show they work for. At SDCC and many other shows, people with various proclivities tend to buy as many exclusives in their interest area as they can afford. An aftermarket also arises that sells the exclusives on the open market via Amazon, eBay or Etsy where they usually generate profit for those who stood in line at the show.
Creating value. Based on the scarcity principle, the limited availability of a thing means it is worth more money. Exclusives aren’t always expensive, and they aren’t always more expensive than their commodity siblings, but they usually are. Supply-and-demand drive pricing in the secondary market. Money Inc. recently reported that an SDCC Gold Loki Pop! figure will now run upwards of $800 and a Star Wars Shadow Trooper Pop! will run almost $2K.
What Can Marketers Learn from Comic-Con Exclusives?
So you don’t run a manufacturing company that makes swords, space vehicles, action figures or vinyl bobble heads, what does all this Comic-Con marketing mean for you?
Well, the idea of exclusivity runs much deeper than physical objects, but those physical objects still matter. Think about the branded giveaway you brought to your last tradeshow. You gave that battery charger with your logo on it away to anyone who would give your lead generation database their name, company, and e-mail address. Well, perhaps if you marketed the “give-away” as an exclusive.
Create a perception of exclusivity. Yes, exclusives usually come from limited runs, meaning that only a few hundred or thousand of a particular item exists. Many times in the toy market, however, those exclusive products are little more than paint variants on an existing toy (the Wonder Woman God Killer Sword Prop Replica exclusive is the unweathered version, which plays against the “weathered” version). That makes them cost-effective for the manufacturer while maintaining the aura of exclusivity. There are two examples where this idea can be applied in the regular rhythm of marketing: gated content and personal interactions. Rather than list gated content as something that is clearly just a gateway to the organization getting your contact information, market the content as exclusive. If you hold a lot of webinars, do a few that aren’t recorded. That will increase the value of the live event. The Microsoft Executive Briefing Center (EBC) is a great example of an exclusive experience. Executives who visit Microsoft get exclusive tours of the future home and work environments, exclusive access to executives, and exclusive access to roadmaps and other technical information. Thousands of executives attend EBC, yet those visits remain exclusive because it requires an invitation. The total white-glove treatment at the EBC is also legendary which adds to the aura of the visit.
Market your exclusiveness. The Factory Entertainment e-mail markets the idea of exclusiveness as much as the exclusive products it mentions. At the end of the e-mail are a bunch of questions marks for unannounced exclusive products. The question marks set the expectation for getting something exclusive even if you don’t yet know what it is. Some conferences do this by dropping a few top names as early speakers, and then saying even bigger names will follow. At Microsoft, the EBC is only available to the top customers.
Define your exclusivity. The scarcity of exclusive content derives from quantity or membership. Quantity can be further broken down to time or availability of a physical or virtual thing. Time exclusivity means that something is only available within certain temporal parameters. With San Diego Comic-Con, that means you can only get it there, at the show. A limited number of downloads (first one hundred people only!) or the number of physical objects, drives up the perception of scarcity for non-in-person events. While those limitations can drive a perception of scarcity, they rarely drive revenue for most marketing purposes, though they may improve lead generation and conversion. If you want to drive revenue, you may want to consider a membership model, which is used in exclusive clubs, timeshares, and all the paid streaming services. Apple, for instance, offers “Original shows, concerts, and exclusives,” along with Beats 1 radio to Apple Music subscribers. Those unrecorded webinars. Schedule one a month with some good speakers and charge a membership fee for those exclusive opportunities to hear and talk with industry leaders.
Any organization can create an exclusive offer. The key to leveraging exclusivity is to think not just about the excluisve as a way to market your products or services, but that you also consider how to market the exclusive so it delivers on its promise in a meaningful way.
As an aside, because the Factory Entertainment Wonder Woman God Killer Sword Prop Replica is a “weapon” they will not be able to sell it on the show floor, which means that while it is a 2018 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, you won’t be able to buy it in San Diego unless you live there or have it shipped to your house.
Companies like Factory Entertainment have established their Comic-Con exclusives strategy brand association so strongly with their audience that an exclusive that doesn’t make it to the event, as long as it has the label on it, remains associated with that event because of the confluence or relationships and context. Years from now, few will remember that a mint-in-box Wonder Woman God Killer Sword Prop Replica (unweathered version) wasn’t actually at the show.
What Can Marketers Learn from the Comic-Con Exclusives Strategy?
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Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.