The Comic Pimp: Issue #5

Fri, October 10th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
James Sime, Columnist

MILE HIGH CLUB

Over the past few weeks, The Comic Pimp has taken an in-depth look at just a small portion of the guerrilla marketing techniques my street team and I have been doing to take comics to the people. We've only scratched the surface of everything that the comic industry can do to promote growth, and by no means do I think the examples I've profiled are the only forms of guerrilla marketing that are available to help promote comics to the general public.

The previous installments of this column have dealt with free samples in unique and varied locations. Providing free samples and encouraging consumers to sample the product is a guerrilla marketing technique used in many industries. Who hasn't been offered a free taste of the frozen pizza on special at the supermarket, been sent a trial issue of a magazine or newspaper, or given a free toothbrush at the dentist's office?

And there's that old drug-dealing adage that the first one is always free.

It doesn't matter what industry we're talking about, the focus is always the same. Effectively expanding an existing market means bringing in new consumers. Bringing in new consumers means getting your product to people who don't already know that they want it or anything like it.

Let me tell you a little marketing story about a product you may have heard of, Bud Light. When Budweiser decided that they needed to expand their market, they made a new product, Bud Light, that they thought would appeal to their competitor's consumers, specifically Coors drinkers. While this new product may have increased Budweiser sales and converted some Coors drinkers, it also corrupted sales of traditional Budweiser and ultimately all it did was pull its new customers from the existing population of American Macro-Brew beer drinkers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this kind of parasitic expansion ultimately did nothing to build the Budweiser brand or the beer drinking market.

These days enterprising malt beverage executives get malt liquor into the hands of a whole new group of customers by calling it Smirnoff Ice or Mike's Hard Lemonade. Microbreweries push Budweiser and Coors out of coolers by offering new products directed at new audiences and non-beer drinkers the world over can now happily stand around at a barbecue with a bottle in hand with all their Bud Light drinking buddies. These companies truly expanded the "beer" market and they aren't just passing around the same set of customers.

Comic retailers, comic creators, and comic publishers alike can learn from Budweiser's mistake. Instead of vying for increasing allotments of funds from current comic fans, we should be focusing our marketing money and efforts on expanding the existing comic market by converting new readers.

The comic industry is going to convert these non-comic reading faithless and we're going to do it by going guerrilla.

If you think I've been saying for the past three weeks that guerrilla marketing is about just giving away a bunch of free shit to people you don't know… then you missed the point. Guerrilla marketing isn't about one single idea or one single marketing technique; it's about achieving conventional goals (like industry growth) with unconventional methods (like investing time and energy instead of money).

It's about converting the faithless and for the most part, non-comic readers want to be converted. As unbelievable as this might sound, the single most common phrase my street team and I hear is "I don't read comics, but I really respect the art form." It's simplicity itself to convert that respect into a full-blown comic habit; all we need to do is get the flatcrack into their hands. All we need to do is go to them or get them to come to us.

But how do we get them to come to us? What about a comic book store in a guerrilla location?

Think about it. What is a place with a massive captive audience of potential comic readers representing the entire spectrum of age, race, sex, and what is a place where these massive groups congregate, where they are literally desperate for the kind of quick and dirty entertainment that comic books can provide?

The airport.

In my eyes there is no better location for the comic industry to take our biggest, brightest, and best looking. There just isn't a more effective method for bringing the comics to a mass audience than to get them right there inside the airports. Throw a sweet chain of sexy comic stores in every international airport and watch businessmen, families, rock stars, vacationers, students, tourists, professional athletes, children, and stewardesses all line up at the cash register to make a pre-flight purchase.

How cool would that be?

Sure I've seen a few newsstand comics at airport bookstores, and there are probably some that stock a few graphic novels too… but I'm talking about a comic store not some ghettoized pathetic sideline selection in a bookstore. Better yet, open up a chain of graphic novel stores in the airports!

Graphic novels are a better format for travelling customers, the ticket price is more economical for the retailer, the format is universally accepted for international travelers, the product more durable, and by stocking only books with spines you get that bookstore cross market. Think about it. Watch "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" on the airplane, buy the book when you touchdown, it just doesn't get better than that.

Want comics to be seen as a legitimate art and entertainment form? Comics and comic characters are on the verge of complete domination of the movie and electronic media industries, the proliferation of comic related news stories and the mainstream interest in the medium would get a huge kick in the ass if the people knew where to get these books. With comic stores in the airports the comic industry will get all the legitimacy it could ever hope for. We're talking about comic stores in the fucking airport. How do you get more legit than that?

Want to change people's perceptions about what comic stores, comic readers, and comic books are? Stocking exclusively graphic novels will ensure that customers don't even associate the store with the kind of comic store that they've seen on the Simpson's, as well as giving the chain of stores a razor-sharp branding focus in which to market around.

Want to see comics take over the fucking world?

With comic stores in the airports we can do just that.

Arm these cool airport graphic novel stores with smart, charming, knowledgeable, good looking comic pimps to give the customers the kind of slick and sophisticated kind of shopping experience that make them want to visit the next store in the chain at their next airport. The idea is simplicity itself, and although the idea is untried, it's only a matter of time before comics invade the airports.

Airport booksellers hustle books and magazines to commuters and travelers by the truckload, and it's pretty easy to see that the comic industry could do the same with graphic novels. There just isn't a better untapped market for our industry to invade and there just isn't a better venue for comic books to run rampant throughout the country. And world.

Comics stores at the airport. That's a million-dollar idea, my friends.

COMICS INVADE ENGLISH PUBS

Here's a recent example of comics going guerrilla in a big way. British comic VIZ invades a new market by getting the book into over 300 bars thanks to a recent deal with two popular brewers. VIZ will become available at pubs across the UK for £1 with the purchase of a pint.

Seriously.

Read the full story here

A TIP OF THE COMIC PIMP SCOTCH GLASS

To celebrate this week's release of AIT-PlanetLar's ultra-sexy collected "Astronauts in Trouble" definitive edition, author and publisher Larry Young graced Isotope guests with six specially labeled copies of this graphic novel. Larry has got to be one of the most generous people I have met in my entire life, and this week proved that all over again. These "Day One Launch" editions didn't last very long, especially considering that each book came with a free page of the original Charlie Adlard artwork that made this these comics possible!

    

    

"Astronauts In Trouble"


296 pages $16.95


(JUN03 1970)


Hardcover version (JUN03 1969)


Thanks to our amigos at AIT-PlanetLar and a tip of the Comic Pimp Scotch Glass on out to Larry Young!

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