Red Brick On the Road #1 – Comic Con
As part of Red Brick Road’s quest to better understand how fanships, followings and movements work, so that we can apply those learnings to our brands, we designed a two-pronged attack:
- Fan Club – hearing from the people leading the vanguard of fanships, and those starting the movements that stimulate and galvanise us.
- Red Brick On The Road (RBOTR)– our project to get under the skin of fanship groups and movements across the UK.
So for our inaugural RBOTR, we ventured to Comic Con, where London’s ExCeL had been transformed from an uninspiring hangar to a world of pop fiction, comic books, and double-take-commanding array of costumes and props.
Arriving with a mixture of excitement and trepidation (and a notable absence of costume), we set out to understand what Comic Con really meant to fans, what the real identity of a Comic Con fan is, and what they thought of the ‘nerd’ label so inextricably linked to lovers of comic-book culture.
5 Key Learnings:
- It’s the only place some people feel they can be themselves
We’ve all been to places where we feel like outsiders, but you’ve probably never been made to feel you don’t belong for a hobby you love doing.
Many Comic Con fans felt judged by ‘normies’ (like ‘muggles’), even on their way to Comic Con that morning. For them, Comic Con was the place that they felt safe enough to be who they wanted to be, judgement free, surrounded by people who loved pop and niche culture (from manga to comic books to sci-fi) as much as they did. Being part of a collective was massive for their self-identity.
- Meeting like-minded people is the real draw of Comic Con
Yes, there was an amazing line-up of celebrity panels and arguably the biggest range of pop-culture collectables in London, but meeting people is the real attraction.
Lasting friendships are born here between people who may never have publically revealed their particular passion before, whilst for others a meeting here would be the culmination of months of online chats.
Comic Con shows the potential for brands to make ‘spaces’ for like-mindedpeople to come together – similarly driving the success of acid house raves. When brands are enablers, fans will remember and love you.
- The geeky/nerdy badge is worn with pride
Yes, in the ‘real world’, a love of manga and comic books may attract a ‘nerd’ label, outsider status and a complex sense of self-guilt among those that love it, but here, people embrace the label with pride. Whilst there’s friendly rivalry between film franchises, people are ultimately a tribe of passionate ‘geeks’ together, and see Comic Con as a rallying point against those yet to be enlightened by its facets.
- Comic Con is like a self-contained world of escapism
Comic Con is undeniably immersive, intentionally detached from real-lifeand fuelled by costume, enthusiasm and a desire by attendees to see their cosplay fiction as a temporary reality.
This provides attendees with that ‘safe place’ for them to indulge their hobby without risk of judgement or labelling, and potential for brands too – overcommit and involve yourself on attendees’ terms and reap the rewards. But break the illusion or overestimate your role and risk alienation.
- Costume is the ultimate commitment,and people bond over it
It brings people together, bonding over shared love of a character or franchise and even exchanging special gestures, as if they knew each other, despite being strangers. Equally, those ‘in-character’ were far more receptive to conversation, despite often revealing that outside of Comic Con they were shy. For them costume was their ‘armour’ or mask to hide behind, where their character was the one attracting the attention, not them.
Costumes may be a real financial and time investment, as well as being sweaty and uncomfortable, but most agreed that it was worth every single minute
So that was Comic Con 2018, our first, fanship-exploring, myth-busting adventure.
What’s the next stop going to be?