This May bank holiday weekend the annual summer MCM Comic Con Expo hit London's Excel Centre to sold out crowds of thousands of fans hungry for fun, food and merchandise by the truckload.
MCM is the country's biggest fan pop-culture expo, taking its cues from the US counterparts San Diego and NY Comic Con, which have now both come to be associated with Hollywood movies and gaming as much as they have to do with comic books. While the UK expos don't quite carry the cultural cache of the gargantuan American affairs, so too have these cons come to encompass all of pop culture from movies to gaming to anime and even music.
Mainstream film branding was everywhere at this year's MCM. Greeting you at the door was a giant minion diorama promoting the latest Despicable Me film which many attendees were quick to snap their first photo op in front of. Further in and the minions were out in force, with a giant inflatable minion, photo activities and another diorama on the show floor. Elsewhere, the upcoming Tom Cruise reboot was featured heavily with booths available to watch an exclusive preview of the film as well as a sample of the Universal Dark Universe film series.
Outside of the world of movies, expos are the perfect place to showcase video game brands. As the largest entertainment industry in the world, games were simply everywhere with many of the major gaming firms having their own booths where attendees could come and try out the latest games and hardware. Notable additions were Playstation showcasing their VR tech and Nintendo, hosting a plethora of fun events to get as many gamers as possible on board with the new console the Switch. Meanwhile, competitive gaming arenas had sprung up across the show floor with a giant colosseum playing host to a tournament of the latest fighting game Tekken 7.
With gaming fresh in attendees minds many sellers of licensed gaming merchandise were showing off their wares. Gaming fashion brand Insert Coin was in attendance, clothing many attendees with stylish gaming gear, whilst elsewhere Game Legends presented a huge range of officially licensed gaming goods from brands like Halo, Assassin's Creed and Overwatch. Another new gaming brand, selling products hand-over-fist was RetroGT a firm that also encompassed clothing label Battle Tiger, selling clothing from classic video games as well as newer games from the world of eSports. Of course, top level Japanese firm Square-Enix was also out in force with high-end figures and collectables from their own brands like Final Fantasy to licensed names like Marvel and DC Comics.
This year saw record-breaking crowds flood the south London convention centre with up to 133,000 in attendance on the show's busiest day. The thirst for these kinds of events is now stronger than ever, with comic book franchises and video game series becoming increasingly mainstream. Brands no longer have to fear appealing to a small niche. Shows such as this are a great way to get the word out, especially when it comes to building recognition for fledgling brands and start-up companies. There is a sense of excitement in the air at events like this, as well as a strong community. As conventions gain steam, they are increasingly becoming the perfect place to launch a new brand or raise awareness for a new product.
Events like Comic Con are also the perfect place to encourage organic engagement with your brand. MCM was abuzz with social media hype, with fans posting pictures and videos in droves. The festival-like atmosphere fosters a culture of enthusiasm and excitement, meaning the potential for word-of-mouth marketing is incredibly strong. The are comic con events happening all over the country throughout the year, in Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and another in London in October. There are also more specialised events like Hyper Japan in June, that specialises in Japanese culture, food and entertainment and for gamers EGX in September. With so many ways to engage with fans and bring new customers on board, there has never been a better time to expose yourself to an expo!