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The Best Experiential Marketing at San Diego Comic Con

July 26, 2018

Brands go big at the massive annual event for pop culture fans

The granddaddy of all annual comic conventions, San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), just concluded its 2018 programming run. Every year, fans flock to the convention center for the chance to snag exclusive collectibles, meet and greet with celebrities, and get an inside look behind the scenes of the world’s most popular franchises. San Diego Comic Con is also a chance for brands and media companies to bring their A game to surprise and delight their fans with experiential activations. Today, we’re breaking down some of the most creative examples of experiential marketing from this year’s convention.

Taco Bell 2032

In the sci-fi epic Demolition Man, Sylvester Stallone finds himself in the year 2032 – and all the restaurants have become Taco Bells (due to the “Franchise Wars”). Hungry fans were treated at this year’s SDCC to a high end Taco Bell experience, just like the restaurant featured in the film. Taco Bell even hyped up the installation with an original commercial “Web of Fries II: The Franchise Wars.” The restaurant was recreated in painstaking detail, including overly friendly waiters, plenty of movie memorabilia and “Franchise War” propaganda playing on screens throughout the dining room. Still no word on if the bathroom included infamous three seashells, a mystery which has plagued fans for years.

Purge City

USA Network pulled out all the stops for their new Purge TV show, recreating a “Purge City” store (a-la Party City) for citizens to stock up on supplies for the annual 12-hours of mayhem. Items inside ranged widely, including water barrels, 12 hour emergency candles and even greeting cards stating “I Don’t Purge but I support Those Who Do.” The store even had helpful employees that would guide you around their wares based on your plans for the eventful night. Needless to say, “Purge City” was a big hit with fans of the little franchise that could. The new series’ 10 episode run airs on USA and Syfy on September 4th, making this SDCC activation extremely well-timed.

The Good Place

NBC’s critically acclaimed show, The Good Place, took convention goers on an experiential storytelling tour through the afterlife – tailored perfectly for Comic Con fans, of course. The good news? You landed in the right place. The bad news? You were killed in a stampede when Tatiana Maslany (of Orphan Black fame) and rare Pokemon Go character were spotted at the same Starbucks, as Ted Danson calmly explains to participants in an introductory monologue. After a hilarious introduction to the afterlife, fans entered a full-scale replica of their new perfect neighborhood, complete with people and stores featured in the show: an actor wearing a “Best Person” sash, the “Everything Fits!” store, and plenty of frozen yogurt stops. All hell breaks loose approximately 10 minutes into the experience, when it’s discovered you’ve wrongfully entered this utopia – and must walk down a tunnel of light back to the real world.

As far as experiential marketing goes, San Diego Comic Con knows no equal, and this year’s brand activations show a little creativity can go a long way in bringing joy to your most ardent supporters. 

Allison Staub is a Digital Media Manager at Bond Moroch. 

Photo Credit: "San Diego Comic Con" by Kevin Dooley, licensed under CC 2.0.