As great as it is to be a comic book fan right now (and not just a superhero comic fan; see the attention multi-genre publishers like Image is pulling in), I can't help but feel that there's more that can be done to push the industry into one of the best eras it's experienced since the late 1930's into the early 50's (the official Golden Age of comics). What else could the industry do to pull in the elusive new reader, and revitalize its already-established fan base?
And then it hit me as I sat here at my keyboard, reminiscing about every comic book-related movie, television show, and video game I've ever experienced: the industry lacks cross-media marketing. Granted, the idea may have seemed to be a feeble one early on in the superhero movie boom. After all, we were just coming out of the dark ages of the 90's—a time fraught with publisher bankruptcy and flops like Spider-Man's Clone Saga. With the rise of digital comics and the rapid advancement of technology, however, there's no excuse for the industry not taking measures to get the word out about the comics that have influenced the multimedia boom, especially for the Big Two, who are now owned by media giants Disney and Warner Brothers.
What do I mean by cross-media marketing? Say you're sitting in the movie theater about to see The Guardians of the Galaxy, or you're waiting through a commercial break as you watch Arrow, or you're just booting up Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: Season Two from the Xbox Live Marketplace. What is one thing you almost never (or never, if you're me) see when you're in these situations? Comic book advertisements, in the vain of "Hey, are you excited to watch this movie/show or play this game? Check out the comics that inspired them and many other amazing titles from the publisher!"
I don't see any reason why there shouldn't be an advertisement for the Marvel NOW! Guardians of the Galaxy comics before the film. The old-world comic book stigma is practically null and void as the geek world has risen in popularity and recognition, and there are plenty of quality creators and books on the market now. Think about it. How many new readers could the comics industry pull in if it used cross-media marketing? You wouldn't have to put in too much money for an advertisement, plus you can reach a broader audience using QR codes and the like for mobile users (imagine scanning a QR from a theater screen and having it direct your phone/tablet to the Comixology app to download a free comic based on the movie you're watching).
Right now, you can open any comic book published by Marvel or DC and see advertisements for upcoming/new movies, video games, and TV shows. It's common sense that those industries have the resources to allocate towards marketing, and that the comics industry, despite its overall sales increases and small victories in recent history, is still relatively smaller and niche and doesn't possess the same amount of resources for marketing outside of specialty websites. For now, the only publishers that could successfully launch a cross-media marketing campaign are Marvel and DC. It's a sad and hard truth, but if they were to pull it off and introduce new readers into the market, then the other publishers could reel in potential customers, build themselves up from increased revenues, and manage to put together their own cross-media marketing plans for their multimedia products.
All it would take to get the ball rolling is for Marvel or DC (Marvel would have plenty of opportunities to do this in theaters) to start their own comic book ad campaigns targeting new, potential readers and guiding them to comics that complement what they're watching or playing. From there, the floodgates could open and the industry would experience a surge of new readership. So what's the hold-up? Why has neither publisher tapped this gold mine?
If you were to see an advertisement before a new blockbuster film for a related comic book or graphic novel, would you consider checking it out? Why do you think this is an untouched avenue? What are your suggestions for cross-media comic book marketing? Let's hear what you have to say on the matter in the comments section, and don't forget to check out the rest of Fanboys Anonymous for SDCC 2014 news and announcements!