June 8, 2018

MCM Comic Con – A lesson in increasing human happiness

MCM Comic Con is the calendar highlight for geeks and fantasy enthusiasts and I’m not talking about the massive, mainly superhero-focused, event based in the US.

Welcoming more than 260,000 visitors every year across two London events, and regularly adding more cities to its repertoire (including: Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, totalling over 474,000 visitors across all venues in 2016, up from 180,000 in 2012), Comic Con is the ultimate haven for super fans of popular culture and as such, a springboard for brands who want to get seen by a highly-engaged (and high-rolling) audience.

A utopia of official merchandise, London’s Excel is transformed into a magical land full of sneak peaks, resin statues and obscure cultural references where many an overdraft is entered; attendees spent £12,357,840 just at the London events in 2016.

I attended London Comic Con this sweltering May bank holiday with thousands of others to shop and allow myself the ‘geek-out’ that I deserve.

I don’t need a Vault Boy mug, but you can bet I wanted one

Outside of the shopping experience (who doesn’t want to fill their walls and cupboards with subtle popular culture references?), the appeal of Comic Con is its inclusivity; and the infectious happiness permeating the novelty merch. It provides the perfect platform for both introverts and extroverts to shine, without fear of judgement or ridicule. At Unity we believe that public relations is about relating to people and simply by increasing human happiness, brands can engage an audience – making Comic Con an ideal environment for brands launching a product or campaign to the masses of people who head there to be accepted. And (as the name Unity suggests) is something we can certainly get on board with. Whether you’re an aspiring drag queen dressing-up as your favourite female anime character or a self-confessed Otaku (hardcore fans of Japanese comics and cartoons) meeting your online friends for the first time, Comic Con is the ideal space for you to be who you want to be, and among the plethora of ‘free hugs’ signs is a beating heart of true acceptance.

Inside, themes develop from year to year. This year’s latest cultural trend is undoubtedly the collectibles from toy brand, Funko. Best known for their Funko! Pops, small bobblehead-like figurines, it’s impossible to turn around without falling under the gaze of an exclusive Funko! In honour of the latest Star Wars spin-off, a life-sized Chewbacca Funko! Pop was stationed outside the colossal Funko store in the middle of the convention hall.

Sadly, Chewie didn’t come with sound effects, but he was impressive nonetheless

Gaming is also a huge part of Comic Con, but this wasn’t always the case. I remember attending for the first time many moons ago when gaming seemed somewhat supplementary. Now, a huge space from Nintendo dominates the show floor, with avid gamers competing to be the best in games like Splatoon 2, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze and Rocket League.

But it’s not only the mainstream names on display. Being an event that also promotes Japanese (and more recently, Korean) culture, more obscure companies such as Japanese gaming specialists Rice Digital, and publisher Nisa Europe set up their stalls to showcase the latest in Japanese and global gaming.

Wandering past the conveniently placed ‘lounge’ area nearby, complete with comfy beanbags and a giant set of headphones, Dominic Toretto’s 1970 Dodge Charger R/T from the Fast and Furious franchise was on full display. Other F&F rides were also in attendance, but we all know Vin Diesel’s American muscle machine is the most badass.

A bittersweet remembrance for founding cast member; Paul Walker

Once I’d had my fill of figurines and digested enough Pocky to feed a football team, I ventured outside to bask in the sunlight. A live music stage greeted me playing the latest fast-paced Japanese and Korean pop songs, with a surprising number of attendees singing and dancing along in complete synchronicity. It was a bit like watching a very alternative musical, with mismatched cast members.

Outside is probably where some of the best cosplays of the day were. Sitting at the bottom of the steps leading up to the centre, an impressive sword display broke out between an uncanny Blade lookalike and an impeccably crafted if inflexible, Lego Batman

There’s no stranger (or better) sight than a massive group of cosplayers swarming the front of the Excel centre

Comic Con is the highlight of my year, second only to Christmas. Indulging my geeky shopping desires surrounded by people who just get it. Ultimately, Comic Con makes people, me, happy. It brings people with shared passions together and inspires a subculture to feel comfortable being themselves. As many a marketing campaign can attest to (particularly “femvertising” such as Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ and Always ‘Like A Girl’), this acceptance and celebration of individuals and subcultures creates connections between brands and people­­ – and ultimately, brand love. See you at Comic Con 2019.


By Debbie Lloyd, Unity Account Manager – read more on her blog, or follow her for gaming-related updates