It goes by many names: fandom, community, or movement; in the age of social media these titles have become interchangeable. Research shows an increase in the use of social media platforms worldwide: 73% use YouTube, 68% use Facebook, and 24% use Twitter. Due to that ever-decreasing social distance between companies and consumers, companies must adapt new marketing strategies to reach new customers, or to perform service recovery.
Despite the ever-growing technology and the shifting marketing strategies, companies still rely on brand-loyalty and customer satisfaction for continued financial success. In the world of comics, two brands are recognized as the “Big Two” in comics: Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Both brands enjoyed the privileges of brand loyalty and customer satisfaction for many years, but a rift in the long-established relationship between comic book publishers and their long-standing customer base has appeared.
Heavy criticism has been levied against the Big Two, ranging from: diversity hires that contribute little to the expansion of comics as a medium, to heavy pandering of a non-existing consumer demographic, and to the drastic character changes made solely to fit the current creator’s personal politics. While this type of rift should help independent companies grow their consumer base, long established Indie companies like Image and IDW continue to see their numbers wane.
This is the first challenge facing Comicsgate creators: sales figures. Currently, sales figures are almost impossible to produce with 100% accuracy; quarterly sales report numbers can be (and are often) dismissed as expenditures done through failed projects necessary in a volatile economy. As Comicsgate creations have been crowdfunded, their sales figures are easy to find. The same cannot be said about publications from the Big Two. Sales figures are a problem because there is no true comparison that can be made to show the financial success or failure of these crowdfunding campaigns. Offering an unbiased comparison between Comicsgate publications against their more established competitors is impossible.
The second challenge is the lack of brand loyalty to Comicsgate creations; however, this is a problem that is being addressed daily through social media platforms. Richard Meyer’s Jawbreakers: Lost Souls managed to raise an incredible amount of money in a short amount of time. What makes this even more impressive is that his marketing campaign was limited to word of mouth.
I have friends that have contributed to other crowdfunding campaigns, and unfortunately never received their product. Warily, I supported this initial campaign and shared my support on Twitter. Within minutes, Richard Meyer, Jon Malin, and Brett Smith reached out and thanked me for my support of their project. In a collective 3 seconds of work, these three gentlemen managed to create a sense of brand loyalty. That brand loyalty convinced me to support Ethan Van Sciver’s Cyberfrog: Blood Honey. Van Sciver’s social media presence in turn prompted me to support Mike Miller’s Lonestar: Heart of the Hero, and Meyer’s second project Iron Sights.
The biggest challenge facing Comicsgate will potentially be the most difficult to master: customer satisfaction. Meyer’s first book is currently reaching backers, and some roasting will certainly come of it due to the nature of Meyer’s own social media presence. But as customers receive their products, they will decide if the high price tag was justified by the product received. How Comicsgate creators respond to those customers will be the true test of this new franchise.
Every customer complaint will be a chance at performing service recovery; trying to make things right by the customer is the best way to ensure repeat business. There is old wisdom that says: “if you were made of gold, you will find someone that only likes silver.” Service recovery involves clearing up a confusion, explaining some misconception, or clarifying an error. Other times it does come down to understanding that some people only like silver, but that is the nature of customer service. Comicsgate is wholly untested.
Comicsgate has the opportunity to show us that not all heroes wear capes, some spend countless hours livestreaming on YouTube talking about frogs. Others hold drawing contests, or simply cough into the microphone in the middle of a dad joke. They will need to console people whose heroes have been mutilated by creators that forgot that with great power comes great responsibility. Make the fans happy, don’t get big egos, and don’t engage in the divisive behavior that many pros we’ve exposed here on Bleeding Fool have done.
Comicsgate has some problems ahead, some people will prefer copper after all.