11.02.2018

Brand Events as the Campfire for Passionate Fan Communities

by Rich Gallagher

As this year’s New York Comic Con drew to a close, we produced an event on behalf of The Kraken Rum, to fete the star of their cinematic new TV ad campaign, Tom Payne. You may also know him as Jesus from AMC’s The Walking Dead.

With an emphasis on epic storytelling and high campaign production values, the Kraken brand is leaning in to its connection with fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and comics. So an authentic, genuine connection to this discerning fan base is a must. As I’ve noted before in our recent survey, we speak fluent nerd, so of course our team was up to the task.

 

A PERFECT STORM

Serendipitously, the season premiere of The Walking Dead aired Sunday night, only hours after Comic Con closed its doors. So we had a heavy concentration of the most passionate, loyal fans of the series converging on the Javits Center, our star in town to do press for the show, and some serious appointment television set for that evening.

A few days prior, we worked with Tom to drop an Instagram story, inviting a few of his 850,000 followers to join him in NYC and enjoy a few cocktails featuring The Kraken Rum.

ALONE TOGETHER

Fandom runs across gender, age, and racial lines so it was satisfying to see the diverse group of winners.

It was particularly fascinating to watch them *watch* the show. Even though one of the stars was mere feet away, they all took their seats and a hush filled the room as the last commercial break ended and the premiere cold opened. And every single fan had their phone squarely in front of them – most holding it with two hands just below their eyeline as they watched.

SPOILER ALERT

Catching these episodes live allows today’s fan to participate in the conversation in realtime, and most importantly, avoid spoilers. Of course, they ran over during the commercial breaks to snap a quick selfie with their favorite pacifist ninja zombie killer.

Actor Tom Payne and fans watch the season premiere of The Walking Dead at the Kraken Rum Heroes and Villains Happy Hour on October 7, 2018 at Versa in New York City.

YOU CAN’T FAKE SINCERITY

The beauty of a weekend multimedia event like this is the way it facilitates an authentic connection between the brand and fans. The brand had a great opportunity to put the star of its campaign in the same room with some of his biggest fans, and it was a pleasure to help make it all come together. And we got to bring the press along for the ride, as an added bonus.

THE ESSENTIALS

This event presented a lot of great tools to work with. Regardless of what we have to start with, successful fan events rely on a few key disciplines:

  • Know the audience; love the audience – spend some time learning about what they do, why they gather over a particular passion point, and appreciate what it is they love about their fandom. Comics readers, sports fans, scrapbookers… everyone has a thing. Having a diverse team with varied interests can really help shorten the learning curve here.

  • Add value to the experience – what can the brand contribute that would otherwise be unobtainable? Not all brands have access to a TV star, but if you can put foodies into their dream kitchen, or facilitate a conversation between kids and a toy designer, you make a lasting impression, and fans for life.

  • Sweat the details – the difference between a typical brand event and a truly memorable fan experience are the subtle, often forgotten bits in the execution. Menu, signage, staff wardrobe, even the napkins are part of the show. For this event, we took over an outdoor space at a midtown hotel bar, and even instructed the bartenders on how to mix signature Kraken Rum cocktails.

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 07: Bottles of Kraken Black Spiced Rum is seen on display as Actor Tom Payne and fans watch the season premiere of The Walking Dead at the Kraken Rum Heroes and Villains Happy Hour on October 7, 2018 at Versa in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Kraken Rum)