On Business: The Comic Con

By | Monday, December 11, 2017 1 comment
One of the bigger news items in comics from the tail end of last week was that Comic-Con International in San Diego had won a trademark suit against Salt Lake City Comic Con over the name "Comic Con." The ruling is expected to be appealed, but at the moment, it appears the law of the land is that San Diego has the one and only Comic Con. I didn't follow the proceedings at all, and only just scanned some of the documentation after the fact, so I don't know the specific arguments they used. However, I can say anecdotally at least that CCI seemed seriously in danger of seeing "Comic Con" as useless a brand as "Kleenex" or "Xerox."

Kleenex and Xerox are prime cases for what happens when you don't monitor (and enforce) your brand very closely. Both of those are, of course, brand names, but the names themselves became so over-used and misapplied so often without correction that the companies have all but lost those brands. How many people, after all, ask for "Kleenex" after they sneeze instead of a "facial tissue"? I'm pretty sure almost no one cares what brand of tissue they're given to keep from having to wipe their nose on their sleeve, but they say "Kleenex" anyway. As far as they're concerned, "Kleenex" is the generic (and shorter) term for "facial tissue."

Likewise, few people ask for a photocopy of a document; instead they ask for a Xerox. They've only got about 15-16% of the market share when it comes to photocopiers, but people continue to use "Xerox" as a shortened form of "photocopy" because the company did a poor job of policing the name's usage. I suspect they thought it was cool, in fact, that they were so dominant in the market that their name literally became a synonym for the product. Of course, the down side to that is that people o longer thought of "Xerox" as a specific brand -- the company lost brand loyalty. People saw any photocopy as coming from a Xerox, regardless of how good or bad the quality was. And that's not a good place to be as a brand, when low-tier competitors can bring your name down just by putting out their crappy alternative.

"Comic Con" was well on its way to that direction, as far as I could see. While comics and pop culture fans generally seemed to understand that "Comic Con" means a specific show at a specific location at a specific time, everyone I talked to outside of comics would use "Comic Con" for every convention. They would talk of "Chicago Comic Con" or "Cleveland Comic Con" or "Peoria Comic Con" regardless of what the name of the show actually was.

Further, they seemed to have no mental distinction between them. As if they were all part of one big event, and the only difference between one and the next was location. The Arlington Heights Library FanCon is seen in the same light at SPX which is seen in the same light as any of the Wizard shows. Obviously, they're all run by different groups with different agendas but, as far as most people are concerned, they're all the same.

I'm sure some of that stems from ignorance. Most people haven't been to CCI to compare it to show put on by their local library. They probably haven't even been to one of the larger "local" shows to make any comparisons there either. All they know is that it's a convention with comics and comic-related stuff, so it must be Comic Con. Without CCI putting their foot down here, I think there would continue to be legitimate confusion over how these shows relate to one another (or don't) and I can easily imagine witness testimony from someone expecting to see some version of the San Diego show that they saw about on the news, only to discover it's a considerably smaller show in one of the County Fairgrounds buildings and the biggest media guest is some guy who was an extra on one episode of Happy Days.

Whether or not the attorneys actually argued that point, I don't know, but I can't imagine it would've been difficult to approach it from that direction.
Newer Post Older Post Home


Jim McClain said...

Those horses have already left the barn. Every con is Comic Con now. That's out of their control.