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Comics Meet Micro-targeting


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Dollar BillAbout an hour ago, the first part of this article was posted dealing with a broad overview about women and their interest or lack of in reading comic books.  I laid out observations about some of the issues plaguing the industry but the one I really want to focus on is demographics and micro-targeting.

If you work for a publisher I want you to ask these questions:

  • The average age, gender, income, education, ethnicity of my readers are?
  • My readers live in ____?
  • My readers also like to purchase ____?
  • My readers also read ____?

Now ask those questions for each title you sell.

I’m sure a lot of you answered “I don’t know.”  There’s nothing to be embarrassed about because what I’m about to reveal and walk you through is somewhat complicated and at times scary shit.

I work in politics.  Based on certain information (age, gender, income, education, etc.) I can figure out if you’re likely to vote, vote for my candidate, support my cause, donate money.  We have it targeting and micro-targeting down to a science and here’s how we do it.

Information is Power

If you don’t believe the above statement, stop reading now, because you will fundamentally disagree with my point and my pitch.  In Democratic politics we have basically two major databases, VAN (Voter Action Network) and Catalist (a data warehouse).  VAN is the first stop and what we mostly use.  It has the voting history of most voters in America.  I can look you up and tell you when you’ve voted, what primaries, and with a little bit of information and looking at your history I can predict how likely you’re going to vote.  Catalist is a data warehouse.  Imagine taking that information from VAN but combining it with purchasing data, demographic data, whatever you’re willing or unknowingly give.

Through those two databases and a little leg work models can be created to figure out who supports candidates and causes and the likelihood of individuals to vote.  Through that information I can then target accordingly.  If I know men you are part of the NRA, drive pick up trucks and read Maxim are unlikely to vote for my candidate, I won’t spend money to court them.  Also, if a group is more than likely to vote for my candidate I’d seek those individuals out and target information to them.

The question the comic industry needs to stop and ask is not who do I want to target, but who is currently reading?  The above is a simplified version of what occurs, but I can predict elections down to percentage points.  Imagine the power of the above for marketing comics?

The Pitch

The Democratic and Republican parties have something of what I’m about to describe.  There’s numerous parts to this and I’ve laid it out to some with rather close minded responses.

1) National Database – Someone needs to do it.  A database that goes from the publishing level down to the store and blog level.  Data can be appended and a good idea of who is purchasing can be truly known.  Data can be walled off, but general data/demographics would be made so that everyone can gain.

People like telling you about themselves.  Through questionnaires or even appending the data through purchases you’ll know you is buying what.  All it takes is an email address to start believe it or not.  When following up asking for an email address with a survey, online I got high 70′s to low 80′s conversion to filling out the form, with pretty personal questions.

2) Universal platform – Imagine a national platform.  A national database of comics.  A website in a box.  All tied into the above database.  The proposed would tie in weekly releases, sales, stock management, ordering, bloggers, website capabilities, and most importantly ways to capture data.  Blogs would have community tools, stores would have stock management and websites, and all of that data would trickle up eventually to the publishers.  Better targeting, printing and shipping would occur since the data is real time and real customers.

Those two items can be implemented tomorrow.  But the above is just the tease.  I’m not about to lay it all out there for you.  The bells and whistles are held close to my chest, but hopefully you get the idea.

Imagine knowing who buys your comic and where those people really live.  You can better advertise, send artists and writers to events, schedule promotions.  As publishers you’d be able to grow your business and sales intelligently.  Stores would be able to use the information and tools to better keep in touch with customers, find new ones and easily promote themselves.

A win – win situation for all.

When I described the above to a few folks I’ve been told “It’s been tried before” or “it’s too complicated.”  The response to that is bullshit.  It may have been tried, but who lead the cause, who laid out the vision.  If you can get entire parties to subscribe to versions of the above, any industry can do it.  It’s just who wants to opt-in and gain and who wants to sit on the sidelines.

What is needed

It all comes down to vision and leadership.  Instead of bitching about sinking sales and what genders may or may not be reading, we as a whole should figure out who is reading and how to reach more people like them.  Now, who wants to take up the cause and lead?

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Author:Brett Schenker

Brett is a political consultant who resides in Arlington, VA. He grew up in Cleveland, OH and Buffalo, NY and attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in Political Science. Since then Brett has made his mark on politics working in various positions such as a Legislative Staffer for the Erie County Legislature, Special Assistant for Senator John Kerry, as the Database Administrator for Forward Together PAC, Deputy Internet Director for Chris Dodd for President, and Internet/Database Director for Virginians for Brian Moran, and Email Deliverability Czar for Salsa Labs. In 2007 Brett formed 5B Consulting providing his expertise on database solutions, new media and email strategy. He's a long time geek, reading comics since he was a child and learning to spell his name on an Atari 800. When he's not working, he's reading comics, playing video games and relaxing with a nice cup of tea. You can follow him on Twitter @bhschenker

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