Pop culture fanatics all gather at McCormick Place for a fun-filled weekend of celebrity guests, crazy costumes, and the latest and greatest in entertainment. In summer of 2011 I wrote about my inaugural attendance at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. After going (and loving it), I decided to branch out and try another of Chicago’s comic book conventions: Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, also known as C2E2 in spring of 2012.

I was warned that the convention was small and not terribly impressive, but I wanted to go anyway.

Though if C2E2 wasn’t impressive last year, that certainly was not the case this year. And I enjoyed C2E2 2012 much more than I enjoyed Wizard World 2011. I am not alone in my feelings.

So how has C2E2 managed to become a must-visit when there’s already a giant convention in August? Let’s discuss…

captain america auction
Costumes and props from the film “Captain America: The First Avenger” were auctioned off at C2E2 – talk about exclusive!

Exclusive Attendees

While many of the same vendors and artists visit both comic conventions, C2E2 has bragging rights for hosting the two most popular comic book publishers: Marvel and DC. Publishers use conventions to announce new series and promote upcoming movies or TV shows. Considering the amount of content that comes from Marvel or DC, C2E2 has a major leg up on delivering breaking news.

Wide Variety of Interests

C2E2 had something for everyone. If you were interested in comics, anime, fantasy, or mustaches, there was a booth or vendor for you to visit. All facets of nerdom were proudly represented.

Better Organization

c2e2 show floor vendors
The carpet! The clearly-marked signs! Oh, what luxury!

Panels, screenings, and Q & A sessions with celebrities are the highlights of a convention and lots of people will show up just to attend these break-off sessions. Wizard World completely dropped the ball at making nice, organized lines at their convention, but C2E2 completely succeeded. With less confusion and tension, the atmosphere of C2E2 was much more relaxed.

Simple Comforts

Carpet. C2E2 had carpet. Anyone can attest that walking around for hours will take a toll on your legs and feet. But by adding carpet, the entire experience will be (and was) much more comfortable. It made me linger at booths. It wasn’t a pain to get up and down to look at merchandise. And I listened to a DC employee’s entire pitch about their new “Before Watchmen” comic book series** because they had the plushest carpet in the entire room.

There were also plenty of tables for tired attendees to take a break.

buttons koozies lip balm
The free swag at the Yelp table gained them tons of new email signups!

Awesome Giveaways

First of all, Wizard World tickets are wristbands. C2E2 tickets are full-color badges attached to lanyards. These badges don’t just look cooler, but they are easier to display as a keepsake. This makes them collectable and far more memorable tickets.

Second, one of the best things about C2E2 was that promotional products were everywhere. From giant booths like Marvel and DC to the smallest table at the back of Artist Alley, lots of people were giving away logoed freebies like pens, buttons, and bookmarks.

These promo items served as great icebreakers, gave the vendors an initial chance to convert interest into a sale, put a vendor’s logo into potential customers’ homes, and act as great mementos for convention attendees. Basically, they create the ultimate win-win situation.

After coming home with two tote bags full of promotional comics, buttons, and other miscellaneous items, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back at C2E2 next year.

There are ways to stand out in a niche already dominated by a huge brand. Just follow these business takeaways from C2E2:

spider-bubba saves the day
Spider-Bubba is pulling for C2E2’s success!
  • Your product may be similar to others, but make sure that it offers a feature that no other product has. The unique feature will get your customers in the door; the full package will make them stay.
  • Obvious, but love your customers. Anticipate all of their needs: would couches be a nice addition to your brick and mortar location? Would a pop-up window for customer service be welcomed on your website?
  • Continually expand your product offerings. Once you’ve established a customer base, challenge yourself to come up with other services to attract new business and appease all potential clients.
  • Hand out awesome promotional items. There’s no better way to market your business than with a tangible product. People love free stuff.

If C2E2 continues on this level of excellence, then I imagine it will someday surpass Wizard World as the best comic convention in Chicago.

**I don’t like Watchmen, so this is a seriously impressive feat.


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