Ever been? Its yearly influence is hard to ignore: The expo couples marketers with storytellers from across the globe, and it showcases brands that are increasingly reliant on those stories to express their identity. Kevin Spacey gave a keynote speech last year and told our own Ted Karczewski how the industry affects show business.
Most conventions yield turnouts that appear homogeneous; you can identify attendees whether or not the event involves “cosplay.” But up close, the event’s audience targeting shows a much bigger mix (like I said, the Francis Underwood was there).
In my last post, I said content needs to practice individualism; unless your article is focused on someone, it won’t inspire anyone—something electric carmaker Tesla once grappled with as a new business with no single buyer in mind. My confidence in that advice was tested recently when I found myself at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), an event that, like CMWorld, carries enormous appeal to customers who actually have several agendas for their experience. So, opposite a tech start-up’s need for one audience, consider this tech giant‘s success across several, and what it means to you when writing for corporations that are reaching out to more than one set of interests.
PAX is one of the largest public festivals out there for gaming, from computer to tabletop. And having been unaware that one of its branches was local, I hadn’t planned to go.
Nonetheless, the day for which I landed a ticket got me to consider a weekend pass next year: cards you once collected in summer camp, sequels to games you played when they first came out, costumes from characters you didn’t know existed, and even new products whose demos are just too pretty not to watch for a few minutes. An informal Super Smash Brothers tournament broke out in an event room, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t compete.
While walking past the Halo 5 booth I wondered how an event like this had managed to sell someone like me, who didn’t even know about it until two days prior. It wasn’t until a giant robot samurai rounded the corner that I remembered my first post in this series: It’s the same way your story goes beyond the brand itself.
Penny Arcade isn’t selling a product—it’s selling an idea, one that takes shape in much the same way a blog strives to reflect a lifestyle: through the visitors themselves. In doing so, the brand can attract people who attend for unique reasons but leave with the same loyalty to the experience.
“PAX is a fantastic opportunity to be swept up in the culture,” said Brian Colby, 3D animator and an exhibitor at the expo. “Though developers can span from one independent artist all the way to hundreds, each team has the common interest of creating their fan base.”
Teams in the hundreds can set a great example for storytellers at large businesses, especially if they’re speaking to more than one demographic. Let your readers internalize your content before committing to a strategy. If you reference a mainstream product regularly, pose your calls to action as questions: What do they need it for? Are they bringing it anywhere? Is it a family affair? Casual dialogue doesn’t give you reviews, but it does give you the opportunity to map similarities in people whose “investments” don’t stop after ordering the item or, for me, buying the ticket. Ultimately, just because the brand is involved with an audience targeting many things, that doesn’t mean you can’t write for the culture they all belong to—even if they don’t realize it until you create it.
At the beginning of this series, I suggested that even the wealthiest corporations can use ideas to feel human again. Like start-ups pursuing brand integrity, this is step one. Shows such as PAX are testaments to the incredible culture hidden in a varied audience. Against this backdrop, big-brand journalists don’t have to forgo identity just because their readers don’t all “play” the same way.