The Bonfire Agency: Authentic Fan Marketing

At a convention earlier this year, I got to sit down with Ed Catto for a few minutes and talk to him about the Bonfire Agency, a marketing organization he co-founded.

Bonfire Agency logo

Bonfire wants to help brands reach fans in an authentic way, tapping into fan-to-fan communication and communities without talking down to them. Many companies have segmented marking budgets, with a portion targeted to reach a particular culture (such as Hispanic) or demographic (such as teens). By providing an avenue to reach fans as though it was another market segment, Bonfire hopes to make it easier for companies and brands to speak to fans with respect and avoid bad word of mouth. To that goal, they have three major efforts.

1) Comics United. This advertising network will make it easier for companies to reach dedicated fans by providing combined ad-page buying, putting one advertisement into publications from multiple publishers. Those on board so far are Dark Horse, IDW, Aspen, Boom! Studios, Dynamite, and Top Cow. By providing one contact point, it becomes easier for mass market clients (such as video game makers or soft drink companies) to make an ad buy that reaches the number of eyes they expect in combined circulation.

Plans for a second phase include selling ads not only in print but across the publishers’ websites. Bonfire was written up in Publishers Weekly in August for this effort, and that article has more details.

2) Store Corps. This outreach will connect various direct market stores to provide venues for sampling events or promotions connected to new movies or product launches. Bonfire aims to make it easy to reach passionate consumers in a credible way, in keeping with the comic shop environment and in ways that affect the retailer positively (without disrupting sales or taking too much effort). In order to get this going, they need most of the top 40 markets in the pipeline, so this effort is further out. It’ll start in 2012, ideally, depending on the right client.

3) Fan Pan. The goal here is to create a focus group/research panel that can be used for online testing of product announcements and the like, gathering reaction to new efforts. They’re planning to have about 350 people that can rotate in and out to give opinions in return for compensation or exclusive products. Recruitment for that is planned to start in January.

So far, the Bonfire Agency has also created a 16-page comic to promote and benefit Robin Hood, a New York City-based charity to fight poverty through food, housing, and job-training programs. They hired artists to provide pinups and background art for the book, which updated donors and other interested parties with organization statistics and mission statements.

Bonfire is also working with Ghost Light Films to promote A Never-Ending Battle, an upcoming PBS documentary that “will explore the American art form of the comic book superhero and its complex interrelation with American culture over the last 75 years [and] how the evolution of the costumed crusader reflects our social, political and cultural history.”


2 Responses to “The Bonfire Agency: Authentic Fan Marketing”

  1. More on Ads in Comics From an Experienced Source: Interview With Kris Longo » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] speak with Kris Longo. He’s currently with the Bonfire Agency, a marketing company aiming to connect companies with fans. (They were the ones behind the CBLDF laptop case ad, for example.) Before Kris joined Bonfire, he [...]

  2. Bonfire Agency Recruiting for Consumer Focus Panel » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] is now seeking comic fans to join their marketing advisory panel. The “FanPan”, first announced last year, is intended to provide consumer input to brands interested in marketing to such fans, researching [...]

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