Marvel Attempts to Bribe Digital Comic Readers Into Stores

Marvel today officially announced a coupon offer for digital comic customers. From the press release:

Kick off the New Year by discovering the world of the Marvel Comics app and receiving a $5.00 coupon for your local comic store! That’s right, if you purchase* a comic on the Marvel Comics app on January 7th, between 12:01am EST and 11:59pm EST, you will be e-mailed a coupon (on January 8th)** valued at five dollars to be used for any Marvel comics purchase at your local comic store. Please note that only one coupon is available per user during this limited-time offer and may only be redeemed at select comic shops.***

Wow, THREE footnotes for the offer.

The first clarifies that you have to be logged in with a Marvel account, which means registration through “the ‘My Comics’ section of the Marvel Comics app or at Marvel.com”. (I presume this is different from a standard comiXology account, although I don’t know how or why.) The second states that the coupon expires on February 6, so it’s only good for a month, which seems a reasonable amount of time.

The third is the one that trips me up. How do I know that any shops in my town are participating? Given how many retailers are justifiably angry about being forced to advertise digital to their customers, I’m not sure how many have signed on for this effort. The announcement states: “***Fans: The e-mail containing your coupon will also include a link to help you find the closest qualifying store(s)”, so you don’t know if you’ll be able to easily use the offer without committing to it.

Also interesting: the purchase date is a Saturday. I’d be curious to know if there are any known digital patterns, in terms of when people buy comics online. Is that a low-purchase day, historically, to reduce the risk of this offer, or a high one, to try and get the most customers possible into stores?

While I admire any attempt to experiment, especially if it involves giving people free money, this type of offer ignores the percentage of customers who like one format or the other and want to keep getting what they like. A number of digital readers don’t want print — they don’t want to lug it around or store it. Trying to get them into stores doesn’t address their needs. Instead, it’s a panacea for retailers upset at a publisher who seems to be undercutting them by giving away digital copies of its Ultimates and Season One lines. The goal is to “convert” them to reading comics the “right” (old-fashioned) way. This quote tells the story:

“As we continue to grow the digital comics world, we want to make sure it’s always to the benefit of the medium and our comic shop retail partners,” said Peter Phillips, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Marvel Digital Media Group. “This coupon is a great way for us to let more of our fans know about their local comic store and incentivize them to make the trip there. At the end of the day, our goals in the print and digital mediums are the same—bring more fans to comics.”

Update: After loading the Marvel Comics app on an iPad, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy to take advantage of this offer. I was particularly curious about digital-only comics, because I know Marvel has done some of them in the past, but there’s no indicator I could find as to which, if any, of their available issues fit into that category.

The cheapest single comic is $1.99, with many running much higher, so the coupon savings don’t seem as significant now. I did find an FAQ that clarified that you had to pick a retailer at which to use the coupon before printing it out, and once selected, you couldn’t change it. Still no idea if any of my local retailers are participating, though.

Update 2: John Jakala has written up his experience getting the coupon and finding a local store to redeem it.


5 Responses to “Marvel Attempts to Bribe Digital Comic Readers Into Stores”

  1. ADD Says:

    You and I are the only people who go on the internet on Saturday, Johanna — I checked.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Some days it feels like it. :) Seriously, Saturday is the only day these days I can get to a comic store, so if you’re considering the group of people for whom digital comics are more convenient (because they don’t have a local store, or one they can visit easily), I find Saturday an interesting choice.

  3. James Schee Says:

    I tend to get my comics digitally Wed. evening, as I’m relaxing. (I also pick up random comics after midnight if I’m having a sleepless night)

    This doesn’t interest me as:

    – I have no interest in shopping at a retailer and am tired of the publishers inventing new ways to push me that way. Except for pricing I’m happy reading as I am, I wish publishers would stop trying to change me.

    – Even I wanted to use this at a retailer, I’m sure none of the ones anywhere near my area participate. Plus the catches, only for use on Saturday, etc are just really stupid.

  4. John Jakala Says:

    Johanna, thanks for pointing this out – I was also having trouble finding anything that interested me until I stumbled upon the awkwardly named “Spider-Man and the X-Men Digital Spectacular #1″ which ended up being a pretty good deal at $4.99 for 7 comics: X-Men/Spider-Man #1-4, Uncanny X-Men #123, Marvel Team-Up #4, & X-Men First Class #16.

    I’m curious to find out tomorrow if there are any retailers near me who will honor this coupon!

  5. James Schee Says:

    Interesting thing to note that I haven’t at least seen anyone point out. A lot of books out last week D&D release were cheaper online than in print.

    Biggest was probably Brubaker & Phillips Fatale. Seems Apple wants materials prices to end in .99 and so people selling books at $3.50 had to decide to go either $2.99 or the higher $3.99.

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