This past weekend, thousands attended Complex’s second annual ComplexCon at the Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach. Saturday and Sunday were full of brand exhibits, performances, and conversations featuring athletes, artists, industry vets and influencers.
I was initially interested in Complexcon because I knew some of my favorite brands would be there (approaching my mid-20’s, I’m also tryna stay hip 😂). I was excited to attend some of the Complex Conversations like “We in Here: Injecting the Culture into Hollywood” featuring Charles D. King, Michael B. Jordan (hey boo😍) and Gina Rodriguez, and “Leading Ladies” featuring Chelsea Handler, Dasha Polanco, Lena Waithe and Moj Mahdara.
I bought a ticket for Saturday entry at $50 plus fees. Complex also offered a weekend pass for $90 and VIP entry for the weekend for $400 plus fees.
[+] Tons of people! After getting my wristband, I waited in line 30-minutes to go through security and enter the convention center. It got harder and harder to navigate the space based on how many people continued to arrive throughout the day. One of the first things I saw when I entered was this indoor skatepark. Also my plans changed quickly , as the panels were already sold out! 😬
[+] So many Vans, so many Yeezys! At some points during the day I’d look around and it felt like everyone was wearing the same style apparel and kicks. I’d estimate that most attendees were in their mid-twenties, recent college graduates, which makes sense because of the moderately expensive ticket to get in. I did see some children attending with their parents, which surprised me. How does a ten year old convince his or her parents that they need to attend Complexcon? My mom certainly wouldn’t approve…
Observing the kinds of people that were in attendance made me think about not only the type of consumer that brands were hoping to market towards, but also others’ ultimate motivations to attend Complexcon in the first place.
At almost every booth, there was an element of social, whether that was a cool light display people could take pictures in front of, a photo booth, or boomerangs and gifs people could upload to their own social media accounts.
For example, attendees could get a panoramic video taken on the Atlanta couch, inspired by the popular FX series. This shows not only the importance of social, but also how brands are providing environments in which people can take photos. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win for both consumer and brand. People get a cool photo they can post on social media, and when they do, it’s definitely an opportunity for the brand to build awareness.
💻 TECH 💻
With increasingly blurred lines between tech, media, fashion, art and other industries, it was evident that every industry was looking for unique ways to innovate and also integrate.
For example, the Intel exhibit featured a virtual reality experience and photo booth in partnership with Linkin Park and LA artist McFlyy. This was one of the first exhibits I saw, and initially I have to admit, I didn’t know what the heck it was. Who ever associates a software company with a rock band and artist? Through the Pikazo app, Intel’s photo booth experience would transform your selfie into a work of art. It was definitely an exhibit that caught-on not only because of its innovation, but also integration and blending of music, art and tech.
💡SMALL BRANDS | BIG OPPORTUNITY💡
Complexcon wasn’t just for the big shot brands like Nike, Adidas and Supreme. There was opportunity for smaller companies to show out as well. With that said, there was definitely more pressure on the smaller brands to be unique in their activations and displays in order to gain attention.
Magnolia Park, a local shop out of Burbank that specializes in streetwear was able to draw consumers through its “Mag Drop,” Machine. You could pay five dollars for a chance to win some highly sought after kicks — just one example of a smaller brand setting itself apart from others, and making its booth, though small, a dope experience!
This Is A Love Song, a women’s lingerie, swimwear and activewear brand (which I had never even heard of), had one of the best Instagram-worthy displays of the weekend. 🙌🙌🙌
Small brands that didn’t have a interactive element to their booth were BORING – and frankly missed out on a huge opportunity to gain interest, social following and potential consumers.
Would you ever associate Complexcon with toothpaste? Likely not, but PRNCPLS, a natural charcoal toothpaste brand was in attendance. Because the company started less than two years ago and isn’t as well known, they had to do more to attract attention of visitors than some of the bigger brands (Nike, Adidas, Supreme). Not only did they offer free samples, but they also had a boomerang photo experience for attendees. PRNCPLS turned out to be one of my favorite booths and they definitely capitalized on the exposure they received from Complexcon. Not to mention, I’ve been using their samples all week and LOVE the product!!!
👟 NIKE VS. ADIDAS 👟
THE RIVALRY IS REAL
There was a huge presence of sneaker brands including Asics, K-Swiss, Reebok and Puma over the weekend. But as you can imagine, Nike and Adidas had two of the largest pop up shops in the middle of the convention center, and coincidently right across from each other. Lines to enter both experiences had to be managed by security and remained long throughout the day. Despite, both brands being two of my favorites, I wasn’t able to get inside, though I could hear my good friend Jarick Walker on the mic at Nike, and they’re one of our biggest clients. 🤔😆
I later learned that people were waiting in line at Nike to customize their own Air Force 1, as Nike celebrated the anniversary of the classic shoe.
Much of the hype at the Adidas exhibit was due to the release of shoes in collaboration with Pharrell & Pusha T.
When I walked past the Adidas exhibit, Pharrell and Travis Barker were overlooking the arena. There was definitely a ton of energy and three stripe pride. If you can believe it, a few expletives were even sent Nike’s way. Adidas was definitely going all out at Complexcon; in addition to this exhibit, they a booth in partnership with Foot Locker.
💭 FINAL THOUGHTS 💭
I left Complexcon astounded by the amount of money that not only went into the event, but was also spent by consumers attending. With brands strategically dropping product throughout the weekend, consumers were not only paying an entrance fee to get in, but on top of that, paying for highly anticipated products as well.
Limited Edition product and authenticity goes a long way with this consumer base. Most likely a key reason why Adidas just passed Jordan, as the Jumpman has oversaturated the market with clones of its classics. When one guy was bragging to others on how he had gotten the last shoe at Undefeated’s booth, chaos ensued.
If consumers can get hands on product that’s exclusive, they’ll likely purchase, possibly for their own use, but also to resell.
Complexcon gave brands access to thousands of likeminded individuals interested in similar product, brands, music and experiences, making it a win-win for both consumer and brand.
On the flip side, Complexcon also gave consumers access to hundreds of brands, the opportunity to sample product and participate in fun activations and experiences. There was also food and drink for purchase… Definitely appreciated the two Henny bars. #hennythingispossible 😜😜😜
While at the end of the day, most brands were showcasing their products, I found the actual brand activations the most valuable parts of my Complexcon experience. And despite Complexcon being held nearly an hour south of Los Angeles, expensive, overly crowded and chaotic, it’s been brilliantly positioned as “the cool thing to do.” That in itself will carry a lot of weight as Complexcon continues to evolve.