• Marketers from brands like Nike, Puma, K-Swiss, Intel, Buchanan's and Authentic Brands Group join AListDaily to explain how they reached consumers at ComplexCon.
  • Founded by Complex Networks founder Marc Ecko, the two-day, Los Angeles-based consumer trade show brings retail, music, art and fashion all into one.

ComplexCon returned to Los Angeles for the second consecutive year with a two-day consumer show that mashed a mall, hip-hop festival and art and fashion show all into one.

The jam-packed floors of the Long Beach Convention Center served as a convergence for bleeding-edge and mainstream culture, music, fashion, entertainment, sports and art, giving brands and marketers alike a unique playground to experiment with a diverse core group of trend-conscious consumers. Part commerce, conference and concert, ComplexCon was grounds for consumers to congregate and swoop exclusive drops for their own collection or to resell later.

“If you want to be a part of culture and see what’s going on with millennials, this is the place to be,” Patrick Buchanan, global marketing director at K-Swiss, told AListDaily. “We’re all about the next generation of young hustlers and go-getters—and here is where all those people are. It’s inspiring to be a part of this.”

Buchanan said that ComplexCon, founded by Complex Networks founder Marc Ecko, is different from traditional trade shows because it’s designed for the consumers rather than industry executives. The show also taps into a demanding market that is somewhat underserved.

“Entrepreneurs like these attendees are the new heroes, and we fully support that,” Buchanan said. “The sneaker culture is a huge imprint on popular culture. It’s a cool venue for a brand like us to show up and share what we’re working on, launch something new and reach fans in exciting ways.”

Buchanan said the event allowed his team to re-introduce the popular ‘90s brand with those who might be lost in today’s millennial mindshare. K-Swiss tapped into the entrepreneurial zeal of the show by debuting a signature sneaker with businessman Gary Vaynerchuk as part of their brand campaign “Generation K.” Buchanan also used the forum to further the company’s content marketing efforts by recording episodes of their podcast “CEOs Wear Sneakers.”

Consumers at ComplexCon, who all appeared as though they were under the age of 35 and came from all walks of life, seemingly were eating up all of the activations as they shopped shoulder to shoulder. Much like they do for shoe drops, consumers slept outside the night before the show opened its doors and swarmed in before doors were officially open Saturday morning. Lifestyle and retail store Undefeated may have very well taken its first ever loss when an army of attendees forced the brand to shut down its space due to safety concerns. Demand for some brands was that high.

Nike tapped into that culture and craze by celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Air Force Ones with a workshop that put the creativity keys in the hands of the consumer. Sneaker aficionados were able to customize the classic white sneaker on the spot with an array of options provided by Nike for their own one-of-one shoe.

“Consumers are really interested in being the designers for their own footwear more than ever. A workshop like this is unique—the Air Force One becomes the canvas,” Jenna Golden, Nike’s director of North American communications, told AListDaily. “The energy level was great within our space. We focused our marketing on the young consumer to bring the legacy of Nike and the Air Force Ones to life.”

Nike also reached shoefiends outside of ComplexCon through its Nike SNKRS App by leveraging the camera experience to allow fans to purchase one of the five shoes that were dropped at the show.

“We wanted to celebrate the culture of sneakers, and ComplexCon is the perfect forum to do that,” Golden said. “We took it to a next level this year.”

ComplexCon certainly was not short on star power. A small sample of the who’s who that attended the show to speak at panels, partake in brand activations or surprise fans with impromptu performances included Kendrick Lamar, Kobe Bryant, Pharrell, Usher, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Migos, Ludacris, Steve Aoki, Michael B. Jordan and Jaden Smith. Dozens from rap royalty, including DJ Khaled, Gucci Mane and N.E.R.D., headlined the live music portion of the festival.

J Balvin, owner of the global hit song “Mi Gente,” was one of the many artists on hand furthering ongoing ambassadorships with brands. The musician partnered with whisky-maker Buchanan’s for an airline-and-terminal inspired product-and-clothing activation.

“Buchanan’s and our team are making a real movement right now with fashion collaborations,” J Balvin told AListDaily as fans purchased Kappa and MCM products adorned with his name. “Everything is for the culture . . . I just want people to feel cool and comfortable and be unique.”

The collaboration furthered Buchanan’s “Es Nuestro Momento” (It’s Our Moment) marketing campaign with the Colombian artist.

“Our space was a perfect opportunity to spotlight up-and-coming Latino designers and artists and support Jose [Balvin] too,” Tara King, senior brand manager at Diageo, the parent company of Buchanan’s, told AListDaily. “For Buchanan’s, our positioning is staying true to our cultural roots. We’re natively a Hispanic and Latino brand and have always resonated with that consumer group. Jose supports us, and we support him with a lot of co-branded products. We’re always aligned together, and ComplexCon is a great place to bring that to a mainstream audience.”

The convention was not only limited to big box brands. In addition to Adidas, Guess, Ugg, G-Star Raw, Urban Outfitters, PacSun and New Era, emerging marques like the Big Baller Brand, Billionaire Boys Club, The Hundreds and countless other vendors welcomed new and returning fans to their spaces. The likes of Giphy, Shopify, McDonald’s, Intel, Postmates and eBay were some of the exhibitors powering brand experiences more than products.

Rajeev Puran, Intel’s director of client VR business development and strategic partnerships, told AListDaily that ComplexCon served as a great place for them to share stories of how their technology powers innovation used by artists and fashion companies.

Intel furthered its brand storytelling by immersing attendees in the world of Linkin Park through One More Light, a new VR experience from Spatialand and Intel.

“We go through dynamic shifts—there is going to be needs to use tech in new ways that’s never been thought of before in music, art and lifestyle,” Puran said. “Intel’s tech sits inside of those things. From a branding perspective, once we market to passing consumers, it then starts to click that ‘Intel is an ingredient company.’ We’re trying to show it’s not about nerdy tech, but getting out there and reaching a customer base that normally wouldn’t know about Intel, or what we do.”

Ariana Angrisani, senior marketing manager for Authentic Brands Group, told AListDaily that ABG brought brands like Airwalk, Vision Street Wear and Tretorn because they wanted to reach a consumer who was in the market for something limited.

Tretorn looked to accomplish that by debuting 100 pairs of “Candy Cane,” the first-ever footwear collection by André 3000.

“In this day and age there is so much going on in the sneaker world—it’s a sensory overload. There’s a lot going on at ComplexCon, too, but you have a niche audience with a purpose and a focus that you could be reaching,” said Angrisani. “The biggest way to do that is with collaborations and trying to give consumers something new and different.”

Angrisani said the show is not about sales and key performance indicators for ABG but more about building awareness and relationships with consumers within the specific demographic.

Allison Giorgio, Puma’s vice president of marketing, shared the same sentiment as the brand announced a creative collaboration with Big Sean celebrating the 50th anniversary of Puma Suede.

“It’s a good opportunity for our brand to not only provide great products, but also give back to the community,” Giorgio told AListDaily.

Puma marketed the core group at ComplexCon by offering six fans contracts to separately work with the brand moving forward in various creative verticals.

“We try to have a mix of great brand partners and product that attracts consumers, and offer them the opportunity to lend their talent back to us,” said Giorgio. “As a brand, we’re looking to resonate with millennials.”