Comic Brand-Aid: Crowbar Benson

Today’s volunteer is Sandy of ‘Crowbar Benson‘.

Before we get started, with each Comic Brand-Aid article, we try to offer a practical look at branding and how it relates to comics. Rather than give you a broad explanation of the rationale and vaguely relatable examples, we take a volunteer and offer a critical but honest and constructive look at various components of their comic, site and creative that encompass “the brand”. Hopefully, you can incorporate these real world critiques into improving your brand.

Aspects we’ll review and make recommendations on are: Logo (name/design), Site (design/usability), Banners (design/congruency/probabilities) and Brand Recognition (differentials/memorables). I’d like to point out that I look at these critiques from the viewpoint of trying to BUILD a brand – not maintain it. We’ve got a lot of work to do, so let’s get started!

‘Crowbar Benson’:

logo from site

Crowbar Benson Header from the Website

Logo (name/design):
Pros: The unique simplistic font is great. It’s clean, should be easy enough to recognize and compliments the comic. Very nice. I think the art at the top of the website does a great job of setting up the story of the webcomic.
Cons: Not much to nitpick about here – move along please. 🙂

Less is more and balance is key. Sometimes you get it right. Crowbar Benson is a good example of that.

IMAGE

Site (design/usability):
Pros:
Classic ComicPress navigation.
Cons: Classic ComicPress navigation – not much is changed from the basic ComicPress template. Where the logo and header do a great job of setting up the comic, the rest of the site – including the background fall short. I mention the background because I’d like to challenge Sandy here – the comic strip background has been done before. Obviously Sandy is creative and this is a great opportunity to stretch out of his comfort zone in regards to the overall design of the site. I could argue for both plain or patterned/image backgrounds.

So I will.

By using a plain background, you can help the reader focus on the site. Outside images/creative are distracting. I’ve mentioned ‘banner blindness’ in some of the Webcomic Alliance podcasts – and what I mean by that is you already have a lot competing for the viewers eyes. While a background can be creative, in this instance, I think it’s a distraction.

On the other hand, I think if you incorporated a background – and this is off the top of my head – like the hockey rink lines and circles (tying in Crowbar’s hockey “passion”) it might lend to the viewer’s perception of the brand.

There are a couple of other things that I think are missing from the site. I would add information regarding the story and the artist. Currently on the site, there is a brief paragraph about Sandy and it’s apparent that he’s uncomfortable talking about himself – especially in the third person! But there are a lot of people are interested in the artist and it’s also important to build your personal brand as well. I think it’s important to incorporate some story information on the site because it helps viewers invest themselves into the comic – and inherently, your brand.

Banners (design/congruency/probabilities):
*Sandy provided me these banners with the explanation “I don’t really have any banners as such that people can download and put up on their site, but I do have some PW ads that I’ve kind of used in that role”
Pros:
While all the banners are simple, with logo and character(s) – the larger sizes set up the comic pretty well. The art is clean on all of them.
Cons: While the larger banners set up the comic the smaller banners are very non-descript and frankly not very engaging. I may not be completely privy to the exact context these were used in, but there is no branding at all. I’d be interested to know how they did.

I’d hate to pick on the smaller banners, but they serve as a great opportunity to point out some issues that apply to many comics and even retail advertisers banners (that have marketing departments and designers on staff). While your banner should be focused like a laser towards getting a click right then and there – you cannot discount or dismiss the value of building your brand for the future click as well. What I mean by that is that you may not get a click this time – and that may be for many reasons outside of whether your banner is effective enough – but if you have built an ad that is engaging enough to compel the reader to click on it next time or the time after that – in essence, you’ve built brand recognition. Your familiarizing your brand to them. Even if someone never clicks on your banner but sees your comic somewhere else, they may feel familiar with it. Say for instance it’s at a con and someone is walking by or standing at your booth – it could possibly lead to a sale of a book with them thinking “I have been meaning to check this out”. Personally, I’d gladly take the sale of one book over 10-20 pageviews. Obviously that’s just a hypothetical setup, but the point is that there is value in simply getting your brand out in front of people – clicks or not.

Getting back to Crowbar Benson’s smaller banners, unless your characters are well known and easily distinguishable, then you should always include your brand name. You will probably never ever see a Big Mac in an ad without a McDonald’s logo. It’s in your best interest to get your logo, name and web address on your banners.

IMAGES

Brand Recognition (differentials/memorables)
Pros:
The unique font and simplistic header design are easily the strength of Sandy’s brand.
Cons: While the characters and story are easy to

In conclusion – I recommend:

  1. Customize more of the website
    • Add storyline/overall concept of the comic and artist information
    • Change out background
    • Custom Navigation
    • Brand/comic related imagery
  2. Fix banners to reflect more of your brand
    • Add logo
    • Add URL
    • Develop a tagline
    • Fix smaller banners and include all banners on your site

I’d like to mention that one thing I don’t touch on in my review, but should be noted is that your artwork inherently has a LOT to do with your brand. Most often, each artist brings their unique talents and style to their comic which is a distinguishing factor and an integral part of your brand. Sandy’s comic is no exception and he has developed a great style and interesting characters. Therefore, I think Sandy has a great opportunity to flesh out his brand as he’s redeveloping the Crowbar Benson website. I also hope this helps a lot more people with their brand. Did I come down too hard on ‘Crowbar Benson’? Tell me your thoughts comment below!

Scheduling note: I had been running these articles once every four weeks – alternating with the Dr. Banner – the Banner Doctor series. For the time being – my fellow Alliance members have graciously allowed me to move the Dr. Banner articles to alternating Fridays so I can write up all the great comics that have volunteered for a constructive critique. Next up is ‘Beartoons‘, followed by ‘HolidayWars‘. If you’d like to volunteer your comic, send an email to rtswebmail [at] gmail [dot] com – make sure you put Comic Brand-Aid as the subject. Not all comics will be reviewed, but I will try to get to everyone.

Ken Drab at the dentist's officeKen Drab (me) of RicktheStick.com has a small brain but a savant-like interest in branding, marketing and design. He better, that’s what he gets paid to do in real life. In make believe – he’s a webcomicker with a mediocre comic but a solid brand. Regardless, this is an ongoing series where we take a look at the concept of branding and how it applies to your comic. We’ll highlight do’s and don’ts as well as look at fixes. We’ll also be taking requests and take a critical but constructive approach to help real comic artists nail down their brand.

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4 Comments

  1. Hey Ken,

    First off, thanks for the brand critique, it’s always useful to get someone’s honest opinion, and I’m glad to have yours.

    Glad you liked the header, I’m pretty happy with it, too. I’m thinking I’ll change it during the re-design, as I did last year, but I’ll certainly keep the logo the same.

    No arguments about the need to change the default Comic Press navigation, I just plead laziness on that one. I don’t mind the defaults that much, they’re pretty clean and functional, but I do think they should be customized.

    Not so sure I agree about the background image. I think with the monochromatic tone and the fading of the comic images, it doesn’t distract that much from the comic, and gives a nice textured feel to the background. Of course, it could be that because I see it so much I don’t even notice it anymore, so if you find it distracting that’s something to note.

    Funny you should mention the small PW ads, I’ve actually had a lot of success with the blue button one, the other ones, not so much. Not sure why that is… I sort of agree with the need to include the logo, but those ads are so small, I’ve relied on the mouse-over for the site name and such. The bigger ads do okay, but not amazing. I’m planning to rework them, but it’s not a big priority, as I don’t run that many ads at this point.

    I think you’re missing a section about the Brand Recognition cons…?

    You’re probably right about the need to talk more about myself, but I’m not crazy about doing that, and ultimately I’d like the comic to speak for itself. If I’m hoping for my personality to sell the comic, I’m screwed…

    I used to have a tagline (More fun than a puck in the head), but I really hated it, so I don’t use it anymore. I can see the use of having a good one, though.

    There will be more comic-related imagery coming up in the re-design, mostly in the character area.

    Thanks again for the critique, it was helpful, and mostly reinforced what I already felt, so that’s good. I strongly agree with the need for more customization and imagery, and will certainly take under consideration the idea of a simpler background image or texture.

    Sandy

  2. I actually discovered CB thru one of Sandy’s innovative skyscraper PW ads where he poked fun at several famous album covers. Crowbar Benson is a great comic, and I agree, we need to pull Sandy’s personality out so we can get to know him better. He IS his comic and there’s no getting around that at all. 🙂

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