Comic Brand-Aid: Holiday Wars

Today’s volunteer is Scott King, Writer/Creator of ‘Holiday Wars‘. Holiday Wars is described on it’s site as “The Easter Bunny declared war on the other Holidays in the hopes of gaining the one thing that can guarantee his immortality: The Holiday Spirit. Foreseeing The Bunny’s betrayal, Santa hid The Holiday Spirit and marked Tegan Cassidy, a human infant, granting her the ability to find it.”

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!

‘Holiday Wars’:

Logo (name/design):
Pros: I like the simplicity of the logo. Two different fonts on an arc with nice stylistic touches. Very clean and memorable. The name clearly gives me an idea of what the comic is about.
Cons: You could slap this logo on any retail ad during the holiday season. While it’s simple, clean and memorable, it doesn’t tell me that it’s a COMIC.

…the store isn’t really a store since it’s only featuring a bookmark – but I like the price point of a dollar – and FREE SHIPPING!

Site (design/usability):
Pros:
The site is organized and clean. Navigation titles are intuitive. I like the two thumbnails on the left of the comic towards the top of the page. I think it’s supposed to be the last issue and a teaser for the next issue (at least I think that’s what I saw yesterday). The site while I’m currently reviewing it only has the current comic in these thumbnails.
Cons: The thumbnails are the same and now I’m confused! 😉 Actually the biggest problem on the site is the navigation tabs (and Scott mentioned to me that he’s been meaning to change them). In the last article, I pointed out how it’s important to keep the sizing of your letters and spacing around them consistent. The navigation on Holiday Wars site is that the tabs are transparent and in some instances, the white snowflakes from the background bleed into the text. That’s nitpicking, but it is an issue. The two main things I’d like to point out is tabs that don’t really go anywhere or give me value as a visitor. For instance, the store isn’t really a store since it’s only featuring a bookmark – but I like the price point of a dollar – and FREE SHIPPING! I’m guessing this is a place holder until more can be added. Not to sound snobbish, but I don’t suppose anyone’s making a killing selling bookmarks. Also, the forum isn’t very active, is it worth having if you’re not putting a lot into or getting a lot out of it? Additionally, the social and RSS links are lost in Santa’s arm. I think there’s a missed opportunity to explain the premise of the site by featuring a tagline or something. First time visitors might not get what the image is for at the top.

Banners (design/congruency/probabilities):
Pros:
The banners all feature the logo and REALLY compelling artwork. The designs are clean.
Cons: From the four banners supplied, I don’t think the banners do the comic justice. I’m REALLY interested in how they did. I’d like to point out that there is no magic formula, no silver bullet to designing effective banners. For a breakdown on banner design, you can check out the Dr. Banner – the Banner Doctor series of articles. I’m not a big fan of using background colors that don’t make your logo “pop”. Granted, the logo and background do a lot to set your expectations when you click through and land on the website, but I’m not sure what’s going on in them. In the 234×60 banner there’s an explosion that totally hides the “Wars” part of the logo. I’m not sure what’s on Santa’s back in two of the other banners (if that really is Santa!). There’s no call to action and there’s no URL (which is important since the website is holiday-wars.com, not holidaywars.com which would be the intuitive guess). Going back to the header on the website, even something simple like “The Easter Bunny Has Declared War” can serve a tagline and is a compelling statement that may encourage me to click on the banner. By including that in the header of the site, I may have a better idea of why that thing is on Santa’s back.

Remember, in this article I’m reviewing these banners in the context of building your brand. It’s not enough to think of your banners as a single hit or miss opportunity. Your impressions matter. It’s important that you take advantage of that split second that your banner catches an eyeball or two.

Brand Recognition (differentials/memorables)
Pros:
Logo is simple and clean. Easy to distinguish and identify. The site looks professional and is organized. The comic really stands out in the site layout.
Cons: While there’s a link that takes you to a page that explains the story, it’s not plainly apparent. Not everyone needs that, but by making these things simple, you’re making it easy for the people that do need something to be quick and easy to help understand the concept of your comic.

In conclusion:

  1. Fix the website
    • Navigation button transparency
    • Deadbeat tabs – if you’re not using them, lose them
    • Thumbnails – like the concept – hoping it was a glitch in the matrix causing me to see the same thumbnails as the current comic
  2. Make stronger banners
    • Give me something to figure out what’s going on – I probably need more than great artwork
    • Add the URL to reduce confusion and a disconnect
    • Fix the backgrounds – using a darker/solid color might make the artwork and…
    • Make the logo “POP”!

I also hope this helps a lot more people with their brand. Did I come down too hard on ‘Holiday Wars’? Tell me your thoughts comment below!

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. 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.

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