Comic Brand-Aid: How Sweet It Is

Welcome to our first practical look at branding and how it relates to comics. Each article I’ll be selecting a volunteer and taking a critical but honest and constructive look at various components of the comic, it’s site and creative that encompass “the brand”.

I’ll be up front with you, I’m a believer in giving honest criticism as long as it’s constructive – and that’s the goal here. I’m not trying to pick apart the comic, it’s characters or storyline – we’ll just be focusing on the brand. One thing I would like to note – I’m going to refrain from employing much humor in this article because I’m concerned that the line between having fun and making fun is too thin to play with in this format – I don’t possess the level of talent and tact with my writing to pull it off. If you’d like a little more description of what’s going on here – check out the first article that describes the agenda.

Things I’ll look at and make recommendations would be in the realm of: Logo (name/design), Site (design/usability), Banners (design/congruency/probabilities) and finally Brand Recognition (differentials/memorables). That’s a lot to chew on so let’s get started!

Our first volunteer is Scott “Jynksie” Jenkins of ‘How Sweet It Is’. Scott describes the comic “as a fictional comic featuring Hodge as a 40 something year old syndicated newspaper columnist, his wife, friend and a couple of lesbians (because they are all the rage these days)”

The site is titled ‘How Sweet It Is – Turning 40 and Feeling It’.

Logo (name/design):
Pros: Great name, using a well known ‘simile’ is great because you don’t have to introduce it. It’s familiar, and in this instance – it’s positive.
Cons: I’m going to pick on one thing: the logo design. It’s very hard to incorporate hand-drawn lettering that isn’t professionally done. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but there are a ton of factors that go into building fonts as far as kerning and legibility and it’s hard to pull off. In this case I have a problem with the legibility, which is well illustrated on the banner page of the site – look at the smaller banners. While I’m a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE fan of Orange and Blue (GO GATORS!), I caution use of polar colors in close proximity to one another which can cause the reader’s eyes to reverberate – it’s more of a danger with red and blue, but I’m just making a point. You want them reading and clicking around – not having seizures! Regardless, I would strengthen the borders of the lettering and make sure the smaller type is legible. Remember, not everyone’s monitor resolution is set to the same as yours – what may be huge on your screen may be tiny on someone else’s. Reverse type is harder to read so if you’re using a dark background, make sure your type is thicker. Vertical type is not natural to most western cultures so it’s harder to read. As a general rule, if you’re slowing down the process of absorbing and comprehending your brand, you’re doing it wrong.

As a general rule, if you’re slowing down the process of absorbing and comprehending your brand, you’re doing it wrong.

Site (design/usability):
Pros: Tweeked out WordPress/ComicPress combo – nice! The site is clean without a lot of clutter. Unobtrusive functionality adds to the user’s experience. It’s not hard to find things and it’s easy to move around. I like the clever use of Sweet as a double entendre in conjunction with navigational links for the banners and gallery. The comic is front and center and navigation is clear and concise. Blue is a great color to build on the foundation of your site, just be careful not to over do it.
Cons: I don’t get the bubbles. They’re everywhere and I don’t understand why. If it’s a design element, it’s a distraction. I mentioned reverse type in regards to the logo and it’s even more of a problem with body copy in blog posts and comments. I can see someone getting worn out pretty quickly looking at the light blue background in the blogposts. Overall the colors lead to a dark site. The idea is to keep people on your site viewing your archives, commenting and ultimately buying your stuff – I tend to bounce much quicker on sites that are hard on my eyes. The header typically found on the site features images that are blurry and the theme is disjointed. The header is a perfect place to feature a quick description of your site and when you publish. Scott nails the latter.

Banners (design/congruency/probabilities):
Pros: Scott generally uses the banners for sharing with other webcomickers and he has five banners in landscape mode.
Cons: As I mentioned the smaller banners make legibility difficult and the colors need separation. I can’t make out the characters in the smaller banners so I’d lose them. There’s extra space on the 468×60 on both sides which looks like the 234×60 just expanded and bubbles added. In this particular banner, these are two great areas for your comic description and a call to action! One thing to remember is the context of where your placing your banners. In Project Wonderful, you’re bidding on specific placement – with banner exchanges you don’t particularly have a say where they’ll end up – and you want yours to stand out – to be the one that draws that click. The click is why you’re building, placing and exchanging these banners. You can’t be in it just for branding. You need to get a return on your investment (ROI). There is a lot of opportunity in these banners. Scott might want to look up Dr. Banner – the banner doctor. πŸ™‚

Hard to read


Opportunity for branding!

Brand Recognition (differentials/memorables):
Pros: In my opinion the name is the strength of the brand since it’s easy to remember and doesn’t lock the artist into a specific genre. The logo doesn’t stand out and the overall site layout while clean and organized, doesn’t offer innovative or dynamic features. The comic itself is growing artistically and stylistically, but not enough to carry a successful brand.
Cons: There is a HUGE disconnect with the comic and the URL (web address). I had to google the title of the comic several times and messed up the spelling of jynksiecomics – I couldn’t remember the spelling of jynksie and the comics part being plural. One thing to strive for is brand consistency. Everything you develop should revolve around your brand. For instance, Rick the Stick can be found at rickthestick.com. Howsweetitiscomic.com is more memorable than the current URL. If you can’t land the exact title of your comic – think of ways to make it easier. Let’s say howsweetitis.com is taken – is sweetcomic.com available? sweetestcomic.com, howsweetthecomic.com, etc. You can also use hyphens. It’s not a perfect plan though because you have to be careful about type-o’s and the longer the URL the more likely someone will mistype the entry.

In conclusion, Scott has a lot to work on with his brand. I hope I didn’t come across too critical, but personally, I’d rather have someone tell me their honest thoughts so I could improve my product. I also hope this helps a lot more people with improving their brand. Did I come down too hard on ‘How Sweet It Is’? Tell me your thoughts – comment below!

Next up is Antoine Gagnon’s ‘The Drunken Fools’!

Ken Drab at the dentist's officeKen Drab (me) 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. So if you’re willing to put yourself out there – let me know. Email me directly at rtswebmail [at] gmail [dot] com or click here and add Comic Brand-Aid in the subject line. I’ll contact you if I think I can help you and we can help others by showcasing my recommendations.

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25 Comments

  1. After this article, I now have a “to do list” that trumps my at home “honey do list”! I thought the article was articulately presented (I saw it yesterday)and it actually had me looking at things that I hadn’t even considered in the overall presentation and branding of HSII! Well done Ken!

    I will state, that one of my main issues with the naming of my comic, is the popularity of the title. Since James Taylor has a song “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”, then slap on anything Jackie Gleason/Honeymooners and finish it off w/ a gazillion bake shops w/ the same name, my comic gets lost in the “search engine” world. It would have, in my opinion, been more beneficial to have a name that allows itself a sense of uniqueness that the search engines would single out better.

    • Thanks Jynksie –

      I appreciate you allowing me to use you as a guinea pig on this first article.

      I would like to make a point on your assumption regarding search terms for your comic’s name that are based on people looking for your specific title ‘How Sweet It Is’. If they know your title they might have a better chance at typing in a URL that closely related to the comic’s name – or they might be savvy enough to add the term ‘comic’. Actually on numerous occasions, I couldn’t remember your URL so I simply tried ‘How Sweet it Is comic’ as a search term and you came up first each time.

      • I have to be honest Ken, I needed this kind of article to unstick my mind, which has been spinning in neutral over my entire branding issue. From my issue concerning the popularity of use by many out there of the “How Sweet It Is” name, or the fact I’ve been thinking I need to change the name of the comic in order to allow the comic to evolve and expand.

        I even posted a blurb on my own site letting readers know my intentions and to also see if they feel as you do, that the name can stand on it’s own, regardless of organic changes I make to the comics premise.

        Granted, I am more uncertain about the name change now that seen your thoughts and point of view on that because it resonates with me in a positive way. Leaving me with the possibility of just leaving it alone, if it’s not as broken as I thought it was.

      • It’s not impossible to get good Google results with a situation like yours. Our comic has a similarly common phrase title, (Dressed For Success) but our URL is the company name, (EgestaComics.com). I just checked and we came up fifth on a search for Dressed For Success. If you are consistent with home you name and label things, on your site and in any advertising, linking etc, and your site’s keywords are set well, page’s titled with the comic name etc, you can do similarly well. Google is a funny beast and there are lots of things you can tweak to insure good results.

        • Good points Chris.

          To help make your case that ‘Google is a funny beast’, one of the problems/good things with Google is that they customize your search results individually based on your search history. For example your check brought up your URL fifth, it came up tenth for me. So it may be different for each user – regardless of whether you’ve optimized your keywords, title, etc. That being said, none of that hurts, it definitely helps to be conscious and diligent with those aspects of your site.

          Obviously your URL is one aspect of branding but an important one.

          Since not everyone is relying on Google for their traffic, my point in the article regarding URL was maximizing top of mind and ease of recall. Specifically because there was a disconnect between the comic name and web address.

          Thanks for reading and contributing to the conversation!

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  3. This is looking to be a good series. Its’ nice to see constructive criticism in an organized format.

    Will have to keep checking back. πŸ˜€

    • Hi Lily! Thanks for the compliment, Ken will appreciate it! The actual creation of your webcomic is just one part of the overall process. As artists we focus on the creative aspects and forget the basic business principles we should apply.

      Even if you’re doing a webcomic as a hobby, you still need want to grow your audience or you’re simply entertaining yourself. Which for me, I’m my best audience. But to make even a minimal return on your comic, you need to follow what Ken is offering up here. He’s a really talented guy, even though he likes to make fun of himself (a lot!). But, as I say, if you’re not having a good time, then why are you doing it in the first place?

      We look forward to having you back reading Ken’s articles!

    • Thanks Lilly! I’m glad people are enjoying the article. Branding is one of those “business” side of things that make most artists heads explode. The great thing about branding – is that it doesn’t have to be all business. It’s still an important part of the creative! I could argue in some instances it’s AS important as the comic…

      • Ooooh Dawn…

        Don’t worry, I’m just a waiting to skewer your site and those “doggies”! πŸ˜‰

        Haha!

        Although in all seriousness, I’m excited to review your site because I think there is a lot of opportunity to build your brand.

        I just want to get a few under my belt before I hit you up. WOOOOOO!

          • Haha – no sir. It’s just a little bit more intense when you’re critiquing a fellow Alliance member’s brand!

            And she hits back. πŸ˜‰

            Although Antoine doesn’t count because he’s…well, he’s Canadian and there’s that exchange rate thingy.

  4. Well, since you posted this article, I’ve been hard at work improving things based on your recommendations. There is one or two thing I chose not to follow and the rest have either been implemented, or are in the works.

    The name “How Sweet It Is” – gone! It had to be dropped. Whether it was a mental block for me, or a general disconnect between the revamped plot and the name, it had to go. The name is now “Madbury” and the about page explains the change in detail. The comic is focused on a central character, Hodge Madbury, he’s the brand and every other character is a supporting role, so the name, to me, had to reflect him.

    Lets begin with the logo and header to website. A new name, one word, easy to remember and clearly displayed. No more vertical and horizontal word play like it was before. To the right is Hodge at his desk by the window writing, like many of his comics display him. The outside around him changes with the seasons, reflecting the New England landscape around him. I decided to keep this as my readers and others who solicited feedback liked how the header changed with the seasons.

    Website– Orange and blue no more, title is bold and white on a dark blue background. The webiste colors have been toned down and changed with more neutral colors, thus eliminating the concern for seizure activity by the Caribbean blues used before. As for the bubbles, what bubbles? They are gone, they were to emulate spilled ink blots, but if it wasn’t obvious, it had to go. The “Sweet Banners and Sweet Gallery” have been replaced by “Mad Banners and Mad Gallery” to keep that double entendre going! I’m also using the “M” in Madbury as a theme for the comic, update days are M-ondays, the blog section is now called Madbury M-emo’s. The new slogan “Where the MADness never ends” keeps it all tied together.

    I’ve revamped my banners, ensuring the name of the comic is clear on all sizes. The larger the banner, the more of the cast that was incorporated and a slogan was added to the largest one. URL wise, it’s still jynksiecomics.com and most likely remaining the main link to the site.

    I thought you’d like to see what your recommendations prompted me to do Ken. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    • Good to hear Scott! Sounds like you’ve been busy – is it live? Do you have a URL? When i pulled up your site now – I didn’t see anything other than the background change.

      EDITED: Interesting – my computer must have cached the old site – I refreshed and now can see!

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