8 Basic Branding Tips

While some of the feedback on the branding articles has been great, I thought it would be useful if we took a step back and got a little more general, than the specific recommendations I’ve been giving in the ‘Comic Brand-Aid’ series. These are general tips and not a scientific formula – you may come across one that may sound like a “no-brainer” but they’re meant to work together – and it’s important to note: no single tip is more important than the whole group.

  1. Be Unique – there’s no benefit to naming your comic ‘My Comic’. There are hundreds of thousands of comics out there – what makes your comic unique? Is it about a dog who has two tails? Then why not name the comic ‘Two Tails Tales’ or ‘2 Tails Tales’? It’s unique and the dot-com domain for each spelling is available (see #5). Outside of your comic’s concept, there are many other ways that help your brand stand out. For instance, featuring a unique drawing style (Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant), developing a different type of website (Scott McCloud’s Zot) or having very engaging and interesting characters (Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie) can help you and your comic stand out – presenting that ‘unique brand’.
  2. Be Clear – if you’re drawing a comic about a dog with two tails, then you might not feature a dinosaur in a bar in the header of your website or your banner ads. Unless, your comic starts out as “So a dog with two tails walks into a bar and sees a dinosaur…” Another thing often overlooked is using the right font. For example, don’t use a gothic font unless it fits your comic. Is ‘Two Tails Tales’ a comedy? Then use a fun whimsical font (not Comic Sans which is neither fun or whimsical! ;-). Is it a dark tale? Then you might use a distressed font (see here about distressed or extremely unique fonts).
  3. Be Concise – it’s much easier for people to understand something that you can breakdown into it’s simplest form – aka ‘the Elevator Pitch’. There is so much going on at any given moment when someone is on the web, in a bookstore or at a con, you are going to increase your chances at landing a new reader or making a sale if you can easily communicate what your comic is, why it’s different and why someone would want to spend time with it. Carry that mentality over to your website and your banner ads – even your blog posts and social media efforts.
  4. Be Professional – I get it – you’re an artist and you need to concentrate on the art – “THE ART IS FIRST!” And it should be, but you need to consider that if you’re going to do this and make any financial headway either now or in the future, you need to be professional. Would you tell a story out of order? Should you insult your readers? Could you miss a post here and there? The answers here should be obvious. It’s more than likely that no one is going to just throw money at your feet so you need to think of your comic in some fashion or another as a business – and no one wants to deal with an unprofessional business.
  5. Be Easy to Find and Identify – this ties in with the first tip – be unique. Getting back to the example of ‘My Comic’, a quick search came up with over 2,600,000 results. ‘Two Tales Tails’ came up with only 410. How easy would your comic be to find in 410 results compared to millions? In addition, if you’ve done your homework and you’ve built a great logo for your comic, then you are going to be easy to pick out in a bunch of banner ads or any time someone comes across that image. Having a website address that’s easy to remember and is intuitive to the name of your comic is also important. Ask yourself which of the following seems easier to find: “www.twotailstales.com” or “www.sillydiggitydog.org/comics/twotailstales/” – don’t laugh at the latter, some comics are using web addresses like that. If you think you’re being unique by throwing in a cool spelling of a word or a name in your comic title – you’re not. You’re potentially confusing your audience (see the initial diagnosis on this article).
  6. Be Memorable – This may not be the perfect example of a brand, and I may be dating myself here a little bit – but quickly name all the sitcoms that featured a furry talking alien. If you came up with more than one – you’re watching waaaay to much TV. Of course in most instances that’s not exactly enough to be memorable, but the name was also catchy and easy to remember. If you haven’t guessed ‘Alf’ by now then you’re watching the perfect amount of television – or you’re under 20! The point is, a good brand is memorable. When you see a clown in just red and white – do you think of the circus or McDonald’s? As a general rule of thumb, most companies want to be in the top three of the consumer’s memory recall for ideal brand recognition. Name three brands of toothpaste: Colgate, Crest and Aquafresh are the three out of my head first. I may be able to name more if I REAAAAALLY thought about it (and yours is probably different), but the point is as consumers (and your readers are consumers  – see tip #4) we typically lump things together – it’s easier to remember things if we associate them with each other.
  7. Be Consistent – once you’ve set your logo, your style, your brand – it’s easy to see flaws in it and you may want to change it. Maybe you’re in a fun mood one day and you want to change out your logo the way Google does on their home page when a special event occurs (or more recently everyday). Don’t. If you’re asking “Google’s doing it – why can’t I?” The very next question you should ask yourself is: what’s the difference between my brand and Google? If your answer isn’t the BILLIONS more pageviews that Google gets compared to you then I’ll tell you: IT’S THE BILLIONS MORE PAGEVIEWS THAT GOOGLE GETS COMPARED TO YOU! There – consistency is easy. Set it and forget it. Tweak as a last resort but everything that you produce and present should be consistent with your brand.
  8. Be Yourself – this one isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s great if you want to represent yourself as something you’re not – the problem is it’s hard to be consistent. At some point you’ll probably forget something, you’ll probably start to lean back to what you know – which for most people is themselves. So start there and end there. Be true to yourself and you will most likely find that some of the other tips listed here fall in line. Besides, you’re unique right? Then be clear, concise and professional, make yourself easy to find and be memorable and you’ll see that you’re consistently yourself.

Ken Drab sporting the thin faced lookKen 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.

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  1. To anyone who just read this and is thinking to themselves that “branding” is a catch word that will not apply to them, OR that no one gives that much attention to logos (major source of branding), welp, read on. I worked for a commercial/graphic/industrial art studio (Pen Art Studio, Moline, IL) in the 1970s. 99.99999% of the work was from John Deere, Inc. We are the international home of Deere. The work consisted of line drawings, photo retouching and key-lining for service manuals. At that time there were 7 sizes of the John Deere logos and “John Deere” letters . That’s all. No others. Any time we had to use one of the logos or put the Deere name on our drawings we had to scaled it to the logo. And these were the days before computers. When I airbrushed ‘TORO’ off of a lawnmower or “Schwinn” off of a bike and drew John Deere on it, it had to be the exact size. Or the work was sent back. Also, it took Deere 4 years to come up with a new logo and all it was is the leaping deer is leaping up instead of down. They take their branding VERY seriously. And so should you. When I quit drawing Blue Number 7 and started “Life On 66” it took me a month to come up with my logo. It fits all the criteria listed above. And not by accident. It is easy recognizable, simple and tells of what the comic will be about. So do yourself a favor and if you just brushed off the 8 basic tips, re-read them.

    • This may be the marketing geek in me, but I love stories like that – I appreciate you sharing Michael!

      To tie everything together – I just asked a few people in my office to name three brands of lawn tractors. They all came up with John Deere as their first pick, then couldn’t name another…

      Thanks again!

  2. Excellent article Ken. Branding is the heart of anything you create and until you nail that down, you’ll find yourself floating aimlessly in that sea of confusion. It’s amazing, at least from my point of view, how much I’ve been able to refocus my energies since the details of branding where nailed down for me, by you. Before that, I was changing things on a whim trying to find the anchor to hold me in place. (I’m in a boating mood it seems today!)

    On a side note, all my

  3. Ken,
    Thanks for this great article. From what I know about you, you don’t talk the talk, you walk the walk, putting these choice bits of wisdom into use every day in your working world. These are great points, and very helpful in keeping people on track.

  4. That was a terrific read. I have to admit I faltered at a few steps while making mind, but I’ll definitely be making banner close to these guidelines. Thank you for sharing this article.

  5. Ken – thanks of this, it’s excellent. I’m getting ready to launch a webcomic and I believe we have many of these items covered.

    The one that’s killing me is the elevator pitch, though. I know in screenwriting they actually encourage you to be able to compare what you’re working on to at least two other solid, known properties. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the idea comes from being able to effectively and quickly communicate tone or style (and if you can select well loved or successful properties, all the better). Have you ever encountered this?

    Either way – do you have any recommendations on boiling down a pitch?

    • Thanks Don! I’m actually working with someone on that now.

      One possible way to do that is to look at as something simple as an egg. Now, we all know what an egg is so if you said “egg”, it wouldn’t require much more information.

      But what if you didn’t know what an egg was, or more importantly, how would you explain an egg to someone who is seeing it for the first time…

      …on an elevator…

      You could start out with a definition like, “it’s a hard shelled oval that comes from chickens which people also eat.”

      I didn’t say good definition, but that’s probably a literal explanation.

      You could also use marketing speak like, “it’s a multi-purposed protective sphere that protects a chicken embryo and is an exceptional ingredient in many culinary dishes.”

      So what is the best way? Neither probably for what you’re looking for – but without knowing exactly what you’re project is, I would say if you can whittle it down so that a child could understand it then you’re on the right track.

      Treat it like you’re introducing something alien to someone.

      If you’d like help – email me more information at rick the stick at gmail dot com.

      Without spaces of course.

  6. It is funny that most don’t think about branding when starting a project. I have the opposite problem. I can get so caught up in the branding that I never get started.

    My favorite line in your article is “Set it and forget it”. I need to do this more. Otherwise, I will spend the next 2 months just trying to get the website to look just right… Causing me to never get started on the actual project.

    My solution is to set a deadline and a review day. I have 3 days to have the completed site done and I can consider making changes in 6 months.

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