Going Up! The Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is an enigma. Part creative, part marketing, part magic. That doesn’t mean equal parts and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone. The hardest part is getting started. To actually submerse yourself into the process – especially if you’re not sure what the process is. That’s where I think I can help – I have a background in marketing and an ego – so I thought I’d share the process for you here. It can’t hurt can it? Please don’t answer that…

Recently I connected with Rob Chambers of Meat Shield on Google Plus and he had a slight problem trying to nail down his elevator pitch. I’ll let Rob fill you in:

Any ideas on how to come up with a good summary of your comic strip for new readers? I have never been able to give an effective “elevator pitch” for my strip and I end up going into too much detail. The initial idea was to see what happens to heroic fantasy characters when they aren’t out slaying dragons or whatnot. Part of my problem is that I’m not exactly sure what sets MeatShield apart from other fantasy webcomics, I’m probably too close to it.

In talking with my wife, she pointed out that MeatShield appeals to people who DON’T play D&D, who have heard of something called World of Warcraft but have never played it, but they HAVE seen the Lord of the Rings.

The closest I’ve come to a good pitch has been the tagline I made up for my AdWords ad: “Barbarians, Bards and Monks, Oh My!” Yeeeeaaah, doesn’t exactly sing, does it?

Before we start, I’d like to offer a small disclaimer. The advice I’m about to sneeze all over this article is a recommendation and only meant to show part of the process in which someone might go about developing their own pitch. There is no perfect formula, no magic secret, sometimes we just need to lay it all out and see what we come up with. I’m neither 100% accurate nor a genius, I’m just playing one for this article. Now, in my most heroic voice I bellow “back to the elevator pitching type thingy”!

To me, the easiest part to start with is what Rob has already. He’s hit on the “sword and sorcery” and “fantasy comic strip” aspects. I also love the ‘Lord of the Rings’ tie-in that Rob’s wife brought up.

With that all in mind, at this point, I would recommend letting your mind wander. In a brainstorm, there is no wrong answer, nothing is too wild because you never know when one step of crazy may lead you to genius.

For my particular process, I wanted to work out the specific genre description because I thought that would be a natural progression towards opening some thinking lanes. Some of the leaps I take come from marketing experience. I’m not saying everything or anything here is gold, I’m simply working out a process.

Genre Description:

  • sword and sorcery fantasy comic strip
  • sword and sorcery = medieval
  • comic strip may be redundant in the context of a discussion – don’t use?
  • medieval fantasy + comedy + barbarian + bard + monk
  • entitled barbarian + elvin bard + chef monk < – – come back to this
  • comedic medieval fantasy…bingo – me likey! good start.

Now with the genre description in a working format, we can look at the next step.

Expanding the Pitch

One of the things that you should consider is “what are people going to relate to”? My good friend and fellow Webcomic Alliance member Dawn Griffin has a great pitch for her comic that she uses at cons saying her comic “is like 3rd Rock from the Sun”… People who can relate to that show are now inclined to learn more about her comic – then she gets into a hard sell and people generally leave with a dozen books, sobbing. Okay, maybe it’s not really that hard of a sell and they don’t leave sobbing…

Back to Meat Shield… Considering what we’ve already discussed about considering “what people can relate to”, I looked at each character differently to see if I could tie the three together using popular characters on tv or in the movies.

  • Conan the barbarian’s understudy adventures with a medieval iron chef and a singing elaine from seinfeld.
  • A comedic medieval fantasy adventure about an entitled barbarian, an Elvin bard and an iron chef monk.
  • An entitled barbarian, an elvin bard and an chef monk walk into a bar. Literally.

Then the word “Bardtastic” popped into my head. I don’t know if it’s any good, but I wrote it down – write everything down, you don’t know when or if you’ll use it.

Finally I went back to try a mashup.

  • A comedic medieval fantasy adventure kinda sorta like Lord of the Rings without all the mess or the big scary eyeball.
  • A comedic medieval fantasy adventure kinda sorta like Lord of the Rings without all the mess.

What do you think? Could we have gone further? Sure, but you’ve got a life to get back to!

One final note – during the process, a banner idea popped into my head…
Banner headline (pun): ‘Lord of the Strings’
Visual: Shows a humorous image of Elvin Bard character (Jaine) tied up in her instrument.
Tagline: Click now to see what adventure the gang’s strung up in…

Okay, one more final, final note: another banner popped into my head in the last minute:

Banner headline: ‘Can You Go Blind Master Barding”?

I may have gone too far…

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 Comic Artist.

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Posted in Business, Featured News, Helpful Hints.

3 Comments

  1. I’ve always told cartoonists to look at their elevator pitch the same as TV shows and movies do. If you can’t sum up what your series is about in one simple sentence, then something may need fine-tuning.

    When I began my comic, Addanac City, I described it as an “updated version of like Calvin and Hobbes and Dennis The Menace”. What did I do THAT for?

    I hadn’t realized how much Calvin and Hobbes was like a religion and my comparison of my stuff to Bill the Great was akin to blasphemy. They didn’t care at all about the Dennis the Menace comparison, but don’t tread on C&H territory at all! 🙂

    At first, my series featured my 7 year old hellraiser, Hank, but then the City began to expand to where I regularly featured other characters such as Hank’s parents and other adults in the community.

    I guess my current tagline would be “Addanac City: Be glad that you don’t live here”. 🙂

    It may take awhile to figure out what it is your comic is truly about, but listen to trusted folks and also your readers. They could be showing up everyday for reasons you’re not even aware of yet.

  2. Pitches have been a continuous struggle for me. Some advice that got me started when I was searching for tips was to consider this formula:

    Description of main characters + situation + discovery + how it could change the situation.

    I also found this website to be fairly useful: http://tylerjamescomics.blogspot.com/2009/01/my-writing-process-part-iii-killer.html

    However, what REALLY helped my pitch was seeking outside help at The Canary Review. Best $10 I’ve ever spent!! I had identified the WRONG genre to focus on, and had chosen dull, wordy language (shocker, I know) to describe everything. They helped me transform my pitch from pedestrian to intriguing! For the curious, they wrote some about the genre process here: http://thecanaryreview.com/2011/09/23/pitch-slapped-the-importance-of-genre/ and I posted a comparison of the old and new pitches at: http://leylinescomic.com/pitch-switcher/

  3. Good advice, Ken!

    Personally, I think making a decent elevator pitch is pretty easy. I like to use genre, sub-genre, and then add the teeniest bit of description.

    (And I prefer to avoid comparisons to existing properties… not that there’s anything wrong with that, and it does help sometimes… but I like the idea of my comic standing on its own without a reference to something else.)

    However, I think making a compelling elevator pitch is tricky! I struggle with it all the time.

    Plus, I pitch my comics different depending on the person or the circumstance. For example, I always tell people that Super Haters is a “superhero satire,” but what I say after that changes. Sometimes I’ll add “starring Destruct-O-Tron and Mind’s Eye” if I think the names will make an impression. Sometimes I’ll say “a Monday-Friday webcomic” if I think the frequency will grab attention. And other times, I’ll add in “featuring slacker heroes who spend more time arguing with each other than they do going out and saving people.” And I’m constantly trying to make that last line tighter, because I think it’s kinda messy.

    For the record, I like “Barbarians, Bards and Monks, Oh My!” — conjures an image of a whimsical medieval webcomic.

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