Friday, May 29, 2009

Webcomic Brand Saturation

I try to be patient with the naive, because some days I am in their ranks, and other times I am wrong. But I admit I can feel a pressure in my head when people get carried away saying giving away comics as free content is dumb.

Poorly done, it may be dumb, but I'm going to hammer on the ways of doing it right.

Soon we'll be adding a store to our Lil Nyet comic, and I spent much of yesterday to see what y'all are doing. I saw custom built stores, fulfillment operations, Cafe Press and other POD, store systems like ZenCart, Etsy shops and a few being run out of living rooms. I also saw some shirts I'd like to have and possibly one book and one plushie.

None of the stores impressed in either of two regards: tie-in with the comic, and overall design.

Friends, colleagues... your comic is your brand. It's not enough to put it on your merchandise. If you saturate your store with the same design elements that bring you readers, and if you make the trek to the store a natural procession from reading, you will do much better.

A couple of earlier posts are worth referencing if this topic interests you. See:

Not enough people make appealing home pages, in my opinion, so it's no surprise that both the store and the route to it are lacking in the same elements that makes people read your comic.

Consider your brand. It often shows up not just in the comic, its attitude and its title, but also in places like these:
  • your most recognizable image or character
  • your trademark sayings
  • a slogan
  • a mascot
  • a logo
It can also be several of these combined.

So often, I see navigation menus that read like this:


or something similar.

On our comic Lil Nyet, we spun off a second comic, Guillotine and Piledriver, which updates several times a week. It shares the site with LN, as a reader bonus. What I never expected is that it would become some people's favorite. It uses static art, like Dinosaur Comics, and it's savagely political. But it gets its own reader mail, and I am happy it is noticed.

I want to encourage you to make your store the second most noticeable thing on your site, the way G&P is out second most noticeable, at least until we finish our store. Methods you can use:
  • multiple ways to get there
  • an image provoking curiosity and interest as to what lies within
  • making the entrance more prominent
  • luring people with in-store content
  • getting rid of in-store clutter
  • and, it's kind of beneath cartoonists, but using sexy *ahem* ATTRACTIVE models for shirts is not a bad idea (how lucky am I that two of my sisters are models, and you might even recognize them from TV? w00t! )
There is so much extra junk on most comics' home pages that it should be possible to rent a Dumpster, chuck out tons of pixels, and make room for store teasers.

Bottom line: We webcartoonists are far under-performing our income potential, and this is a good way to start fixing that fact.

P.S. Do read Koolstüff (above) if you missed it. My decision to use a phony German word for the concept may have scared some readers off, but I think any serious webcartoonist can benefit from the piece.