So, as promised on my twitter feed, this post is going to be about personal branding - what it is, why you want to do it, and some tips on how. It’s a big topic that’s going to take a couple of posts, but we’ll start by nailing down some basics.
I’m going to be drawing on my many years of experience in advertising and marketing, and while much of that was focused around helping companies and products with their branding, there are lots of things that are applicable to you and me. And, while I’ll be presenting this through the lens of being an independent comic creator, there are basic lessons you can apply to any industry, any platform, or any job, really.
Ok, so what’s branding? The term, as we use it today, comes from the practice of branding cattle with a symbol that would identify them as part of a rancher’s herd - which I’m not going to endorse or call anything other than cruel to the animal. But understanding where the term comes from is important.
So, you’d brand your cattle with a specific mark, and if someone stole them and tried to sell them, that mark would make it obvious they were stolen from your herd.
Great for cowboys, but how does it apply to us?
If you think of the cattle as the product the rancher puts out into the world, the brand is the indelible mark that connects that product back to the rancher. And if, lets say, you’ve always got the best cows in town, people will come to realize that when they see that mark, good steaks are sure to follow. And boom, that’s basically it.
the mental associations people make when they think of you
the mental associations people make when they think of your comics.
Creating some fake online persona to get people to buy your comics.
Tricking your audience into thinking you’re something or someone you’re not.
People often talk about branding as an image you project, that has nothing to do with who you really are. And it’s true that the person and the image are two different things. But for branding to be successful, your image needs to be an authentic reflection of who you are and what you do.
If it’s not authentic, it’s going to do you more harm than good.
Let’s use the example of an ice cream company that wants to be seen as a healthy ice cream. If they actually are healthy, using better ingredients, or whatever, then yes, people will associate that ice cream company with a healthy treat.
But what if they’re not? What if they’re using unhealthy chemicals, packing every inch of that delicious ice cream with toxic crap, then the only thing people will associate them with being is liars.
So when you’re approaching how to brand yourself, you need to think about what true qualities you possess that you want people to know about.
It doesn’t have to be complicated - but you need to drill down into what makes you unique. Or at least unusual. One useful trick is to conduct an honest interrogation that really gets down into the details of what you do, which I’ll illustrate underneath the most hilarious piece of interrogation clip art I could find for this.
Who are you?
I’m a writer.
Ok, what kind of writer?
I’m a comic book writer.
So are a lot of people. What kinds of comic books?
I’m a horror comic writer.
That’s pretty broad.
I’m a writer of tense, historical horror comics.
That’s awesome, I love These Savage Shores! Try again.
I’m a Bram Stoker Award nominated horror comic writer?
That’s awesome, too, but lots of people have been nominated over the years.
I’m the Bram Stoker Award nominated writer of tense, historical horror comics like Road of Bones and Sea of Sorrows.
And there we go. It’s something that I can say about myself that nobody else can say.
That is what you build your personal brand around.
So, riddle me this:
What can you say about yourself that nobody else can say?
When you can answer that question, you’ll have taken the first step towards creating your brand.
When you write your bio, or fill in your profiles on social media, everything will flow from that. You can tweak, and emphasize one thing or another in different places, but everything, everything should come from a true and unique thing about yourself.
So, how are you supposed to figure out those truths? How are you supposed to know which ones are compelling, and which are just kind of meh?
Stay tuned for next week’s newsletter, where I’ll take you on a deep dive into some very useful tools to help you figure it out.
Until then, start by asking yourself these three fundamental questions:
What do you do?
How do you do it differently than anyone else?
When someone hears your name in regards to your work, what do you want them to think of?
Go ahead and pop your answers in the comments, if you’re so inclined,
or feel free to ask questions!
PS: Speaking of branding, we’ve always pushed WAILING BLADE as a metal series - we even had a heavy metal theme song created by George O'Connor! So, there’s nothing I can think of that’s more on brand than a METAL edition of issue #1!
You can order one of these very limited variants along with Comixtribe’s other awesome series, including HAPPY HILL, right here: HAPPY HILL PREORDERS