Can comics be considered a plausible marketing medium? Yes, they can. Comics combine literature and visual art to make something more than what either of them are alone and this offers a unique opportunity to convey a message that might otherwise be lost in the crowd. I've had a couple opportunities to work as a cartoonist on marketing collateral and I thought I'd share the process with you.
Vicky Goggin, a realtor based in Texas, approached me about designing a unique series of postcards to send to her target zip code. She wanted something radically different than the other realtors in her area and we came up with the idea of drawing a series of simplistic comics, much like what is found on the funny page of the newspaper.
ConceptEach postcard needed to have its own unique concept – our themes often revolved around a holiday, local event, or a related housing market topic. It is best if you plan your concepts ahead so that you can maintain a consistent message and voice throughout the series.
PlanningThe frames, talk bubbles, and characters need to be designed to fit the postcard once the concept has been decided upon. This was often difficult. Many times frames had to be removed, characters changed, and dialogues shortened in order to make it fit.
Pencil SketchesThe finer details are penciled in as you block out areas in your design. It can take several tries to get a facial expression or the tilt of a head just right, even though the characters may be fairly basic. I use tracing paper to create a new version for each design iteration rather than using an eraser.
InkingWhen the pencil sketches are complete, they are used as a guide to produce the final line art for the comic. Inking is more than simply tracing the pencil sketches. You must decide which lines are necessary for the completed image. A variety of techniques can be used in the inking process to affect the light and shadow in the design. When I ink, I prefer to leave different objects on separate sheets of tracing paper. I find it easier to color the images once they are scanned into the computer.
Adding ColorI take my inked sheets of tracing paper and scan them one by one into my computer. I arrange the images on separate Photoshop layers in the right positions for the composition. I mask the white background and fill the areas of the objects with solid colors. Depending on the desired style of the final design, I may leave the colors solid or use halftone filters to give it a newsprint appearance.
Talk BubblesYou didn't really think cartoonists lettered their comics by hand, did you? Lettering is the last step in the design process before handing it over to your client for approval. It probably isn't a surprise to learn that Comic Sans is the most used font for dialogue in comics. I also used a number of free fonts I found on the internet that were great for headings or other decorative text.
PrintingDesign files are submitted to the printer of your choice. I've found the best option is to select a printer prior to the design of your card. Work with their standard sizes to get the best price. Often, the best prices are found online. It can take a few weeks to print and mail postcards, so plan accordingly if your comic contains any time sensitive material (like a holiday promotion).
In order to make the most of your postcard, combine it with a Facebook campaign targeting the same zip code of your mailing. This will create a “lift” effect and you can improve your response rate even more by combining it with a giveaway. Make prospects pick up the giveaway item in person so that you have an opportunity to interact with them. Don't get frustrated, as it takes time. Most realtors like Vicky Goggin send out at least 7 mailings before prospects start responding.
Comics and graphic novels are a fun form of art that has mass appeal. It can easily be incorporated into your marketing efforts with the help of a talented designer. How often is a golden art age only discovered long after it has passed? Right now, a creative renaissance is occurring in a medium that had been mired in triviality for the better part of a century. This is an opportunity for companies to embrace the up and coming art form of the twenty-first century by using comic book art in their marketing communications.