Aug 07

Snikt! Wolverine Infographic Claws Way to Successful Content Strategy

Wolverine Infographic Cropped

Wolverine Infographic Cropped. Click for full-size image.

If you haven’t yet seen it, there’s a terrific infographic featuring the popular Marvel Comics superhero Wolverine. Much of the world became familiar with the Wolverine character through his portrayal by Hugh Jackman in the X-Men movies.

But Wolverine was a fan favorite, ever since his introduction in Incredible Hulk #181 (1974). The character exploded in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s and continues to be an A-list character in the comics and on the silver screen.

I discovered an infographic on Gizmodo.com and was impressed with the way the designer managed to incorporate the right amount of design, text, and layout to this rather complex character.

This was no average fan. This was a pro designer at work and this infographic was quickly going viral. At the bottom of the infographic was a cleverly placed URL that drove you to a website where you can buy costumes.

Yep, you guessed it, there are even costumes of Wolverine. This was a fantastic example of visual content marketing in action. They knew who the audience was, what would draw them in, and how to get them to their target website.

Two of the architects behind this content marketing campaign were Kate Willeart and Mark Bietz. They sat down for a brief email interview to discuss their content strategy tactic from a marketing perspective.  (Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series. Check out Part 2.)

 

BUDDY: To get started, can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?

Kate Willaert

Kate Willaert

KATE: My name is Kate Willaert, and I’m a graphic designer for Fun.com (and its sister sites HalloweenCostumes.com and T-Shirts.com). My job includes web design, creating t-shirt designs, and designing marketing materials such as infographics.

MARK: I’m Mark Bietz, VP of Marketing for Fun.com and I lead the marketing strategy here.

 

Just for context, there’s this great infographic that painstakingly details the costumes of the Marvel superhero character Wolverine. At the bottom is a URL for HalloweenCostumes.com. Can you describe how this project came about?

KATE: The Wolverine piece is actually the third in a series of superhero costume infographics I’ve designed, which previously included Iron Man and Superman. The inspiration came from an infographic I saw comparing the cost of Batman and Iron Man’s estates — their suits, their houses, their cars, etc. You get to the bottom of this infographic and see that it’s by an insurance company. I thought that was really clever. Continue reading

Jul 10

Self-Promotion – Writing Richie Rich Comics

Buddy Scalera with Richie Rich #5

Buddy Scalera with Richie Rich #5

Storytelling. It’s more than just an abstract concept. It’s something that we all do. In my case, I occasionally write comic book stories.

So here’s a bit of shameless self-promotion. It’s still about marketing and creativity, except it’s about the other creative stuff that I do. In this case, I am currently writing the Richie Rich comic book series.

As a kid growing up, I absolutely loved the Richie Rich comics. The fantasy of limitless wealth, cool gadgets, and the most awesome butler in the world was a dream for a kid like me. Even when I grew up and became “too cool” for comic books, I held on to my modest collection of Richie Rich comics. By good fortune (and some good friends at Ape Entertainment), I managed to write some issues of Richie Rich.

The links below give you a sense of what I’ve been doing outside of marketing. I hope you check out a few of the reviews…and the comic books, of course!

REVIEWS:

COMIC BOOKS – My issues include Richie Rich #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8

Anyway, thanks for checking out this post and please share the links with people who might enjoy reading some all-ages comic books.

A few other comic book related posts on my blog:

 

Apr 27

How You Can Be an Avenger Too!

Avengers Assemble in Avengers #151

Avengers Assemble in Avengers #151

As The Avengers movie hits the big screen, you will have a chance to be a real, live hero. Are you ready?

First, meet the villain: Torrent and his evil henchmen Piracy and Complacency.

If you haven’t met Torrent before, you probably will when this movie hits the screen. At some point, someone will introduce you to this true villainy. Evil, unspeakable.

Here’s how Torrent works. You can pay for the overpriced movie ticket (and it IS overpriced!) or you can succumb to Torrent’s siren call.

You will read about the unfathomable salaries of the actors in the film. And, of course, the giddy box office reports of the millions the movie makes. With all this money, why should you pay? Torrent’s henchman Piracy have copies for your 1080p home theater. For free!

It’s a victimless crime. Who gets hurt? Those celebrity millionaires? They don’t need your $12 (or $16 in 3D). So burn a digital copy.  Continue reading

May 15

Marketing Obscure Comic Book References

Captain America The First Avenger Movie Poster

Superheroes are back! Well, at the movie theaters at least they are. Love ‘em or hate ‘em epic comic book battles are generating big buzz and big dollars on the silver screen.

As a marketer, it’s easy to observe the big, obvious things about movies based on comic books. There’s a built-in audience: check. There are usually top stars and/or directing talent: check. There’s usually some impossibly large budget: check. That’s the obvious stuff.

Then there’s the geek stuff. As you may know, I am a big comic fan, so I get into these tiny references that are like catnip for fans. It’s small stuff (and some big stuff) that won’t even register for the average moviegoer. But for the devoted comic fan, it can be pure joy. Continue reading

Mar 06

Google Doodles Will Eisner

Google Doodle Will Eisner

Google Doodle Will Eisner

In a pleasant surprise this morning, Google‘s logo was changed to celebrate the birthday of Will Eisner.

For those of you not familiar with the name Will Eisner or the Eisner Awards ceremony, it’s worth noting that Eisner is considered one of the original giants in the comic book industry. He was a prolific and influential comic book writer/artist who pushed the boundaries of the medium.

Eisner is credited with coining the term “graphic novel” as he published one of the first major self-contained, long-form comic book stories. He was the creator of the classic comic “The Spirit,” which still holds up today, unlike many other early comic book stories. Even by today’s modern standards, “The Spirit” is mature and intelligent, both in story and art.

Eisner was a passionate educator, who published multiple books on the topic of creating comic books, including Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative. These books treated comics like a legitimate medium, providing much-needed respect for the craft of sequential art.
Continue reading

Jul 03

For Sale: Print

Marvel Comics on iPad

I have seen the future…and I am selling all of my books.

Okay, not all of them, but an awful lot of them. Books, comic books, magazines, and just about everything print. Y’see, I’ve had an Amazon Kindle 2 for over a year now. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing little machine.

But then I saw the iPad, and it changed the way I thought about books, particularly comic books.

Tablets have been around for quite a while. In fact, at work, we run tablet PCs with Microsoft Windows. It’s a nice technology, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t lend itself to reading full novels. Even comics were a little awkward, since you had to use a little stylus to turn the pages of a digital comic.

Apple’s iPad interface is amazing. It’s intuitive, pleasant, and fades quickly into the background. Admittedly, it’s not quite as good as the Kindle when it comes to reading plain text books. But it’s terrific for reading comics. And if they get that screen just a tiny bit larger on the next version — without increasing the total size of the device — it’ll be about a darn near perfect comic book reading experience.

Lots of comic book friends think this is just crazy, but I happen to think that it’s the way I’ll be consuming comics in the future. Sure, part of the comic book hobby is bagging, boarding, and saving your comics. But if you think about it, that’s just a tradition rooted in print and distribution.

Back in the early days, comic books were distributed on the news stand. If you wanted comics when you were a kid, you went to the nearest news stand, pharmacy, or convenience store and got your issues. The problem was that there were very few comic book stores, so it was difficult, and often very expensive, to find back issues of comic books. Scarcity increases price, so that’s the short version of why some old comics are expensive. More people want them than there are comics to buy, and suddenly, people are paying a million dollars for a single issue of Superman.

Because of this relative scarcity of back issues — and the fact that some comic book stories are one long serialized saga — people learned to buy and collect comics. A supporting industry sprung up that supplies bags, boards, boxes, and just about ever variation in between. Multiply that by a few decades of my personal collecting fervor, and I have a room that’s seemingly overrun with white boxes.

As I stare at the iPad, I wonder how many comics will fit on this device? Better yet, how many will fit on my Mac, which I can transfer over to an iPad or whatever device? How many boxes can I possibly clear out of my collection, and how much of my man cave will I be able to reclaim?

One by one, I have been getting rid of my regular books. I’ve donated them to book sales, shared them with friends, and have basically just purged many of my bookshelves. There are still keepers, but the vast majority have found a second life somewhere else.

High quality digital content is easier than ever to find. You can even do it legally through Amazon and Apple, which means that you’re not stealing from the pockets of your favorite writers or artists. The only thing that is changing is the distribution channel, and bookstores, comic stores, and newsstands are scrambling to adapt to this new profit model. Some will survive, but many will not.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my comic book collection. It’ll be a few years before everything in my current collection is ready in the digital format. It’ll start with the mainstream publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, but it will move quickly to independent publishers. I’m a traditionalist, so if publishers offer comics on DVDs with large runs of back issues, I’ll be buying those disks. They are so compact that it’s easy enough to store huge collections.

The way content — including ebooks — is popping into the Apple iTunes store, I think the future is happening sooner rather than later. And that’s just fine by me.

In the meantime, does anyone want to buy some classic comics? Cheap.

Apr 22

iPad vs Kindle – First Look

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

It’s nice. Really nice. The color pops, the screen is sharp, and you just don’t want to give it back.

Sure, I have a Kindle, and it’s a great ebook reader. And considering my initial assessment of the iPad, I think that the Kindle is still a better ereader.

But, wow. That iPad is just about better for everything else. Video, web browsing, games, apps. None of these are even available on my Kindle 2.0, which is looking a lot like old technology.

The iPad is really expensive. If you get the top-o-the line with 3G coverage, you’re dropping a ton of dough, even before you start paying for your phone service. Crazy as it seems, the Kindle suddenly downright inexpensive as compared to the iPad.

For everyday use, the Kindle is a great ereader. I didn’t realize how light and portable it was until I picked up the iPad. The iPad has clearly superior screen technology, but I guess that comes with dense, compact electronics that add an unusually uncomfortable weight. While reading a sample ebook (which looked much better than expected), my instinct was to rest it on a table, just to balance the weight. The Kindle, on the other hand, is pleasantly light. You hold it like a paperback novel. The iPad is like holding a textbook.

For me, of course, the iPad is a damn nice device for reading comics. The colors look amazing and digital comics are perfect for this platform.

It’s unlikely that my Kindle will be banished anytime soon, since I tend to read a lot. The e-ink technology means excellent sharpness and long battery life.

But for everyday, all-around fun, the super-cool, insanely useful iPad is the hands-down winner.

Mar 24

Superman, Journalism, & Next Generation Media

Check out this panel from an old comic book. It’s a great reminder of the how society’s view of the media has changed over the years…and how that has helped fuel online news growth.

Superman debuted in 1938. The creators clearly wanted him to be a paragon of American virtue. He was, of course, the ultimate illegal alien. But like many foreigners of the time, Superman wrapped himself in the flag and declared himself a proud American.

Since they were creating an icon, the comic book creators made Superman’s alter ego a newspaper reporter. At the time it made sense, since newspapers were symbols of truth. Papers required balanced, honest reporting from ethical journalists.

There was a time in recent history when Walter Cronkite — the CBS News television anchor — was named “the most trusted figure” in the American public.

Flash forward to today, and Jon Stewart of the Daily Show was named the most trusted newsman. What does that say about the state of news in America?

If Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegal were creating Superman today, it’s unlikely that they’d make Clark Kent a reporter or any part of the mainstream media. The news has become so editorialized…and polarizing…it’s hard to imagine people looking at the profession as trustworthy or ethical. These days, journalists are considered among the least trustworthy of all professionals.

There are honest and trustworthy news professionals. Yet, it’s the public perception of the media that matters in this case. It’s perception and how customers interpret the product.

Let’s cut to the heart of the issue. Namely, journalists have an image problem. It’s a marketing and branding challenge. This is particularly ironic, since they (theoretically) control the media.

This poorly regarded public perception of the media may have even helped fuel the demise of print.

  • Print folks were dreadfully late to the Internet. As the Web was developing, many news organizations tried to pretend it didn’t exist. Few created decent brand footprints online, which allowed upstarts like the Huffington Post to grab a foothold on news reporting.
  • Traditional media failed to recognize the power of citizen journalism.  Instant broadcast platforms made it possible for anyone with a keyboard, a digital camera, or a mini camcorder to play reporter. They failed to leverage the cheap, easy news right in their own backyards.
  • Many stories are simply a headline and two paragraphs, which satisfies the basic need to know what’s happening. Depth and breadth of reporting comes later. Newspapers made a terrible mistake when they moved to bite-size news stories in print. Suddenly, the print newspaper was reporting the same stuff that was online the day before. For free. And that depth and breadth stuff? That was cut out of the paper.
  • Newspapers drifted away from being impartial journals that worked to get both sides of the story, no matter how difficult. They replaced it with lazy advocacy journalism that was barely better than the basic blog.

People aren’t stupid. They know when something doesn’t smell right. If the paper was going to offer opinions and recycled stories, it was destined to lose value in the eyes of the community. Why pay for lazy reporting and opinions…when you can get it online for free?

In marketing terms, newspapers lost their unique selling proposition. They lost their mojo.

What was left was the tattered remains of the mainstream media. But don’t get me wrong, it has been a long, long time since journalists were considered trustworthy. This is not a recent problem.

Newspapers today are a mere shadow of their former glory. Many of them now just reprint news stories from the Associated Press or Reuters or some third-rate wire service. A few hang on, but it’s just a matter of time before they simply fizzle out.

That’s the bad news. There is, however, a glimmer of hope.

From the ashes of this pyre, it’s likely that some ember will spark a new journalistic flame. It’s possible that the old guard reporters will team with next generation journalists to build a new style of news reporting. Perhaps they will redefine what content, news, and balanced reporting is in today’s modern society.

It could be something that reports news of global significance, offering a view of the world beyond our neighborhood. At the same time, this new media can help us stay in touch with the local issues that affect us directly.

With newspapers dying, someone is going to have to pay for genuine news content. Perhaps one day, we’ll actually find a way to fund good journalism. You know, pay for stuff that has value. Remember when we used to do that?

And, if we’re all lucky, the next generation of inventive minds will create another archetype Superman character who represents rock-solid ethics and legendary strength.

If we give them the next generation of journalism, young idealists may again view journalists as a benefit to society.  Guardians of truth who get both sides of the story, and allow us to formulate our own opinions. A friend to the community they serve.

And symbol of truth, justice, and the American way.

Feb 27

Apple’s 10 Billion…eBooks?

Apple iTunes Store Sells 10 Billion Songs

Ten billion. That’s how many songs have been legally downloaded from Apple’s iTunes Store.

This is what that looks like: 10,000,000,000

If it look impressive, that’s because it is. And it is significant because it may represent a small victory in the war over digital piracy. Apple has made it easy and affordable to buy music (something the record industry didn’t do themselves). As a result, people have paid money for stuff that they can easily steal.

If you own an iPod, iPhone or some other Apple device, you know that the Apple iTunes Store is really, really easy to use. Plus, they sell more than just music. You can get movies and TV shows as well.

As the iPad comes out, Apple will begin to roll out ebooks, newspapers, magazines, and other new media content. It’s going to be a broad range of materials, many of which will be purchased by the download. (Currently there is no subscription model.)

From a content perspective, this is a huge opportunity. People have grown used to getting content for free on websites. Few websites have managed to get money out of their visitors. Marvel Digital and Disney Digital have online subscription models, but those are premiere brands with highly exclusive content resources and characters.

As the iPad hits the streets, Apple is going to be working hard to get you to pay for content. Amazon already gets people to pay for ebooks and blogs on the Kindle, so there is a segment of the population prepared to pay for content.

No, don’t get me wrong. I am not looking forward to paying for stuff that I am getting free today, but that’s how it goes. Only so many websites and publishers can survive on the freemium model. Eventually someone is going to have to pay.

Sure, there will always be people who figure out a way to get stuff for free. In fact, many pirates don’t rip DVDs and MP3s because they want the media. They do it because they enjoy the challenge of cracking the code or beating the system. (And DRM doesn’t seem to work.)

With ereaders like the Kindle, Nook, and iPad, publishers are going to have to figure out a way to get people to buy digital books and magazines. Free is not a sustainable business model for most publishers. As the music industry will attest, it’s not going to be easy, but it is possible to get people to pay for media.

Price them right, make them easy to get, and maybe in a few years I’ll be blogging about how there were 10 billion ebooks sold on the Apple store.

LINKS – NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

Jan 27

iPad – Content, Marketing & Comics

Steve Jobs presents the iPad

Steve Jobs presents the iPad

If you’re a Macintosh fan or a Steve Jobs zombie (Jobzie?) today was like Christmas. Maybe even better. Today, as if you didn’t know already, Apple finally announced the long-awaited tablet device “iPad.”

If you follow this blog, you know that I primarily talk about content, interactive media, and marketing. Oh yeah, and occasionally comic books. So let’s talk about what the iPad means for each of my favorite topics:

  • Content: Well, as I’ve said before, it all comes down to content. The best device in the world will only go so far on mediocre content. Touch screens are cool, but they need to be worth the extra cost.
    Positive: As usual, Apple fully delivers on the iPad. Right out of the gate, you’ll be able to tap into the iTunes store for eBooks, videos, games, and music. Plus there’s probably a lot more content on the way. You can buy the iPad knowing that Apple will provide plenty of content in full, brilliant multimedia and color.
    Negative: It’s hard not to compare the iPad to the Kindle when it comes to reading ebooks. At this point, it looks like Kindle’s e-ink has an advantage over the iPad’s screen. It’s just nicer to read books on a reflective surface, as opposed to an active matrix display. Sorry, color just isn’t that important for the enjoyment of text, particularly long-form prose.
  • Interactive media: We’re now in a society where we fully expect to be able to interact with a certain amount of media. And Apple doesn’t disappoint here. The iPad is packed with nifty new tech that will allow us to touch, drag, scale, and game. We are at the tip of the creative iceberg, and it’s exciting to just dream about the amazing applications that will take advantage of the iPad platform.
    Positive: What’s not to like? It’s going to revolutionize gaming and allow you to take your fun wherever you go. As a parent, I love portable movies and games. Apps are what made the iPhone special, and the same tech will work on the iPad. Nice.
    Negative: It looks like I may have to re-purchase movies that I have on DVD so they play on the iPad. Something tells me I will be buying a lot of stuff to feed my iPad.
  • Marketing: At the core, Apple is an electronics manufacturer, but somehow they have managed to position themselves miles above the rest of the industry. Their brand is huge. No other manufacturer can launch a product quite like Apple. Plus Steve Jobs knows how to give a presentation. If you’re a marketer, take a close look at your lame PowerPoint decks and ask yourself if you can somehow do better. (You can.) Apple’s marketing is a brilliant mix of art, science, and magic. This is what they should study in universities.
    Positive: Apple breaks many marketing rules, but somehow they make it work. We can all learn from them when it comes to branding and event marketing. Apple makes it look easy, even though they are probably working like mad in the days leading up to the event.
    Negative: What they do as marketers isn’t really taught in school. And try as they may, very few marketers can match their magic formula for generating excitement around product launches. But is this really a negative? Nah, it gives us marketers an achievement goal.
  • Comics: It’s hard to say how this will affect the comic book business. Comics are already being pirated and distributed through torrents. Up until now, people had to buy printed comics to get a decent experience. Sure, you could read a pirated comic on your computer monitor, but the mechanics were wrong. Monitors are horizontal, while comics are vertical. Marvel’s Digital Comics actually give a pretty good experience, but it still required you to be sitting in front of your computer. I work in front of a computer all day, so sitting at my desk to read is a bit unappealing. Printed comics are still my favorite way to read full-color comic books. But for how long?
    Positive: The iPad could make reading comics really exciting. I would love to read my monthly titles on a nice, clear tablet. I could store them on the device (as opposed to reading them in the cloud), that would free up a lot of space in my house. Set the right price, and I will pay for a digital subscription to my favorite comics. I’m ready, let’s go.
    Negative: The pirates are already killing comics the way they nearly killed music and movies. If piracy doesn’t stop, it won’t make economic sense to create comics. Easy file sharing and torrents could kill mainstream comics as we know them today. The iPad just gives the pirates a better platform for sharing files.

So that’s it. The ‘Net and the pundits are already buzzing about the iPad. I’m going to immerse myself in the excitement and optimism.

Merry Christmas, Apple fans.