How Tigers Influenced Your Visual Processing

What do you see when you look at the picture below?

It’s not really a formal quiz, so I’ll just give you a hint. If you started off by thinking “it’s a grid” then you were correct. You were also correct, if you noted that the grid was comprised of 54 individual blue squares or boxes. You might have noted the rectangular shape of the grid too.

Grid with 54 Blocks

Grid with 54 Blocks

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Conflict Is Story: What It Means for Marketing Storytellers

Conflict by Joe Kalinowski

Conflict is story. Graphic by Joe Kalinowski based on a photo by Gianluca Ramalho Misiti.

Without conflict, there is no story. It is conflict that defines the story.

Whenever a writer is sharing a story idea with me, I’m listening for the conflict. Specifically, what is preventing the main character from reaching a specific, desired goal. And whenever a marketer references the brand “storytelling,” I’m listening for the same things. Let’s explore…

Without conflict, the story is just a setup. It may be an anecdote or even a nice scenario, but ultimately, great (heck, even good) stories require some sort of conflict. And lest we think this applies only to fiction, this is also relative to brand stories told in marketing. Read on…

Let’s start with a story example. Everyone loves zombies, so let’s make this a story set in the zombie apocalypse. Now, consider your main character Bob. What does Bob want? Does he want to win the zombie-slaying trophy? If so, why? What will winning the trophy be?

It doesn’t matter if Bob is from present day or from the future (a guy from the future fighting zombies is a nice setup!). All that really matter is that Bob wants something and why he wants it can be clearly defined.

There are lots of different theories on story conflicts, but many educators agree there are generally four types of conflict. (Meta irony: Someone will disagree with this.) These are conflicts that work both in fiction, non fiction, and marketing stories.

The four types of conflict: Continue reading

Comics for Content Marketers

comics-for-content-marketers1-smOver the past three or so years, I’ve been getting up on stage and talking about visual content marketing and what web designers can learn from comic book artists. You can see one of my decks here: “Seven & a Half Tips to Jump Start Your Visual Content Strategy.”

At the end of my presentations, there are always a few people who talk about how they’d like to check out a few comics, but they don’t know where to get started. Or that they’ve walked into a local comic store, were overwhelmed by the choices, and left without buying anything.

Hence, I’ve compiled a list of a few comics that curious, intelligent adults may want to explore. All of this is based on my personal preferences, so your actual mileage may vary. Oh, and none of these have anything to do with content marketing, except that you probably saw me speak at a marketing conference.

Or maybe it’s brain candy that will help you become more effective at visual storytelling.

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My (First) Kickstarter Crowdfunding Success Story

Thank you to kickstarter supporters

Thank you graphic for my Kickstarter supporters.

Last week, my first Kickstarter project ended successfully. I was funded 115% of my goal, which means I raised $694 and my goal was $600. Not bad.

The idea here was twofold:

  1. First, I wanted to raise a few bucks to print a batch of custom t-shirts, but without taking on a personal risk. As noted, mission accomplished.
  2. Second, I wanted to have the experience of running a Kickstarter project. All too often, people talk about stuff without really knowing how it works. I’d heard a lot of about crowdfunding, how it relates to marketing, and figured it might make sense to know how it actually worked. Again, mission accomplished.

Setting It Up
As I mentioned in my first Kickstarter post, the setup process took longer than expected. I wanted to be running a few days earlier, but my project was initially rejected. It took me a day or so to appeal and get approved. Plus, there are the financial requirements, which took some time with the bank and Amazon.com.

Once I got started, the Kickstarter contributions surged. Within the first 48 hours, I’d almost completed my funding. Between several friends and a couple of generous benefactors, I was almost ready to retire to a beach in Miami.

Almost. Continue reading

Kicking Off with Kickstarter Crowdfunding

Kickstart campaign

Kickstarting my first Kickstart campaign

A few hours ago, I launched my first Kickstarter campaign and peered into the inevitable future of commercial creativity.

First off, for those of you not familiar, Kickstarter is a “crowdfunding” platform. If you have something you want to make, you can create a project and people can contribute money to help you reach your goals. In return, they earn “rewards,” which vary from practical to unusual.

My Kickstarter campaign is fairly straightforward. I’d like to print T-shirts, but I can’t afford the initial outlay of cash to the printer. Ordinarily, I’d have to pay the printer before the actual shirts are sold. If I don’t sell enough shirts, I can lose money.

So how does Kickstarter help me? In this case, I get people to pledge financial support (everything from $1 to $100). In exchange, they get items of value, including my “Girls Like Comics Too” shirt. Since I am also an occasional author, I’ll sign copies of my work, including comic books and books I’ve published.

Part of the fun is creating these Kickstarter rewards. You want to incentivize people to support you, so you end up giving away a lot of value-added stuff to get backers. In my case, the value of the stuff is up to 50% higher than the investment people are making. It’s a crazy little system, but it seems to work.

There are Kickstarter campaigns for lots of special interests, including comics, movies, music, photography, fashion, technology, and more. Continue reading

Dad’s Tech Quest – Introduction

TechQuest LogoWhen my kids were born, I decided that they would have access to technology. Real tech, not just games.

So before they could speak, their hands were slapping and clacking on the keyboard. This isn’t so unusual these days, as many modern American families have access to similar technology.

But I wanted to go one step further.

I believe my career in technology is due primarily to my early exposure to computers. My high school exposed us early in the 1980s to simple programming using the Commodore 64, a machine that was a gateway for thousands of tech-curious minds.

Then, in a move that would prove formative, my father bought me a used Apple IIc computer. It was a basic machine, but it was mine. I could tinker and explore at home, rather than in a computer lab. I used it primarily as a word processor, but it gave me the confidence to use technology as a tool.

And, like many before me, I was completely and utterly blown away the first time I saw my first classic Macintosh computer. Unlike many of my fellow students who walked past, I couldn’t wait to put my hands on it. Continue reading

Guy’s Guide to Pinterest: Pinning Testosterone

Guy's Guide to Pinterest

Guy's Guide to Pinterest

The statistics are incredible. According to ComScore estimates, Pinterest is the fastest growing social network ever.

In this age of social networking sites, you’d think that we had enough places for people to like and share stuff. Apparently not.

But a curious thing happened on their way to becoming an Internet phenomenon. Pinterest became an overwhelmingly female destination. By some estimates Pinterest is to 50% to 70% female. Everyone has an opinion about why Pinterest attracted so many women and what it means for social media marketing.

If you’re a male, you’re probably wondering why you should bother with Pinterest. Well, for one, it’s really kind of fun. (I hated typing that sentence, but it’s true.) It’s also a platform that shows huge potential for marketing and branding, since people are sharing the products and services that they love. If your campaign includes content marketing, you know that great product images can help your brand message go viral.

For a change, though, I am not here to talk about your content strategy or anything marketing-y like that. I’m here to help the fellas out there get started with Pinterest. Continue reading

The “Idea Etherverse” (or How to Be More Creative at Work)

Idea lightbulb

Did that lightbulb in your head just go on? Maybe it’s coming from the Idea Etherverse.

In my line of work, people talk a lot about creativity. As a content strategist and copywriter at a marketing agency, people look to my creative services team for fresh ideas.

They appreciate unique angles, bursts of inspiration, and the proverbial lightbulb-over-the-head.

Yet, that creativity doesn’t just come from “the creatives.” Not at all.

Ideas can come from anyone in any role, if you encourage people to express their own ideas. Account managers, project managers, quality assurance testers, proofreaders, and traffic coordinators have come up with ideas that rival the best copywriters, art directors, and other people typically associated with “ideas.”

The problem? Most “non creative” people feel boxed in by the words printed on their business cards. They incorrectly assume they are less qualified to share new ideas or whatever. It’s really just “whatever.”

 

The Big Secret Revealed: Where Creativity Comes From

For a few years, I worked as a professional comic book writer (which was outstanding training for new media). At comic book conventions, fans and aspiring creators would sometimes ask where I got my ideas. Continue reading

11 Things Worth Paying for Online

Here’s something awesome…the Internet is still (mostly) free. Despite the sometimes mammoth costs of launching and maintaining a website, social media campaign, or interactive tool, the cost has remained about the same. In same cases, it’s actually become less expensive.

As the end user, just about everything is free, even though we know darn well that it’s not free to create. There are technical people, writers, designers, marketers, and everyone else…all working together to create stuff online. Some of it is supported by advertising and some of it is paid for by the target user.

So why would you pay for anything online? Well, I guess there are just some things worth paying for. Here are 11 things I’m willing to pay for (and maybe already do) on the web.

It’s worth noting that almost all of these are freemium services. That basically means that you get the core service for free. If you really like it, you can pay for an upgrade. Freemium is the ultimate in “try before you buy” solutions for brands to market themselves and their services.

Top 11 Things I’m Willing to Pay for Online Continue reading

Why Marketers Should Drive a Badass Car

Steve McQueen movie poster from Bullitt. He drove a Mustang and he was very, very cool.

If you work in Marketing, Advertising, or some kind or related field, you are probably familiar with the concept of personal branding. Or “Brand You” as it is sometimes referred to.

Your Brand You is something you live every day. It’s the job you do and how you do it. It’s also your clothing, your blog, your online footprint. It’s a little bit of everything that supports the brand that is you. It requires care and feeding.

For example, I was talking with a colleague, who is in a new-business development job. It’s part account manger, part business development, and all relationships. Anyway, he was lamenting the vehicle he drove, which is a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

I asked him what was wrong with his Jeep. He told me that he felt strange picking up corporate clients in a Jeep, which he keeps immaculately clean because of his training in the military.  He motioned to the parking lot, which was a sea of cars from Audi, BMW, Infinity, Lexus, Acura, and Nissan. Those are the cars sales guys drive, he told me.

Yeah, I said, that’s is what they drive. And what you drive is different because you are different. Your brand is different. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Picture this: you’re a client. The sales guy has offered to take you out to lunch and for some reason, he actually has two cars with him. He says, “we can take the Audi or we can take the ’69 Corvette.” Which would you choose to go to lunch in?

My completely unscientific poll of industry colleagues and friends suggests that most people would go to lunch in the ‘Vette. Why? Because it’s a unique experience. It gives you something to talk about. The Audi is nice (which is why you buy one), but it’s not remarkable (unless it’s a performance model).

You want to be remarkable.
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