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Human, or brand?

Over at Newsarama, a fellow named Eric Adams has been running a series of articles about what it's like to be an indy-creator. He has a lot of interesting points, and some good advice that could be applied to webcomics, since we're all really indy creators anyway. I suggest you all go read what he has to say, it's interesting stuff.

His latest article is on the topic of branding. The branding of your comic is important to have it stick in people's minds: Logos, color themes, tone, etc. However, it stood out at me that his first example he used for the power of branding was himself.

[Cross-posted from WilliamG blog]

“Am I Eric Adams, the person? Or Eric Adams, the concept?

Both exist. But have you ever met Eric Adams? If not, then how can he be anything but an idea to you? What's your perception of him? Is he a smart, business-savvy comic creator with a cut-through-the-crap attitude and slightly off-kilter sense of humor? Or maybe he's full of shit, and this column is a self-promotional ruse that is only filling all these would-be creators with delusions of comic grandeur.

You don't see the Eric Adams that misses deadlines, bites his fingernails and all too frequently doesn't give his loving girlfriend the attention she deserves because he's a workaholic bastard. No, Eric Adams only shows you what he wants you to see. Has he just tarnished his brand by confessing these things about himself? Perhaps. Or has he just cleverly reinforced his brand by revealing his flaws in order to seem more human to you? Again, perhaps.

Think about that.”

I've seen and had this discussion many times recently. You're selling yourself as well as your comic. Everything you put out there, from blog entries, to messageboard comments, are part of your branding as a creator. And thus you have to post accordingly. This sort of personality branding is a very common thing in on the web. At times it seems to be more important than the content of the website itself. It does seem that the building of a personality cult around one's public persona is just how things get done.

You are your brand, and it's no secret that I find it a rather distasteful philosophy to follow. I'm a man. I'm not a concept, I'm not an idea for you to follow, and I am NOT a product to be sold. If you're reading my comics, it's because you like my comics. I should not be a factor.

I realize that we live in a culture where the desire for fame is so strong that people are willing to make assholes of themselves just to get on TV, and a generation where the goal is far more important than how you reach it. But does it really have to be like this for everything? Slaves and prostitutes are the only people who are products. Why the desire to be just like them?

Like Adam said: "Think about that."

So, do you agree or disagree with the ideas presented?

Branding for products, okay. But...

RemusShepherd's picture

 I agree completely with Mr. Adams. But you know, I actually don't mind being equated to a brand when seen on the net. That's because I'm usually confident in how I present myself as Remus Shepherd, and that it's a pretty good reflection of who I am. Of course it's a mask, but it's not much of a mask; I'm pretty much the same person everywhere I go.

 What I hate -- and what I've railed about before -- is that creators are expected to be active prostitutes for their craft. You're expected to go out there and shill, craft yourself into a brand name and hammer it into peoples' minds. If you don't, then you don't exist. I'm not talking about the product, mind you -- creators are expected to sell *themselves* in addition to all they do branding and promoting their work. I've had people tell me, "I've never heard of you, so why should I read your comic?" My trademarked brand of dealing with that kind of idiocy is to flatten the speaker with a two-by-four, but that would not bring more readers. :)

In summary: Branding for products, not a problem. Branding yourself happens, I can deal with it. But the requirement to push yourself as a brand is a problem for me. I'd rather do all this anonymously.




I agree with him. Being a

Scott Story's picture

I agree with him.

Being a concept, as well as a biological being, is nothing new to me. In my understanding of the world, ideas are things in and of themselves. I'm not going to get all philosophical here, because it's not the place for it, but we represent ourselves in various ways every day, wearing a variety of masks to interract with our environments.

All these masks we wear are extensions of ourselves. Our web personalities may be simplified versions of ourselves, and some of us (not naming names) even engage in self-mythologising, but they are still drawn from our basic personalities. I guess you could say that life is role-playing, and we role-play ourselves.


Iain Hamp's picture

All the webcomic world's a stage, and all the men and women merely geeks in binary clothing.

Or something...


So, I take it you didn't

Scott Story's picture

So, I take it you didn't agree with my point, eh?

Actually I was agreeing, in

Iain Hamp's picture

Actually I was agreeing, in an obviously too-vague way. =)

There are countless parts of

Iain Hamp's picture

There are countless parts of life where you have to package yourself in a different way in order to achieve your goal. I don't mean you shouldn't be yourself, but if you are putting a resume together for a job as a business manager, you aren't going to include "can belch the Star-Spangled Banner" among your list of skills (nor is it likely to come up in the interview process (hopefully)).

Being genuine is important. Splaying your entire self out in the open and not expecting repercussions in your professional life is... probably unrealistic.

I agree with him, actually.

WillieHewes's picture

I agree with him, actually. I'm not sure what the problem is. Everyone wears masks when they interact with other people. When I'm online as Willie Hewes (and I have no other aliases anymore), part of what I'm doing is promoting my comics. That doesn't mean that with every line I type I'm thinking "what will this say about me? How does this affect my image?", that would be silly.

But it does mean I think about what I write. For instance, I've decided not to complain about not being able to draw on my blog or my main site. If I think it sucks, how can I expect anyone else to look at it? So even if I feel that way, I don't post it. At forums and other places I make sure I behave, not just because I think it's worthwhile to be polite, but also because if I'm rude to someone they're less likely to check out my site.

It doesn't mean I'm not real, or don't say what I think, it just means I'm aware that what I say will have an effect on the people reading it. It's common sense, isn't it?

And on that note: Willie Hewes ComicsÂ

Comics by a girl who likes sad things (but sometimes they are funny) -

It bothers me too

It bothers me too. I rebelled when he talked about blogging:

"Beyond the visual, brands are reinforced by what you say and write. If you keep a blog, this will be your most common measure of vocal branding. Everything you post online or anywhere will be analyzed. So, if you go from being some gritty foul-mouthed guy in one post to suddenly being a chipper nice-guy that loooooves rainbows in another, it's going to raise a red flag and your readers will instantly notice that you are going against your brand. Do this too often and the abrasiveness will confuse them to the point of not understanding what your identity is at all."

The trouble is that for most webcomic creators I read, their blogs are places for chatting, giving vent, and maybe sharing the odd bit of comics-related news. Places where they're free to be themselves, in fact. To start playing the brand-game there would be like wearing a mask in public - it'll put people off if they realise it's false, it's never as interesting as the live face behind it, and it'll make you feel lonely and cut off and a bit silly.