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What Your Brand Can Learn from the Comic Book



What Your Brand Can Learn from the Comic Book

By Karen Geier

If you’ve been to the movies in the last five years, you will have noticed a strong trend: Comics rule the day. Comics now dominate most pop culture from TV, to web, games, and beyond. They have become an inescapable force to be reckoned with.

On the surface, you may tie the success of comics to licensing and the public’s taste for trends, but even trends don’t tend to have the longevity than the comic book has. What is it about comics that have made them the latest social currency?

There are some features of comics which, when combined, lead to content that the public cannot put down. These features can also help you make better content.

Story

The common thread in all entertainment that becomes successful is story. Without a strong story, you can’t create great content. For a story to be successful, you need a strong beginning, middle, and end.

The best stories also have a focused theme, teasing that theme at the beginning, and following it through to the end. Comics specifically use themes of conflict and adventure to illustrate broader social messages and express points of view.

A lot of time and effort is also spent on the origin stories of the characters. While you might not need to make these explicit all the time, knowing these details will help you make very specific choices for characters, which will become part of their appeal.

Look at your content through the window of its stories. Hone and rewrite your content so that you have a defined beginning, middle and end. Look for a way to hook your content into a theme or a message to increase its chances of going viral.

Dynamics

Another harbinger of comics is their expert use of dynamics – good versus evil is the core, with themes often involving ice versus fire, man versus woman, and more. Look at the stories you want to tell and try to find the dynamics. Look for ways you can augment those conflicting elements. Look for angles that can help you position your content in a dynamics-forward way.

Relatability

Whether it’s the protagonist or antagonist, comics trade on relatability. Comic characters are built in a dynamic way on sometimes tragic or upsetting backstories that anyone who has suffered adversity can relate to. Comics’ readers are attracted to specific characters for how their stories are relatable to themselves, but these characterizations often deal in universals. Everyone feels like an outsider sometimes. Everyone has felt adversity in their lives. Everyone has had times in their lives where they needed to take a moral stand, or make a position on their own. You can use these feelings to inform how you construct your content.

Aspiration

There are several layers of aspiration at play in most comic stories. First, there’s the outside aspiration of the material world created in the story (think Bruce Wayne’s house and lavish lifestyle). However, there are deeper levels of aspiration such as Peter Parker’s relationship with his aunt and uncle.

The biggest aspiration is the aspirational morality. Whether fans cheer for the hero or the villain, they do so partially because of their aspirational morality. That character they identify with has a value system that is appealing to readers.

Consider ways that you can leverage aspiration into your content. Consider how you can leverage traditional “bad” morality into engaging content.

Teams and Partiality

Comics leverage everything that is great about storytelling and marry it with everything that’s good about being a sports fan. For example, having defined teams and established rivalries enable fans to become emotionally invested in certain outcomes.

One hallmark of this dynamic is that members of opposing teams have opposing values, but not always in a mirror, and not always in a predictable way. There is power in tension, and more power in tension that is slightly unpredictable.

Think about ways you can introduce the concept of rivalries or taking a strong stance to invoke these same feelings in your fans. Play with tension in your content creation.

You don’t need to include each and every one of these elements into your content (especially if your content is short form). Focusing on a few elements or even one element can help you find hooks or angles to your content that can make it resonate more with your audience. Take the time to review.

The comic book format is one that marries some of the most engaging parts of storytelling, fandom, and self-actualization. It’s not an easy balance to achieve, but when you’re creating content, you should try to view what you’re creating through the lens of how you can amplify the important elements that make great stories.


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