Comics are irresistible, enduring and a deeply personal part of our lives. We read comic strips in newspapers today with the same enthusiasm as we did when we were losing our milk teeth and popping our pimples. But we’re also at an age where we can scrutinize comics from a different angle – that of a content marketer.
Whether you’re a business, an independent blogger or you write in your leisure time, an investigation into the best practices and strategic tools used by writers and publishers can be enlightening. We’ve compiled some content marketing lessons from popular comics that small and big businesses will find useful.
1. Polish your narrative
A punchy narrative keeps readers hooked to the action and adventure. Comic strip and book writers may edit and revise their narrative multiple times before publication.
Your blog post cannot always tell a story, but it can be paced to sustain readers’ interest from the introductory paragraph till the conclusion. You can use story-telling elements such as surprise, discovery and suspense to keep readers engrossed.
2. Drama is good
“Centuries ago, the third phantom made this mark…in blood…” [The Phantom]
“Every morning gives us the opportunity to change our lives, that’s why I wake up late.” [Rat-Man]
Statements like these are comic gold. They elicit emotions: pity, anger, mirth or hope, just to name a few. An emotional connection with a character and his/her life is essential for reader loyalty.
An anecdote, a conflict or an accusation (nothing that can get you into legal trouble) are some ways to add drama to your blog post or social media post. It immediately establishes a connection with your audience and keeps them hooked to your piece.
3. Create visual content
Some comics are so visually spectacular that they can tell stories with minimal textual content. Moon Knight, The Age of Reptiles, and Shaolin Cowboy are some examples of stunning comics art.
Visual content marketing has taken off in a big way. It may have to do with the fact that humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish. We are also able to interpret visuals much more quickly than we can do words. Visuals such as images, videos, memes and infographics also make a blog post more dynamic and engaging.
4. Adapt your message to your audience
When they first started, Marvel Comics created characters that were relatable to their teenage audience. Famous examples include the nerdy and awkward Peter Parker/Spider-Man and the angry and misunderstood Hulk. As their audience matured, Marvel introduced complex characters such as the very philosophical Silver Surfer and dealt with darker themes. Today’s Marvel movies are enjoyed as family entertainment. In a nutshell, Marvel did a good job of staying relevant and in tune with their audience’s evolving needs and interests.
Analyze your audience when composing your blog topics, and adapt your messages to their needs and goals. Try to anticipate what they want before they realize it themselves, and capture their imagination with carefully-tailored messages.
5. Leverage various content formats
Did you know that the Marvel Universe has more than 45,000 characters? Characters from one comic are sometimes interwoven into the storyline of another comic. This creates interest in characters that readers may not know, and gives them a means to explore the broader superhero world of Marvel.
(On a slightly different note, Marvel Studios is also an inter-connected franchise, a strategy that has helped them adapt to failure in a novel way. How? Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk came out in the same year, but while the former was extremely successful and spawned its own franchise, the latter didn’t do so well. But both characters appeared in The Avengers movie, as did Captain America and Thor, reinforcing the strength and vastness of the Marvel Universe.)
As a content marketer, you have the flexibility to link to different pieces of your branded content, such as linking to your case study from your blog post or promoting your infographic in one of your how-to videos on YouTube. Such a multi-tiered approach can nudge your target audience deeper into your brand universe and help in both building and sustaining front-of-mind-awareness.
6. Get inspiration from sound bites
The dialogues and internal dialogues in a comic book are expressed in sound bites. Sound bites are pithy and impactful. With limited white space, they need to be. The short sentences get the point across quickly to readers and maintain the story’s pace. They also stay with you and the best ones become quotable (even iconic, such as ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ and ‘I cannot preach hate and warfare when I am a disciple of peace and love’).
Focus on brevity when writing your blog posts, so readers can consume your content more easily. Where possible, use bullet points, quotes and sound bites to serve up crisp and concise content that stays with your readers for a long time.
7. Don’t ignore emotions
Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge, said Plato. If comics didn’t operate on emotions, they wouldn’t have such a dedicated fan base. Emotional conflicts and stakes are an integral part of quite a few comics, at least the superhero kind. In fact, superhero therapy is actually being used by some therapists to help patients express and get in touch with their emotions.
There is also scope for businesses to create an emotional connect with their audience. Audience research and personas are fundamental to put this strategy into practice. By interacting with your audience, listening to their conversations on social media, and encouraging two-way communication, you can understand what people like about your brand. Use this information to create an emotionally engaging branded content across the board that resonates with your audience and influences their behavior.
8. Repurpose your content
Though comics are released on a weekly, monthly or fortnightly basis, there are specials, re-issues and collected comics that repurpose content. Besides creating original content, comic book writers may curate content from their older stories to start off from where a story had stopped or explore an important theme from a previous saga.
Naturally, only some of your branded content can be evergreen. But there isn’t any reason why you cannot use your existing content more than once or present it in new ways on new platforms. Maybe collate a number of relevant blog posts into an ebook that you can either sell or provide for free on your site?
Use content curation apps to discover and repurpose content. Look at it as an opportunity to enhance content by providing different perspectives or combining different studies and adding your own commentary for originality.