Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Positioning Statements - Target or Die!

Comics need readers. Readers are brought in by, among other things, good advertising. This tends to require that the makers of those comics make their own advertising, and just like there are bad webcomics, there can be worse advertising for these comics. Fortunately, good advertising doesn't require big focus groups and research (at least not all the time) -- sometimes you can get away with using a tiny guideline called a positioning statement.

Positioning Statements are little blurbs of text that sound fairly useless at first -- perhaps even amazingly obvious -- but they allow you to understand who your audience is, what makes your stuff stand out, and if you're really struggling to come up with a good ad to use, this can help give you a bellwether to gauge its effectiveness by. (At this point it should go without saying that if you're paying for space on Project Wonderful without having something like this, you're probably wasting money on an ineffective ad!) For something that your average reader will probably never see, it's still incredibly important to have.

It may take a little bit of time to write the statement itself, but they all tend to follow the same sort of structure. This site has a straightforward plug-and-play version that you can go and tweak for your own purposes:
For [whoever's cash/attention we're after] that wants [some quality people demand], [Our Product/Service/Brand] is a [product category] that has [a benefit tied to the quality people demand].

Unlike [whoever we're trying to grind underfoot], [Our Product/Service/Brand] has [this trait that makes us better than them].
Now, you can rewrite that statement to sound a little less aggressive, but the idea is there. What you fill in the blanks with says a LOT about what you need to do. Heck, just to show that I have half a clue what writing such a statement will do, let's try it out with our favorite guinea pig, Last Resort:
For science fantasy enthusiasts who love engrossing stories of crime and redemption, Last Resort is a webcomic that has a rich galaxy of characters, excellent writing, and action-packed excitement. Unlike most other webcomics, Last Resort makes sure to update on time every week, so you never show up to find disappointing 'filler'.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well guess what we just did:
  • We now know who to aim our sights on: Sci-fi/Fantasy folk (i.e. Dragon*Con Fodder)
  • We also know what to hype in the comic:
    • High-Quality Writing / Storytelling
    • Reliability in Updates
  • We can put those two together to make better targeted ads!
See? Mad Libs can be educational after all! The other things we mentioned (like our competition) are useful to know, but really, that's just so we know who to compare our egos against. Simply naming competition isn't good enough unless you know what makes you different from them; and if you can't come up with a good reason why what you're doing is different from everyone else's, there's no reason for anyone else to stop using their product to invest time, energy, and money into yours.

And yes, even when that product is a 'free' webcomic, people's attention spans are still valuable enough to them that if they're already reading 20+ webcomics a day, there's a good chance they might not have time for yours. If it has a 100+ strip archive that people need to read before they can understand what's going on, they might be even more hesitant because reading that archive is an investment of time.

Targeting solves a lot of problems; most people (artists, especially) get caught up in the product, wondering why nobody's noticing them on a giant website like DeviantArt or DrunkDuck, when in fact that's exactly why they're not getting noticed; the potential number of people to reach is just too big to be effective. With targeting, however, you can take a website like Project Wonderful and start running campaigns on very specific websites that have certain keywords, so you waste less money on ineffective advertising.

Still curious about how to make better advertising? Subscribing to the RSS feed will make sure you don't miss the next useful article. If you're having trouble coming up with a good statement, how about leaving a comment with your own ideas and attempts?

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