Using Cartoons for Marketing

Cartoon created by Affinity Express

Cartoon created by Affinity Express for a client

I have been reading the book Visual Marketing by David Langton and Anita Campbell, and came across the example of cartoons to market CaseCentral. CaseCentral markets eDiscovery software to law firms and corporations, and these “Case in Point” cartoons are meant to draw attention, entertain as well as demonstrate the company’s knowledge of the field.

That is a smart use of visual marketing, and it reminded me of the Indian consumer goods company, Amul. Amul Butter cartoons appear on billboards and newspapers all over India. Each cartoon references some current event—an election, a new movie, a sleazy scandal—and the tagline is at once a pun on and a comment on the event that it references. They have been doing this for decades and these cartoons are immensely popular: you can browse through some here.

If you haven’t guessed already, I am in awe of the Amul campaign. They combine contemporary relevance, story-telling and art to create a powerful message that evokes the brand and ties in the product, and they have done this consistently for over three decades. If that isn’t brilliant, I don’t know what is.

That level of inspired marketing is difficult for us ordinary mortals to come up with, but as you can see from these two examples, cartoons can work for products as varied as software and butter.

Comic strip created by Affinity Express

Comic strip created by Affinity Express for a client

And if you can’t come up with something creative yourself, you can always work with someone who can, and use a character that’s already popular. MetLife has used Snoopy in its ads and messaging since 1985, partly to shake off the image of insurance companies as fuddy-duddy and make an emotional connection with its audience. As MetLife says on its website:

Snoopy’s special qualities—is there a cartoon character who’s warmer, more charming, more loyal?—made him the perfect choice to represent MetLife as we moved to humanize our company in the eyes of consumers. As an iconic figure, Snoopy plays a positive role in differentiating the MetLife brand in the financial services marketplace, and he will continue to play an important role in our global efforts.

However, cartoons might not work for every brand: if you’re a serious, professional brand, for example, you might feel it wouldn’t suit your image, and you might be right.

Here are some ideas of how cartoons might work:

  • If you are a recruitment company, cartoons on bad workplaces a la Dilbert might work, if you combine it with a tagline of helping job-seekers and recruiters find the right fit.
  • If you offer a service where you’re competing with customers’ DIY efforts (gardening, carpentry, house-cleaning), maybe come up with humorous scenarios of customers botching the job and calling in the experts (you) to fix the mess.
  • Any kind of research, knowledge services or consultancy company can riff off common misconceptions in the field, kind of like the Case in Point cartoons.

But hey, I’m not a cartoonist. And creating a new cartoon every week, keeping it business-focused and yet interesting and funny, seems like a difficult thing to do. Kind of like running a business blog.

About Unmana Datta
Senior Marketing Manager at Affinity Express, Unmana is an obsessive consumer of blogs and social media, and fascinated by their use in marketing.

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