Several years ago, I wrote a few EzineArticles on license imaging, branding, etc. how it is done, and what are some of the “tricks of the trade”. As all things change, including the way we do business, especially on the Internet, most, if not all of my articles are outdated, though many of the principals remain the same. Lately, I have had several requests for writers, artists, photographers and musicians to share some information, and I will do my best. This article is on the history of it and why it exists and is important. I will write another with more specifics on how to brand in today’s marketplace to give some ideas after giving the reader time to research.
My qualifications include a major in business information management at Western Governors University and ten years of marketing my own offbeat cartoon site and several licensed image gift shops. I launched the cartoon on a true shoestring, maybe three hundred dollars, a beat up computer, and living and working in a friend’s abandoned metal warehouse in rural Mississippi in 1997, and a group of team illustrators willing to take a chance on my concepts. The site has grown to be the most visited offbeat cartoon site on the Internet with about 3 million visitors per year and over 8500 images showcased. I have ten stores that feature over 100,000 original products from aprons to wall clocks that “brand” my cartoon image.
My website was the first offbeat cartoon to be recognized in the Alexa top 100,000 websites, the first to have an offbeat cartoon on real U.S. postage stamps and the first to “go green” with a 100% organic cotton tshirt shop. I say this not for bragging rights, but to show you what can be done with next to nothing (financially) and a powerful idea. When I started, there was none of the goodies we have today on the Internet such as social networking, social bookmarking, blogging, Google, pinging, and a host of other tools. Most marketing was done by phone, emails, and banners.
Today, with the Internet, even if you have nothing to brand, but want to make a decent second income and eventually a career (if you put time and effort into it), you can join an affiliate or associates program and market other’s branded products (much like a retail store does today). Tie your rope to a shooting star and grow with it. For instance, any of my stores at Zazzle, like the ones mentioned above, offer associates programs. Zazzle allows you promote products, such as mine and others on your own website or blog and earn a nice commission. Not a bad deal, being able to establish your own online retail store, and not have to put a penny into it other than the website (or free if you use a blog), and article marketing (free) to promote the products, and if you wish, make a budget for Google AdWords and advertise the actual product page and/or your own store with the links and pics of them.
Branding oneself or one’s work has been with us, experts say, since biblical times. Probably one of the most well-known early public relations giants was Paul of Tarsus or St. Paul. Many are not aware of biblical history, but here is an example of what can happen when powerful ideas are put into motion. According to biblical scholars, professors of comparative religion, etc. of which I’ve been a pro toge, when Jesus came up with the idea to “reform Judaism”, he actually was not forming a new religion, just changes (which eventually were done anyway within the religion). Paul on the other hand, was interested in getting the word out to the masses, and “branding” it a new religion. This new religion, now known as Christianity, was not actually founded until about 65 A.D. Bankrolled by the Roman Empire, and known as The First Church Of Rome, later to be known as Catholicism. Of course, as time went by, even that split into many new “branded” sects and other forms and interpretations of the religion formed.
But actually in spirit, branding goes back long before even biblical days. For instance, the early caveman was known to “mark his territory” to let it be known that this was “Grog’s food, or Grog’s woman, family, etc.). Of course, anthropology has shown us it is primitive and instinctive for man, and woman to want to “leave their mark” in the world. Procreation, oddly enough, is a form of branding, or “keeping our image alive”, though it might be a bit basic to look at it that way. It is simply a part of our genetic makeup to keep the species going.
Fast-forward several millennium, pre-Internet days and we see brands such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Yves St. Laurent, Playboy, Oprah, and many others “getting in on the game”. It seemed like magic, at least to many of us, and we wondered “how in the world did they do it”? Like the days of old, branding starts with a powerful idea. The more unique the better, though it is not necessary to re-create the wheel to create a good profitable brand. Take Ralph Lauren’s “Polo” casual wear. Polo (the little guy on the horse) became so popular, “polo shirts” have now even become known as a generic term, same as T shirts or hoodies.
Today, with the Internet, we have the same tools available to us that were available to the earlier captains of Industry, and one not even need to form a huge corporation of people to brand oneself or one’s work. A good place to start is to Google “Branding a product” or “Branding an image” and do some research. Knowledge is a powerful tool, as is preparation, and learning the public’s wants and needs.
Image licensing is one of the most mysterious, yet largest multi-billion dollar industries in America. Most artists and writing entrepreneurs profit a thousand-fold more from it than actual publishing. Charles Schultz, creator of Peanut’s, said that he made eighty million to every one million he made in newspaper publishing. That would probably be several billion today. Gone With The Wind took a risk, and created T shirts and movie posters to get the word out about it (the first movie to ever do so), out of fear they would lose money due to the prohibitive cost of producing it. The imaged licensed goods have easily made into the billions and still sell well today.
For those who want to join the official branding/license imaging association, I recommend LIMA. Membership is a bit pricey and is for serious marketers, artists, publishers, manufacturers etc. It is a place to network with the “big dogs” such as Hallmark, etc. Their list of members is estensive and, if you can budget it, worth the price. It is a good place to have your work seen and network with others looking for such work, learn about trade shows etc. If you are on a “true shoestring” as i was, joining such associations is out of the question. But there are ways around it; to be featured in part dieux of this article.