Monday, February 18, 2013

Branding

Branding. It exists in the minds of your audience, and is the sum total of all your interactions with them.  It includes your professional work ("aren't you that guy who writes Sci-Fi?"), your personal habits ("aren't you that guy who kills off a player each gaming session?"), or how you choose to communicate ("aren't you that guy who retweets pictures of cats all day?").  It doesn't matter what kind of creator you are: your brand is everything.  It tells people if you're good to work with, or if your products are worth buying.

As an actor, I took classes on how to brand, or at least how to be careful about it.  After all, as an actor your first film role can define you for the rest of your life.  The topic also comes up a lot among game designers, writers, video bloggers, etc., since it's a pretty big part of the life of any content creator.

Brands have been occupying my mind a lot lately, as they relate to my recent life and work.  While I hope I won't become "that guy who is introspective a lot," I feel the need to explain the process I've gone through to create a brand I could be proud of, and why it's cost me so much creative energy and so many abandoned projects for the past few years:


  1. First, I was going to go to New York to be an actor.  I had my camera and a love of new media, and lots of plans not only for being in movies and musicals, but for doing things like video journals, youtube serials, and other projects.  However, being a father of 2 small children before I even set out for the NYC, I quickly realized the city just wasn't set up to receive an upcoming actor with that kind of financial responsibility.
  2. Next, I moved back to Provo, Utah.  My wife was making a good deal of money teaching professors to use the university's new computer programs, and I was ready to become a stay-at-home dad.  However, that wasn't going to stop me from creating, and along with my actual writing I had big plans to do video game reviews, author interviews, youtube shows, and serial fiction stories.  However, a partner had a baby, taking care of my own children was more draining than I'd thought, the interviews just weren't of a quality where I was comfortable releasing them, and it was taking everything I could just to get some sort of creative work done, let alone on the kind of regular schedule a review show or serial fiction story would require.
  3. Even now, I just got done doing some experimental interviews at LTUE to see if author interviews could be made funny in the way that makes a quippy youtube video.  The short answer?  No they can't, or at least not unless I wanted to create an entire website and weekly series that used them as part of a larger initiative which I just don't have the time to make.

That's a lot of projects that never worked out.  The desire to avoid a bad brand has led me to abandon several projects that I felt weren't good enough to be worth releasing, or that I just wouldn't have the time to make as good as they should be.  Starting and stopping all these projects has certainly cut into the time I could have spent actually creating.

But there have been several things I've done that HAVE been good for me.  I've released two RPG products that have both been very, very well received.  I've given presentations at CONduit and LTUE on weapons and the psychology and culture of warfare that have gone over pretty well, or so the people I talked to afterward said as much.

Do I regret the time I spent on these projects that ended up abandoned?  Sort of.  I enjoy knowing I don't have a reputation for abysmal content forever haunting me from the bowels of the internet, but at the same time what have I learned from all those months trying to figure out my brand?  That nothing I've done has been worth sharing with the world but the actual content I've created, and the presentations I've given at conventions on my different areas of expertise.

I'm an actor at heart, so you can very much expect me to start up a video series sometime, but it will be short, meandering, and will only exist as it doesn't distract from the more important job of creating publishable content.  (Probably normal interviews with authors, plus coverage of the conventions I attend, and whatever else I find that week that's worth mentioning.)  And I'll be maintaining this blog, of course.  But still, after so many months of trying different approaches, when it comes to developing a brand I can use as a creator, nothing has been as helpful as attending conventions, blogging, and just making good products people want to buy.  Just a thought for the day.

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