February 9, 2005

brand pyramid


In marketing there's something called "The Brand Pyramid".

Basically it describes how the brand "intereacts" at different levels of the value chain.

In the comments of a recent post I described gapingvoid in pyramid terms. Starting from the bottom of the pryramid and working upwards:

-At the bottom, you have reading the stuff on gapingvoid for free.

-Then you have the affordable merch, let's say, blogcards, t-shirts, books etc.

-Then you have prints and drawings.

-Then at the top you have commissions and consulting.

Basically, all the layers inform and nourish each other...

I heard a rumor of a certain well-known marketing guru who (*ahem) shall remain nameless, who basically used his own money to buy back wholesale from his publisher enough books to get his name on the NY Times Bestseller List. He made no money from his book. In fact, it cost him a fortune.

And then he would give his books out for free at his seminars, or mail them out as upscale pieces of direct marketing.

But... he was able to put "NY Times Bestseller" on his business cards and marketing bumf. Made it easier to land those large, 6-figure contacts with big clients.

Having your work become part of the larger cultural matrix- beyond the industry it's in- makes it much easier to sell within the industry.

But any "creative" or "guru" will have a brand pyramid. Look at Tom Peters. Charges thousands of dollars an hour for personal appearances, but still manages to find the time to write his blog.


Rock Bands have a similar pyramid- free radio airplay and downloads at the bottom, paid downloads, CDs and t-shirts in the middle, concert tickets at the top etc.

If the record companies are going out of business, it's because they got too attached to one price point on the pyramid- the CD sales- and stopped paying attention to what their jobs should have been i.e. "Pyramid Builders".

Gapingvoid is quite different than other cartoon brands because it pays more attention to the top and the bottom of the pyramid (the consulting and the free website part), and less attention on the more conventional middle (publication revenue, books, t-shirts, mass media etc). Although granted, that is beginning to change.

If you're trying to break into the creative business, try to see the whole pyramid. Don't think your answer is going to come from one single price point- the royalites from one book, the royalties from one type of merch. You need to learn to juggle. You need to read "The Sex & Cash Theory."

Even the best income streams have an annoying habit of drying up fast and unexpectedly (just ask Time Warner). Best to have more than one on the go. Best to get into the habit of inventing new ones, faster than necessary.

And yes, all this applies to "non-creative" jobs as well.

Posted by hugh macleod at February 9, 2005 10:35 AM | TrackBack

Very cool article, it certainly puts my purpose and point into perspective.

Posted by: Albone at February 9, 2005 2:21 PM

Action figures! Don't forget the action figures!

Posted by: Lex at February 9, 2005 3:24 PM

Pez dispensers! Burger King plastic cups!

Posted by: hugh macleod at February 9, 2005 3:25 PM

mmhmm, snake oil, all of it...

Posted by: mamagiggle at February 9, 2005 4:10 PM

Screw the biz cards--I'm printing *this* out and putting it on my cubicle. (Well, okay--my fridge. I don't have a cubby.)

Posted by: Colleen at February 9, 2005 4:22 PM

whoah, time warp, wha-zing, what the heck, cool I'll just walk through this hall again and remember the good times.

Posted by: mamagiggle at February 25, 2005 2:01 AM