2021/03/12

The eDrama Egg Timer

Egg Timer

The total conquest of all cultural institutions by the Death Cult has given rise to a robust counterculture, even as it presents dissenting artists with serious challenges. Chief among those challenges is the problem of discoverability. If you're a talented creator whose personal convictions make you anathema to the fanatics that run the media, how are you to build an audience?

One answer our guys have come up with is eDrama marketing. The basic idea is to pick out a representative of the establishment and find a way to sell yourself as the plucky little guy crusading against the man. People - especially Americans - love an underdog, so playing the put-upon victim of megacorp ticket-takers is an effective way to drum up sympathy.

No doubt about it, eDrama can make for rapid gains. I've used that approach myself. If the popularity of professional wrestling has taught us anything, it's that kayfabe works. People love to root for the face against the heel. The ringleaders of certain dissident art scenes have ridden outrage marketing to modest e-celebrity and small fortunes.

Now, stirring the pot can be an effective way for a newcomer to get visibility. Most people reading this post can think of multiple now-established brands that made their bones by feuding with the big boys when they first hit the scene. The problems inherent in eDrama marketing come to the fore when creators let outrage tactics drag on too long. That way risks developing a dependency on ginning up outrage. Astute observers will note the baked-in weakness of that approach: If the growth of your brand relies on picking fights with the man, you always need to be punching up against bigger and bigger fish. The fate awaiting those who choose this path is inevitable defeat by their own success, as they in turn become the man. After that, there's nowhere to punch but down.

On the other hand, a rabble-rousing artist could in theory grow his brand to a comfortable level and carve out a niche there. But then he runs into the problem of diminishing returns. Maintaining a given level of notoriety in the outrage game means jousting with the same set of moderately bigger brands ad infinitum. Since you can't let your efforts make too big a splash, you've got to trade constant mid-level coups for intermittent big ones. Time spent tilting at online foes cuts into more profitable activities like drawing, writing, or composing. In practice, nobody can keep up that level of drama forever, so taking this route is a ticket to burnout.

Either way, following the eDrama road past the initial breakout phase sets an egg timer on your career. The countdown to irrelevance has begun.

The same goes for attacking big IPs as opposed to personal brands. Posting essays and making videos about how the latest installment of Big Brand X is woke garbage still boils down to riding Brand X's coattails, no matter how thoroughly you DESTROY its lame characters and hackneyed plot. 

Again, if you decide to continue with this approach beyond a certain point, you'd better hope Big Brand X never falls out of favor, because your gravy train will go with it. For counterculture artists, building a brand off of attacking globomedia franchises is no less a setup for failure than the GOP running against the Democrats. By defining your brand as anti-Brand X, all you're doing is signing with the Globetrotters.

Which works if all you're in this for is to make enough scratch to stave off a day job. Readers who've been watching the indie arts scene for the last few years could name a number of creators who are now making a living as social media firebrands or YouTube critics.

The elephant in the room, though, is that everyone outside the velvet rope makes obligatory noises about changing the culture. As has been explained, waging flame wars with oldpub purse puppies and giving Hollywood studios free advertising disguised as poison pen reviews does exactly nothing in the long run to accomplish that goal.

George Lucas didn't make Star Wars a household name by attacking Flash Gordon.

J.K. Rowling didn't turn Harry Potter into an international sensation by sniping at George R.R. Martin.

You could say that the socioeconomic conditions that enabled Lucas' and Rowling's success no longer exist, and you'd be right. That doesn't mean other avenues aren't available and more won't become available with time.

Here's a simple and relatable story about a guy who got a successful side business up and running by selling pineapple-themed products. Starting from where a lot of you are now, he did his market research, found his niche, and made sure people associated positive shopping experiences with his easily identifiable brand.

Anybody in any market can do the same. How?

I'll answer with another question:

Who makes your water heater?

Chances are, unless you just bought or renovated your home, you didn't know the answer off the top of your head. That's no slight against water heaters or their manufacturers. Both are rather low-profile because water heaters are expected to be reliable. We only interact with them on the rare occasions when they don't work.

Follow up question: What brand of TV do you have?

Bet you knew that one right away, didn't you? That's because, unlike your water heater, you interact with your TV all the time. And every time you do, you see the manufacturer's logo emblazoned right there on the front.

Which is entirely deliberate, by the way. Watching TV gives you a dopamine rush. TV manufacturers strategically place their logos so you'll associate their brand with your dopamine hits.

How do you build a brand that actually has a chance of making a cultural impact?

Be the TV.

That means consistently giving customers positive experiences and making sure they associate those experiences with your brand.

Of course, TVs aren't the only example. My hit mech thriller series Combat Frame XSeed has earned a loyal readership of satisfied customers. It got there because I promise readers a quality experience, and I always make sure to deliver.

Just like I've delivered on every promise I've made to my XSeed crowdfund backers. Experience the edge-of-your-seat thrill ride for yourself. Back XSeed: SS now, and get every book in the hit series for a bargain you won't find anywhere else! Plus, help us fund the CFXS short story collection when we hit 400%.

Welcome to the post-future. Support the campaign:

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6 comments:

  1. There's nothing wrong with a little sizzle as long as there's a juicy steak being served up with it. Art has to rise and fall on its own merits. Fortunately, I have been able to support artists who produce great art and have a belief system that tacks with mine.

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    1. The trick is dishing the stake before it's a hockey puck.

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  2. >The problems inherent in eDrama marketing come to the fore when creators let outrage tactics drag on too long. That way risks developing a dependency on ginning up outrage.

    *cough* literally every insufferable mouse wars youtuber beating a dead horse ever *cough*

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    1. "Hey, b-ball fans! Give us Generals money and clicks, and we'll end the Globetrotters' reign of terror!"

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    2. “Hey guys Kathleen Kennedy will still be fired! Just ignore the other 57 videos where I’ve said the exact same thing!”

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    3. The Pop Cult can no more defeat the Death Cult than Gollum could willingly destroy the Ring.

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