Why Cartoons Outperform Every Content Format

Tom Fishburne, Founder and CEO of the Marketoonist, joins the Social Pros Podcast to discuss why niche cartoons have the greatest impact with your audience and how the best creativity is born from repetition.

In This Episode:

Tom Fishburne


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Full Episode Details

Why Cartoons Outperform Every Content FormatNo Longer Captive

In the advertising days of Mad Men and three TV channels, it was fairly easy to captivate your audience. There were not exactly a lot of options when it came to changing the channel, so the competition was extremely relaxed.

Tom is here to tell you that those days are over. The captive audience is a myth, and your audience has never been more fluid and distractable.

To entice and ensnare the eyes of your customers, you need creative content that hits the market ready to go and demands engagement immediately. The source of that kind of creativity doesn’t come from the bolt of inspirational lightning. Surprisingly enough, it’s repetition that bears the fruit that delivers you leads over and over again.

Sitting with content over several days allows you to mull it over and fine-tune your approach. The result is content that grabs attention and stands apart from the rest.

In This Episode

  • How time and repetition, not urgency or inspiration, leads to creativity
  • Why incorporating new marketing technology and social platforms doesn’t mean just plugging it into what you’re already doing
  • How Shiny New Thing Syndrome leads to a crippling of the creative process and subsequent marketing strategy
  • Why the rise of technology means a whole new generation of a free audience
  • How to find the V1 marker of launching a new career

Quotes From This Episode

“If I focus too much on the numbers, it starts to get in my head, and that takes me out of the creative process.” —@tomfishburne

I may not have the best idea on day one, but after doing that every day for five days, I have some stuff to work with.” —@tomfishburne

“I have to respect the creative process as having these blocks of time to be creative, and I don’t always know what’s going to come of it.” —@tomfishburne

We're making the same mistakes with different tools. Click To Tweet

“You can amplify an exciting idea with technology, but it can’t be a crutch.” —@tomfishburne

“Let’s remember the fundamentals of what we do and to take advantage of what’s out there, but try to avoid that shiny new thing syndrome.” —@tomfishburne

You can't save a boring idea with technology. Click To Tweet

“That mindset of having a captive audience is something that many marketers were brought up into, and there’s no longer a captive audience.” —@tomfishburne

“These tools may allow us to reach audiences in ways like never before possible, and that’s incredibly exciting, but yet, it’s also never been easier for these audiences to tune out whatever it is we want to say to them.” —@tomfishburne

There's a real power in talking to niches. Click To Tweet

“On average, cartoons perform triple the engagement rates of other types of visual media.” —@tomfishburne

“When you’re looking at a cartoon, you see yourself in the cartoon. There’s something inherently engaging about that formula of working with cartoons, that seems to really resonate.” —@tomfishburne


See you next week!

Episode Transcript

Jay: Welcome everybody to Social Pros. The podcast for real people, doing real work in social media. I am as always, Jay Baer from Convince and Convert, joined as usual by my special, special Texas friend. He is the Executive Strategist of Salesforce Marketing Cloud. From the great city, music city, Austin, Texas, the one, the only, Mr. Adam Brown.
Adam: Jay, it is great to be here. Yeah, and it's funny, I just realized that. Two music cities. I grew up in Nashville, Music City, USA, the music capital of the world. And now live here in Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world. It's important, those adjectives. Those adjectives are everything.
Jay: Yes it is. It's a key distinction.
Adam: It’s the Guinness Book of World Records type things, which actually is a little bit of a teaser because we're going to be talking about the Guinness Book of World Records here a little bit later, aren't we?
Jay: I know, how about that? This has been an incredible run of shows. We're on episode 287, but this is the first time in our almost 300 shows. We've had back-to-back shows, one about tequila, and one about the magic of cartoons.
Adam: Yeah.
Jay: That's a pretty good run.
Adam: Should get in some nachos next week, and we'll have a nacho show.
Jay: Yeah, we do need a nacho show.
Adam: Entertainment gamut.
Jay: Let's work on that. Somebody at Chorizo Company or something can be next week's show. I'm super fired up about our guest this week, because I absolutely adore his work and I'm sure many of our listeners are familiar with it. If not, they will be rushing out to get familiar with it after this episode. He is Tom Fishburne, who is the head cartoonist and chief everything at Marketoonist. He's a marketer. He's a cartoonist. Tom's got a brand new book out called Your Ad Ignored Here. It's out on October 24th, but now, if you go ... even right now as I'm talking, go to Amazon, pre-order the book. Tom will send you a signed 5 by 7 print out of one of his favorite 10 cartoons from the last 15 years, and the new book is great. I'm holding a copy right here. Tom was nice enough to send me one and it is hilarious. It is hundreds of pages of things that you will find both amazingly funny and also make you wonder about what we're doing here as marketers. I just want to read one to you, Adam. This is on page 109 from December 9th, 2013, and it's the stages of social network adoption by marketers. First stage is ridicule. Snapchat is a fad for teenagers and sexting. Second stage, legitimacy. That's a lot of consumers just waiting for our marketing. Third stage, urgency. Drop everything and get our brand on Snapchat. Fourth stage, promotion. For immediate release, our brand is now on Snapchat, #werecool, #buynow. And the final stage, frustration. Why isn't anyone engaging with us on Snapchat? Once again, Tom has nailed it in cartoon form. I am so delighted to have him on the show. Make sure you go to Amazon and buy Your Ad Ignored Here. You are going to love it, also makes a great holiday gift for your favorite marketer. Tom, welcome to Social Pros.
Tom: Thank you so much for having me on. It's a real pleasure.
Jay: I am so psyched about the book. Hey, you have so many cartoons. So, you're talking 15 years. You do this cartoon weekly. So you've got like 800 cartoons to draw from. How did you pick the ones to go in the book? Was it, "Hey, this still seems relevant and timely," or just ones that you personally found funny? Did you crowdsource it in your community? How did you decide what made the book and what didn't make the book?
Tom: It came from, I guess, a couple of aspects. The first had to do with what I still found funny. In a way, this whole cartoon strip has been a form of a diary for me. It started out while I worked in marketing, just capturing my daily marketing life, and then I started to build up an audience, and then I continued to contribute to it over the last 15 years. So, there's a real personal component to it, to this whole journey. So I narrowed it down, first of all, there, and then because of all the data that I have with my blog and social media, I can see what cartoons really respond with people, and I use that as a form of crowdsourcing to narrow it down even further, but it was tough to get to my favorite 200.
Jay: So, that's interesting. So when you create each cartoon, they reside natively on your site, marketoonist.com, and then you share them on Twitter, you share them on Facebook, and then you pay attention to which ones get the most social shares and sort of make note of that for future reference?
Tom: I do. I make note of that, and I also use a combination of Google Analytics and just my typical kind of social media counts as a little bit of a barometer. I'm not terribly particular. If I focus too much on the numbers, it starts to get in my head and the creative process, and I start to think, "Oh, I should try to game it," in such and such a way, and that takes me out of the creative process. So it's this weird act of having to have some parts of my life where I'm purely allowed to play and be creative and not worry about the internal critic, and then other times where I'm putting on my editorial hat and trying to think, "Oh, yeah, this type of cartoon might perform better if I think about it this way." But it's this weird mental jiu-jitsu I have to jump through or else it takes the fun out of the actual creativity of cartooning, I find.
Jay: Do you find a particular social platform to be more effective at distributing your work? Do you get more shares and spread and virality via Facebook versus Twitter versus LinkedIn versus Instagram, etc.?
Tom: It's funny. It depends on the cartoon material in some ways, but it also, I find ... it all started, literally, from the very low tech email newsletter, which by and large, is still one of my favorite channels because it's a direct audience in an unfiltered way, with the people who've signed up to receive it. Literally, on day one in 2002 when I was sending out this cartoon, it was for coworkers, but I had a simple email newsletter sign up feature and that's how it started to grow. My regular pulse is literally through that email newsletter, and then as social media came online, I just added every channel. Eventually added blogging and added little bit of commentary around the cartoons that are all hosted at my site. But I find that when I do cartoons, unsurprisingly about social media, they tend to be the ones that are shared the most in social channels. But sometimes my cartoons about innovation may not be shared as much, but yet they're the ones I get the greatest response from people through my email newsletter. I'd say that Twitter is still probably my dominant social media channel. Facebook is growing, but I find that there's less engagement in driving people back to comment on the post for some reason. And Instagram, I'm still trying to fully figure out the right engagement there. So, I've been a little bit of a slower adopter with Instagram, although it's one of my favorite social channels as a consumer.
Jay: How do you come up with your ideas? Is it bolt of lightning on schedule and you say, "I observed this. Let me sit down and draw this and then I'll release it when it's ready to be released," or do you have sort of a shoebox full of observations and scraps of paper that you say, "Oh, I remember I had this observation. Let me drill down on that and actually craft it today."
Tom: I'd say most of the time, it's the shoebox approach, although every once in a while, I have the bolt of lightning and that's a real pleasure when that happens. Although it's funny, sometimes when I have the bolt of lightning inspiration, I write down the cartoon idea, I come back to it the next day, and I wonder, "Well, that actually wasn't that great."
Jay: That sounds exactly like my process for blogging. I've got this collection of headlines, and then I go to write it, and a lot of times it's not even a headline, it's three words. I'm like, "What the hell did that even mean? I have no idea what I was even ... I literally have no idea what this was about." So, sort of maybe a few more words might be a better approach.
Tom: Totally, and sometimes the opposite can happen. I'll write down something, think there's something here, and then the next day I look at it and think, "No, there really wasn't," and then maybe six months later I stumble across it and think, "Actually, this is really funny," and I create it and people really like it. So, I find that the secret ingredient that's most important is that iteration and allowing time in the process to feel like I don't have a ... I guess there's this weird sense where I need to both have a little bit of a sense of urgency. I need to have a publishing schedule, but yet I'm funniest when that sense of urgency is a week out and not, I need to be funny in an hour. So, I find that when I have the shoebox, I pull out the shoebox and go through the ideas in a repetitive form and I allow myself just to iterate and play with the ideas. I may not have the best idea on day one, but after doing that every day for five days, I have some stuff to work with. And I find that most cartoonists I talk to work in that same process where it's an iteration thing. I remember hearing an interview once with John Cleese from Monty Python and he was talking about creating sketches for Monty Python, and he had this experience once where he wrote a sketch and then he lost the sketch. He looked for it everywhere and he couldn't find it and eventually he had to recreate the sketch a few days later and ran the sketch. Then a couple of weeks went by and he actually found the original sketch, and he compared the two, and the one that he had worked on after a few days went by was a lot funnier than the original. His takeaway was that there's something that happens in the subconscious that when you're working on ideas, you put them away, and your subconscious continues to work on the ideas, and you need to allow time for that subconscious sort of processing to make the ideas funnier and more…
Jay: That's so interesting. That's happened to me twice in the last year, and I had no analog for it. I was getting ready to do a speech and I was on the plane out there and I was going to review in my slides. I said, "You know, I don't think this is the right presentation or the right approach for this audience," even though I've got to do this tomorrow and start it over. Twice I did this. Tore it up, opened a new Keynote file, and wrote a new presentation from scratch, and both times, probably the two strongest presentations I've given this year out of 60. It's a really fascinating ... it's obviously playing with fire, and it's a high wire act, of course I don't recommend it for everybody, but it's amazing to hear you say that. I've never heard that story about Cleese, and I'm really glad you shared it because it makes me feel slightly better instead of like a mad man.
Tom: Yeah, I think ... right, I think there's ... I've learned over time that I have to really respect the creative process as having these blocks of time to be creative, and I don't always know what's going to come of out of it. Going back to what I was saying earlier about the critical mind, if I get too critical in that process, nothing comes out the other end. But if I can allow myself to trust that process, that even if the moment I sit down I'm staring at a blank sheet of paper and feel like, "Okay, today's the day that I'm no longer funny and the ideas will no longer come." If I can get past that discomfort, inevitably, after ... it maybe not happen on that day, but if I do it every day, allow myself that space to be creative, inevitably the idea comes.
Jay: Well the nice thing is there is a standard and consistent stream of absurdities for you to chronical in marketing. I mean, every time I look at your work it feels like you've got a bug in somebody's conference room, like you were listening in or hiding under the table. And what's great about this industry, of course, is that the technology changes and the tactics change and the flavor of the day changes, but yet the mistakes remain the same. We're making the same mistakes with different tools, and so I don't think you're going to run out of material anytime soon, which I guess is good news for us all.
Tom: It absolutely is. When I first started doing this, I thought, "Well, you know, will this eventually run dry?" And I find there's no shortage of material. Every year there's something to parody and kind of make fun of. The book, in a way, was a great opportunity for me to look back on all these different things that I've freaked out about over the years as a marketer, starting out with low carb as this trend when I was at General Mills. Everybody was jumping on the low carb bandwagon. It seemed like the most urgent thing ever, and it was fun for me to go back in time and revisit things like that.
Jay: Yeah, now everything's gluten free. They just did a find and replace on the menus. Yeah, that's exactly it.
Adam: Yeah, carb free to fat free to gluten free.
Jay: Everything was Bud Ice for a while too. Every beer had an Ice variation. I don't even know what that means, but that was very popular for a time there. I'm going ask you one more question ... yeah, clear. One more question, then Adam's going to jump in here.
Adam: Tab Clear.
Jay: You said that one of the things that we all must contend with today, and this is such a smart point. I just want to emphasize too, before I ask this question, that you're not just somebody who draws cartoons. You are a very experienced marketer who's been doing this inside some of the biggest companies in the world for a long time. Adam's going to ask you some questions about that before we close the show. And so your ability to understand these absurdities and the actual shifts that are happening in marketing are very well honed, but you said that we are shifting from doing social to marketing effectively in a social world. And I think that strikes at the heart of why this podcast exists and why it's been successful now for seven years. I'd love for you to talk a little bit more about your thinking there.
Tom: Yeah, I think that there's ... I think that marketers can sometimes get so excited about the new technology, the shiny new thing, the thing that everybody is writing about and talking about, that the temptation is to treat that like a bolt-on. Like something you just plug into what you're already doing. And what I think is far more important is to really think about the mindset that we have to adopt as marketers, to really, fully take advantage of those tools. That you can't save a boring idea with technology. You can amplify an exciting idea with technology, but it can't be a crutch. I drew a cartoon once with a bunch of dogs sitting around a conference table and one of them is saying, "We need to stay focused on our marketing priorities and not get distracted by every shiny, new ... look, squirrel!" And all the dogs are at the window and there's a squirrel running on a branch. And I feel like sometimes marketers can do that. We get excited about the squirrel. That quote about the mindset that it's not about doing social, it's about marketing in a social world, it came from something I heard from somebody at Diageo, I think. But it really resonated with me, that I think if we have that right mindset, then we can take full advantage of the technologies that come along. But the answer is not to say, "Hey, we need a Snapchat strategy." Snapchat is not a strategy. You can think about how can we apply something like Snapchat to the way that we do marketing, but that in and of itself is not a strategy. And I feel like that has become an evergreen theme in my cartoons to kind of help remind marketers, including myself, by the way, because I am a marketer myself, and I am part of what I'm making fun of, just that temptation. To remind ourselves, let's remember the fundamentals of what we do and to take advantage of what's out there, but to try to avoid that shiny new thing syndrome.
Adam: Tom, why do you think we continue as marketers and as communicators, and I'm as guilty of this as anyone falling into that trap. I mean, is it that we don't have confidence in our storytelling or the creative? Or we are just fascinated by that bright shiny object, as you said, and trying to do something new and evolutionary, or revolutionary instead of evolutionary? I'm always curious why we seem to fall on that. Because we make fun of ourselves for doing it, but it doesn't ever seem to change.
Tom: Yeah, I think it's a combination of all of those things, combined with, I think, a little bit of fear of being left behind, combined with ... I sometimes feel like in many ways, there's still this legacy of the Mad Men era of marketing, that's part of how we as marketers have been trained and instructed. And my first marketing job was working on the Green Giant brand. That's one of the classic advertising icons from the last century, and I remember when I was a young marketer working on that brand, I found a creative brief, literally, written by a young Leo Burnett. And I found it really, really amazing to see how marketing was thought of in that era and how many of the assumptions were still carried through into how I was learning how to be a marketer. And one of those fundamentally, was that you had this thing called a captive audience. At the time, in the Mad Men era, you did have a captive audience. There were only three television stations. And so I feel like that mindset of having a captive audience is something that many marketers were brought up into and there's no longer a captive audience. And that mindset change that we have to accept as marketers is that you actually have to create marketing that's fundamentally worth sharing at the start. And so I feel like that's been this legacy that carries along with us, and when we come across a new social tool or some new technology, and still have that legacy mindset, the temptation is that you just need to bolt on this tool and it'll expose you to a new captive audience. What I think we really need to accept is that there isn't a captive audience. These tools may allow us to reach audiences in ways like never before possible, and that's incredibly exciting, but yet, it's also never been easier for these audiences to tune out whatever it is we want to say to them. And so that mindset change is a challenge, but it's also an exciting opportunity when, as marketers, we can really embrace that and think, "What does it really mean to create things that are fundamentally worth connecting with from the start, and how can these new technologies and tools help us do that?" Rather than think that you just need to bolt on the tool and technology.
Adam: I'm curious to hear you kind of make a categorization. I think I agree with everything you said about marketing, and how it's changed and evolved. Has the world of cartooning changed? Now, certainly the way that you're sharing your content, the share ability and the viral kind of engagement in and around it, that has changed, but has the actual creative product changed and evolved over the years as well? And have you found different aspects of your creative resonate more with audiences today, than maybe 10, 15 years ago?
Tom: Yeah, gosh, that's such a great question. I love the medium of cartoons. I came into this because as a kid, I loved reading the cartoons and using silly putty to transfer cartoons over to fresh sheets of paper, and that was my upbringing. I just loved the medium of cartoons, but it has fundamentally changed. All of my cartooning heroes from the early days have had to shift and adapt, and many of them have quit. Gary Larson, Bill Watterson, Berkeley Breathed, they all quit cartooning as it existed, because it was rooted in the worlds of newspapers and magazines. And so I found that I loved cartoons, even as I saw that the traditional industry of cartooning was in decline and people weren't consuming cartoons the way that they were. There was a point in time where I would go to National Cartoonist Society meetings and it could feel like a pretty glum situation, where people were pretty concerned about what the future looked like. But I'd say in the last 15 years, while the traditional model has definitely changed and isn't coming back in that form, it's also never been a better time in history to be a cartoonist. Because you can cultivate a direct audience with people and it's completely transformed. And I find that one of the major aspects of that shift is this evolution from needing to be in a paper where you have to be broadly entertaining to 8 year olds and 90 year olds, you know, on the Sunday paper, to trying to literally be entertaining to everyone, to today, where you can find these incredible niches of people that respond to what you have to say. And that's really where the future lies. For me, creating a cartoon strip about marketing just wouldn't have been possible in the print world, but in digital, it works really well and there are lots of other cartoonists that I follow and subscribe to that are incredibly successful, by really being deliberately focused on these niches. That's probably the biggest shift that I've seen. I mean, the most widely read web comic in the world is called XKCD, and in its early days, it was predominantly funny to people who were UNIX programmers. But yet, they get over a million unique visits a day to cartoons that most people might not even see the humor in. And that's where the power is. So I think there's a real power in talking to niches.
Adam: Your new book, Your Ad Ignored Here: Cartoons from 15 Years of Marketing, Business, and Doodling in Meetings is fantastic and Jay articulated it perfectly when he said it sounds like you have a bug in some of the same meetings that at least we've been in. You've been lauded by folks that are, I think, certainly respected in our industry. Seth Godin calling you the David Ogilvy of cartooning. Pretty nice to have those two words in attribution, David Ogilvy and Seth Godin. I'm curious what your creative process is. Now, you've talked to Jay a little bit about kind of the methodology, but you oftentimes hear documentaries or interviews of musicians and some musicians say, "Listen, I start writing the score. I write and compose the music and then I come back and add the lyrics." And some other musicians say, "No, no, I start with the lyrics. I start with the poem and then I put music to it." I'm curious Tom, in your world, do you start kind of with the headline or do you start kind of with the sketch or the scene?
Tom: Yeah, it's a great question and I find in meeting cartoonists, people definitely fall in one of those two camps. I'm much more of a visual person, I find. So I often will catch myself sketching something visually, and not sure exactly what to make of it. And I find that I work with blank index cards, basically. I'll allow myself in the creative process to just riff on funny visual situations, and after iterating on that over a period of time, inevitably, a caption pops out to kind of make it funny or solve the joke. That's typically the way that I work, is to play with visuals. And I find sometimes, I'm out in the world, I'm in a meeting, I'm at a conference, a visual will just strike me as funny, and I'll capture that visual and then continue to iterate on it, and then eventually a caption pops out. But I find that other people work the opposite way, and there are a number of stand-up comedians who are also New Yorker cartoonists, because they start with the words and that leads to a visual, to help make sense of that situation. But yeah, for me, I like the visual first.
Adam: I know one of the interesting statistics you shared with us, before the show, was kind of around measurement and that you shared something very interesting. You said, "Campaigns of your Marketoonist activities can deliver sometimes triple the engagement rates of other types of visual media." I'm curious kind of how you measure your programs efficacy, and whether this is something that you're doing kind of for one of your books or for your column, or when you are brought in to an organization like Google or LinkedIn or IBM, and kind of commissioned to do a set piece, like you talked about with the Schneider Electric.
Tom: Yes, so it's usually with clients' measurement. I definitely measure my own weekly marketing cartoons. But where I pay the most attention, particularly as it relates to ROI or with client projects, and that's something obviously that they're measuring very closely too, and they usually have the full holistic view of how their campaigns are performing. So I usually, at the very beginning of the process, will often talk collaboratively about what marketing objectives we want to hit and we talk about the types of criteria we want to meet with certain campaigns. And at the end of those campaigns, we do a deep dive frequently, where they share the results of how the campaigns performed. In some cases, we'll even start with a pilot, see how the cartoons perform relative to other things that they do, and then that helps justify an extension of the campaign. And so that's the general feedback that I've seen over seven years of doing this professionally with clients. On average, the cartoons generally perform triple the engagement rates of other types of visual media. And some campaigns may use the cartoons at the very beginning of the funnel, where they are awareness driving. Some may be a little further down the funnel, where it's a little bit closer to a call to action. But I think that there's something inherent in the medium of cartoons, because it's not just a visual, but there's something participatory in it. When you're looking at a cartoon, you see yourself in the cartoon. You have the words, you have the pictures and the reader has to put the two together to really make the joke funny, and I think there's something inherently engaging about that formula of working with cartoons, that seems to really resonate. Our longest-running campaign with a client is a seven-year weekly cartoon with a company called Kronos, that makes workforce management software. And so every week for the last seven years, they've been using cartoons to connect with their audience because of that medium. And I think the other aspect of cartoons is that it's inherently a serial medium that you want to look forward to the next installment. So that's typically what we see. So I find that as a cartoonist, I actually, I surprisingly geek out over data. I love the cartooning process and the ideas, but I actually also love looking at the data and questioning to see what cartoons perform better than others, and ultimately, how it fits in that broader content marketing ecosystem.
Adam: Yeah, I love the idea that you're both right-brained and left-brained, and that you're scratching ... the itch is on both sides. One last question Tom, before I hand back off to Jay. Looking at that measurement analytics, obviously, kind of scratching the right side of the brain, I'm curious if you found that there are certain topics or characters or settings that seem to get more traction. Obviously, for people like Jay and myself, and probably many of the listeners, the old, dreaded marketing conference room is the appropriate setting for getting laughter. But have you found different things that are really resonating, and you know when you're sketching something out, "Yeah, this is going to be it, this is going to be a good cartoon."
Tom: Yeah, there's definitely a setting that I think the audience would identify with. I mean, what you were saying earlier about the best compliment I ever hear, which is people thinking I'm spying on them at work. When I capture a situation that's like their work environment, that, I know is going to resonate, because ultimately, the cartoons that do best are when the audience can see themselves in the cartoon. But I find that there's some formulaic things that every once in a while, I have a suspicion the cartoon may do particularly well, and it's often when there's some sort of expectation in the cartoon, that the cartoon as it plays out, is going to work within some sort of a construct. The most recent one is when I had a construct around the seven deadly sins of innovation. And I've done a few cartoons around seven deadly sins. It's a fun construct to play with, because you can imagine how a deadly sin could apply against social media, for instance. But recently, I did one on innovation, the seven deadly sins of innovation, and I had a suspicion that the cartoon would do well, but very frequently I'm wrong when I have suspicions like that, so I was hesitant to have too many expectations. But for some reason, that set up created the cartoon that was the most viral one I've ever done. And I think it was the expectation that you see as it's building in, that the deadly sins are around innovation or how they're playing out, and when I finally got to the last panel, it really triggered something for people, and I got to put that out into the world and then immediately track and see how people responded to it. Those are some of the things I think about, but every time I try to get too formulaic about it, I'm often wrong. So if you're too formulaic with the cartoons, you lose the unexpected nature of it, which is part of the whole situation too. So I try to both think about characteristics that people like, but also try not to be too expected.
Jay: Well, what happens when you give somebody something unexpected is that it delights them. And speaking of being delighted, I am super fired up and it's actually appropriate to mention this on the show that Tom is on, that we at Convince and Convert are launching a brand new podcast, Mr. Adam Brown. It is called the Experience This! show. Every week, it's chock-full of inspiring examples of customer experience and tips on how to make your customers love you even more. We spend a lot of time in business talking about this as a fail, that's a fail, that's obviously what Tom does for a living. This show is the opposite. It points out circumstances where businesses do amazing things for their customers and lessons that you can learn to improve your own customer experience. It will be the finest audio show about customer experience in the land. That is my promise to you. It's going to be hosted by Joey Coleman, who is a fantastic customer experience consultant and Dan Gingiss who is a customer service genius, has been on this show and is the author of a terrific book as well. So, my friends, if you like Social Pros, I implore you to please give Experience This! a listen. You can find it anywhere that you get your podcasts. Look for Experience This! or for show notes, special goodies, background, all that stuff, there's also some ability for you to call into the show and leave voicemails, that then get incorporated into each episode. There's a lot of interactive elements as well. Go to experiencethisshow.com. Experiencethisshow.com. Super excited, congrats to Joey and Dan. Thank you to our sponsor for that program, Oracle CX, and our whole team at Convince and Convert for getting it off the ground. I'm super fired up. It really is. Adam, back to you.
Adam: Jay, thank you so much and Tom, Tom Fishburne, author, illustrator extraordinaire, creative of Your Ad Ignored Here: Cartoons from 15 Years of Marketing, Business, and Doodling in Meetings, great to have you on the show. Typically Tom, this is where we talk a little bit about your origin and how the heck you got here, to talk to Jay and me at this point. You mentioned a little bit, your marketing experience, worked on the Jolly Green Giant, a little bit of time at General Mills. Curious, how do you believe that your experience and marketing and PR and advertising led you to this point where you said, "Hey, I'm an illustrator," and the cartooning side of illustration, and this mixture and kind of integration of great storytelling and great illustrations. "Hey, this might be a career for me."
Tom: Yeah, it was a series of moments of panic getting to that point. I was doing it initially as a hobby and I had this weekly cartoon that I found was really resonating with people, but in the early days, I had no expectations that it would ever be a fuller part of my professional life. I had dreams occasionally, of being a cartoonist. Ever since I was a kid I thought about being a cartoonist, but I just didn't think that it was possible. And then over time, my weekly cartoon started to gain momentum and started to take up more and more of what I did and I started to think maybe there was something here. I finally reached a point where I thought about putting a business model against it and it came from a series of revelations, where I started to get requests from all of these brands. Their marketing team had been following my work for a while, and they wanted to see how cartoons could help their brands tell stories. The first one was the Asian Wall Street Journal. They contacted me and asked me to create a cartoon book for them and I started to realize that my whole marketing life was all about driving engagement with audiences, and here I was actually getting a lot of interest in the cartooning side of my life, to do exactly that. So the light bulb moment first occurred then, but to go from that stage to actually leaving a salary job to doing this full-time was a real moment of panic for me, to make that kind of a leap and kind of a jump. And I ultimately ... the big revelation happened when I met an entrepreneur who was sharing his entrepreneurial journey and he had this wonderful metaphor where he described that it was like he was on a runway, and there's this point when you're taking off a plane, called V1 speed, where the plane is going fast enough that it can actually take off. It's basically the point of no return, where you either take off or you crash, and so he said, what he did was he drew his own V1 marker in the future. The characteristics that would actually have to be true in order for him to take the jump and actually launch the business. And so he encouraged me to draw my own V1 marker, so I did that while I was working at Method Products, I had a great marketing job. I loved my job there and I had this sideline around cartoons. I drew my V1 marker and had a few criteria that had to be true before I would actually take the leap and start the business and suddenly, all those things came into into effect and I made the jump. And it's been seven years now working with businesses, helping them use cartoons to tell marketing stories and it's been incredibly exciting, but definitely moments of panic. Whenever you start a business they are inevitably moments of panic like that.
Adam: Tom, I'm fascinated by that V1 concept and I love it. In fact, I'm going to throw out the rest of the questions that I was thinking I was going to ask you, because I think that is a type of exercise that so many of us in this space, or so many of us like you, certainly like Jay, entrepreneur extraordinaires, that have. And we kind of have to deal and reconcile with, "Are we doing the right thing and what is it going to take?" And I love being a pilot. I love that V1 analogy because you're exactly right. That's the point at which the plane is either going to fly or not. If I could kind of double click on that, just one more level, I'm curious about the types of things that you wrote, as your rationalization for that V1 point. The things that you thought needed to take place before then. I mean, I'm sure compensation was a little part of that, but I'm curious more about kind of the intangibles. I mean, was there any kind of work-life balance piece and kind of recognition and acknowledgement that as an entrepreneur, you're going to have to work a little bit more hours? But it's going to pay off, you're going to be doing things that are more fun. Talk a little bit about some of those things that were really meaningful as you kind of put that X on the whiteboard.
Tom: Yeah, so I had a few criteria that I wrote down and some of them included the intangibles. The intangibles were also just part of my calculus even getting to that point. I knew that when I was working in cartoons, whether I was speaking on a stage and had cartoons ... I do a lot of paid speaking using cartoons, or I was creating these sideline projects, that's when I felt most alive. So that was criteria number one. I knew at some point, I wanted to make this a part of my life. And it really came to be when I went to a conference in Wales, actually put on by the same entrepreneur who suggested the V1 marker. His name's David Hyatt and he runs a denim company actually, called Hyatt Denim. He puts on this annual conference called The Do Lectures, and it's entirely designed to inspire you to go do something that you've always wanted to do. And I contacted them, I was living in England at the time. I was working for this Method Products company and I contacted them saying, "The story of Method Products has actually got a pretty good case study for your conference." And he contacted me and said, "You're right, I love the story of that brand, but it's not your story. It's the founders of Method." And it left me wondering like, "What's my story?" He invited me to come as an attendee and I went there to that conference like thinking, "What's my story?" And so that was the biggest intangible of all, wondering like, "What is it that I ultimately want to be doing with my life?" And when I left that conference, the first time, I thought, I want to make this cartooning part of my life. That was the biggest intangible, and that it was at that conference that he shared this analogy of the V1 marker. And so for me, I drew my V1 marker, I wanted to have moon lighting revenue at half my salary. I wanted to have within a year, a business model that would generate revenue equal to the salary I was leaving behind. I wanted to have the support of my amazing wife Tali, and I wanted to have a home equity line of credit to have a little bit of a safety cushion to make the jump. It was just those four things. And ultimately, I hit that point. Those four things came to be, I left my job and I ended up having a business. It ended up generating revenue at my full salary within six months, which gave me confidence to continue moving forward. But of course, whenever you do something like that, the original business model and plan gets thrown out the window after a few months and you have to be adaptive. I actually drew a cartoon around the time that I was making the jump and I drew somebody, myself, riding a bicycle flying machine toward a cliff. And as I'm headed toward the cliff, I have this thought process, "What if I fail? What if I haven't tested it enough? What if it's the wrong idea?" And then the very last panel, I'm thinking, "Where did the runway go?" And I've launched off this cliff. And it really did feel like being in a flying machine and having to build my wings as I went off. And it's the most exciting journey of my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything, even as it's been chaotic and scary at times.
Adam: Well, I think that whole part of the legacy building or kind of recognizing that you want to create a bit of a legacy for you and your own personal brand is so important, and thanks for sharing how you came across that. I think that's really meaningful and I know there a lot of people, myself included, that appreciate having a process and a methodology for looking at that. Tom, kind of teased this in the open, but whether or not that legacy works, there is one piece of your legacy that is irrefutable, and that is that your legacy will go down as being associated with the Guinness Book of World Records record. Love for you to share a little bit about that.
Tom: Yeah, that was really exciting. I've been publishing my cartoons in a marketing magazine in the UK, called Marketing Week, for the last, gosh, 9, 10 years. And they decided to try to win a Guinness World Record, and the idea that they had was to create the most contributions to a color by number. And they contacted me and basically commissioned me to create a cartoon for that. So I created a jumbo-sized cartoon made up of tiny little segments that were put on display at a several day event, and everybody at the event could come up with a marker and fill in little segments of the cartoon. And the whole event was about creativity and the creative process and so I drew a cartoon called The Garden of Creativity. I wasn't allowed to use any wording in the cartoon to make the drawing work, so the cartoon image that I created, basically, was this garden of creativity, where in the very center of the cartoon, there's one person planting a little tiny apple tree. And then that person is surrounded by a whole group of other people, but all those other people, all they have with them are chainsaws and clipping tools and scissors. And it's just that aspect of trying to bring anything creative to life in the world. It's far easier to critique than to create. And if you're creating something, you have to really believe in it and do that, despite the fact that you'll often be surrounded by people telling you it's not a great idea, and to do it anyway.
Jay: Have you however, created a cartoon about the marketing folly of people trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records? Because it feels like this is a very meta, a very meta experience for you.
Tom: And it did, so the Guinness World Records showed up to the event, which was incredibly exciting and counted all the individual contributions up and did in fact win.
Jay: There you go. There's my recommendation for you. I'm so psyched about the book. Ladies and gentlemen, I just want to remind you that if you go and pre-order Your Ad Ignored Here, before it's official release date on October 24th, Tom's going to send you a signed a 5x7 printout of one of his favorite 10 cartoons of the last 15 years, which is pretty spectacular, so take advantage of that, when you can. I would appreciate that.
Tom: Yeah, it is, totally. I need to do that. I haven't done that yet. It's too close to home.
Jay: I think Tom would as well. I guarantee a lot of laughs, as you go through Your Ad Ignored Here. Tom I'm going to ask you the two questions we've asked all 286 of our previous guests on this program. First question is what one piece of advice would you give somebody who's looking to become a Social Pro?
Tom: I think that an unsung aspect of putting anything out into the world is to think about what you would do, not just as a one-off, but as a series. It's one of the things I loved about cartooning, that cartooning is a serial medium. People put them out one at a time. And there's a quote from Gary Trudeau, the Doonesbury cartoonist, and he wrote somewhere that, "Cartoons are like a public utility. People complain when it's not there." And I think it's a useful exercise for people to think about what would you create if people ... what would you put out into the world with the designed effect that people would complain if they didn't get more of it. How would you think about whatever you do as an ongoing series and the expectation. And the Oreo, 100 Days of Oreo is probably a great example of that.
Jay: Yeah, it's so fascinating that you say that. We've been revising the way we handle content marketing strategy with our corporate clients, and it's all around this concept of treating your content like a television network, where there's a series of shows, there's tent pole shows, there's regularly scheduled programming, there's special event programming. It's exactly what you're talking about, this idea of repeatable series that audiences can remember and tune into. I couldn't agree more, so it's fascinating that you're thinking the same thing that we are. Last question, Tom Fishburne, Marketoonist is, if you could do a Skype call with any living person, who would it be and why? Yeah.
Tom: Oh, I would have to choose Gary Larson, the cartoonist behind The Far Side. He's been my hero for a long time and he quit the world of cartooning in 1995, the year I graduated from college. And from what I hear, he predominantly plays jazz guitar nowadays, but I would love to have a Skype call with him.
Jay: I'm surprised you haven't set that up at some point. You're a famous cartoonist. I'm sure you could reach out to Gary Larson and be like, "Hey man, let's rap a little bit."
Tom: I'm working on it, now that I have a book, it's this funny thing where I feel both a connection but also a real timidity of, "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy," at the same time. So I have to find somebody who knows Gary Larson, who can help with an introduction. I did finally meet Matt Groening a couple of months ago, from The Simpsons. And when I met him, I brought a cartoon book of his that I purchased in 1989 and yeah, it was one of the Life in Hell books. Exactly. I brought it to him and I now have that book signed by him, which was a real treat.
Jay: Well, that's it. Obviously, he's so well known for The Simpsons and has been for a long time, but his Life is Hell books that predated Simpsons are still extraordinary, and they're so, so great and stand the test of time. As does your work and that's the most amazing thing about the things that you do every week, is that yes, it's of the moment and it's a reflection of the insanity and depravity of marketing today, but even these cartoons that you include in the book, that go back a decade or more, are still so spot-on. It's a real gift and we're all richer because of your work. So thanks so much, congratulations on the book. We're psyched to have you on the show and I know it's going to be a big success.
Tom: Thank you so much having me on. I've really enjoyed this conversation.
Jay: Tom, we appreciate it. Adam, thank you as always. Don't forget, ladies and gentlemen, Your Ad Ignore Here available now. Go to Amazon, October 24th, the official release date, and don't forget our new show, Experience This! Dial it up on your podcast listening device right now, now that we're finished here. We'd sure love that, think you're going to dig it. On behalf of Adam Brown from Salesforce Marketing Cloud, I am Jay Baer from Convince and Convert, and this my friends, has been Social Pros.
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