Cartoonist Hugh Macleod Gets To CwF+RtB In His Own Way

from the gaping-void dept

Hugh Macleod has done a good job of building "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" into a nice business for himself. He explains the secrets of his success in his post, "the three keys to social marketing" in which he states:
1. Figure out what your gift is, and give it to them on a regular basis.
2. Make sure it's received as a real gift, not as an advertising message
3. Then figure out exactly what it is that your trail of breadcrumbs leads back to.
#1 and #2 are his version of "CwF" and the essence of "RtB" is captured by #3. Macleod considers his style of business a gift economy:
They put stuff out there, as gifts. Great content, great ideas, great insights, great personal connection. By giving so much of themselves, for free, every day, they build up huge surpluses of goodwill, so when you're finally in the market for something they're selling (and they're ALL selling something, trust me), they're first on your list.
However, what Macleod describes is not really a true gift economy, since, as an explicit part of his so-called gift economy, there is an expectation that some selling will occur. There is a key difference between a "gift" and giving something away for free. Since, in a true gift economy, there is no expectation that the gifter will ever be reciprocated for their gift. Instead, there is just the hope that "what goes around comes around" and someone else will eventually give them something that they need. "Give it away and pray" is not really a good business model.

That said, he's doing many things right. Macleod uses his blog and social media to connect with his fans and distribute them his brand of daily cartoons (although in my experience, his site could stand to make his cartoons a little more accessible -- he would be well served to make them more searchable, and easier to embed). Then, he gives them good reasons to buy by selling limited edition prints, books, custom commissions and even his own brand of wine, Stormhoek. Added all up, this allows Macleod to make a seemingly nice living, which is great. So, what Macleod is describing, in his own words, is really Mike's CwF+RtB concept, which brings up another great point. While we do a lot of discussion here on how CwF+RtB works well for musicians, it's important to note that it's not just for the music industry -- it works for anyone that is doing a good job connecting with fans.


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  1.  
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    Richard Corsale (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:11pm

    Esp #2

    "Make sure it's received as a real gift, not as an advertising message "

    Nothing is more offensive than someone trying to fool you into buying or doing something. I'm amazed it works as well as it does..

     

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  2.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:22pm

    Re: Esp #2

    "However, what Macleod describes is not really a true gift economy, since, as an explicit part of his so-called gift economy, there is an expectation that some selling will occur."

    I'm not sure that there is no expectation of return in even true gifts. You're not looking for an exchange, but you are building goodwill. The reason you take the time to build goodwill is that you expect it will benefit you in some, unspecified, way in the future.

     

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  3.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:33pm

    "Give it away and pray" is not really a good business model.

    No, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea, for an artist. Art is more than just business. I may write something more in depth about this, because this phrase keeps coming up.

     

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  4.  
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    Esahc (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:52pm

    Art

    An artist creates art for art's sake. The more eyeballs looking at my art the more I feel I've succeeded at creating something worthwhile. If those eyeballs wish to purchase something involving my art all the better.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2010 @ 8:18am

    "Since, in a true gift economy, there is no expectation that the gifter will ever be reciprocated for their gift. Instead, there is just the hope that "what goes around comes around" and someone else will eventually give them something that they need."

    That's not exactly true. In societies where hospitality and gift-giving are important parts of the social and economic landscape, gifts are seen as putting the recipient under an obligation. It is different from a straight cash-for-services or barter economy, and it's also different from CwF+RtB, but it's not just based in goodwill and storing up karma points. It is an economic transaction between the giver and the recipient, and a powerful one.

     

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  6.  
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    Richard (profile), Feb 17th, 2010 @ 9:56am

    "They put stuff out there, as gifts. Great content, great ideas, great insights, great personal connection. By giving so much of themselves, for free, every day, they build up huge surpluses of goodwill, so when you're finally in the market for something they're selling (and they're ALL selling something, trust me), they're first on your list."

    It's a very old idea....



    "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
    But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal........
    Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
    (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
    But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. "
    (From Matthew Ch 6)

    That store of goodwill is indeed a form of the "treasures in heaven" that the Gospel is talking about.

     

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  7.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 4:21pm

    Re:

    Nina, I'm with you.

    Dennis, I've been giving some thought about "Give it away and pray" lately, and how we've all said it's not really a good business model. I think Techdirt should change the rhetoric on this...although not actually the thinking.

    I believe what we truly mean is that "Give it away and pray" is not a RECOMMENDED or highly reliable business model. It's not one we would suggest. However, it the right context, it might be the perfect choice for a model.

    - Does the "giver" have such a strong relationship with fans that they will overcome their desire to retain their $?

    - Will the resulting goodwill from "no strings attached" actually result in higher voluntary payments than some other business model?

    - Does the elimination of the RtB component reduce effort, overhead, and costs enough to justify a "pray" approach instead?

    - ex: The model has worked well for the Catholic church, which gives away it's shelter, it's sermons, and it's doctrine, then passes around the dish.

    Basically, the model isn't something I would ever recommend, but "Give it away and pray" could (theoretically) be the best business model for someone. Thus, Techdirt should not argue that it is bad, just that it is not recommended, and seldom optimal in known experiments.

     

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