Framing the Issue

By: Robert

Seth Godin recently wrote about Scott McCloud’s book on comics as it relates to marketing. As a huge fan of comics i just couldn’t let the opportunity pass without adding my two cents.

Godin’s focus is a take on McCloud’s thesis that much of the action takes place “between the frames” and how that relates to marketing. I would agree that marketing is the action that takes place between the frames, but i believe Godin glosses over the importance of the frames themselves when he says “It’s the in-between frame stuff that matters. And yet marketers spend 103% of our time on the frames”. The action that takes place between the frames COULD NOT EXIST without the frames themselves, and without the ability to extrapolate what happens between the frames there is no context to what we do. Both elements live in symbiosis with one another, and while we have no control over the “in between” the frames are within our complete control.

The frames allow for a smooth transition of idea, of story, which is precisely why we should focus on them. Design allows us to visually craft that message, so that the consumer can fill in those blanks, so that “marketing can occur”.

An example most of us can relate to is shopping. Imagine an orange juice company who’s juice you have loved since you were a child. To your mind the juice tastes like you are drinking an orange. Almost like you put a straw in the orange itself and could just suck the juice right out of it. Then, one day you go to the store, looking for that orange and your beloved juice and it is nowhere to be seen. GONE. Disappeared from the shelf. Marketing is taking place like Godin says “in between the frames” in your head, right there, right now, in real time. You buy another brand, figuring that your juice is no longer carried by the store, or maybe even worse they went out of business. As you grab the competitor’s carton and walk away you shake your head, wondering what happened. This happened to Tropicana.

In our story marketing is what happened, a customer was lost and a product was forgotten. But the failure was in the frames, in the design. Everything that was recognizable, that was iconic about your orange juice carton changed. The frames did not connect, they did not allow for a smooth transition. Like jumping from the first page of a comic book to the last and never seeing the rest of the book, the story makes no sense.

We focus on the frames because that is what we can control. Design’s focus should be making sure that the connection can be made, that the story between the panels can be created. Marketing happens in between the frames, but marketers in conjunction with designers must make sure that the frames CAN be connected. A myriad of metaphors can be used to explain this, but the bottom line is that design crafts the message in a way that the marketing can take place.