Content Marketing Lessons From Cartoons: My Chat with Cartoonist Liza Donnelly

Kathy Klotz-Guest
Kathy Klotz-Guest CEO, Keeping it Human

Posted on September 23rd 2013

Content Marketing Lessons From Cartoons: My Chat with Cartoonist Liza Donnelly

On Sept 19, I had the pleasure of chatting with The New Yorker cartoonist, author and TED speaker, Liza Donnelly about her craft on my podcast. My belief has always been that cartoons are content worth sharing and that marketers can learn a hell of a lot about creating meaningful content by thinking like a cartoonist – that means thinking in big idea headlines that pack the truth.

What’s more shared today than humorous content (including cartoons!). Great content makes us laugh, think or maybe even get angry. The point is a cartoon packs a meaningful punch in a small footprint.

So listen up, marketers! That’s the goal behind content marketing – connecting and inspiring action: whether it’s word of mouth, sharing great content, or converting to a sale. If you want to your audience to open their wallets; you have to first open up a meaningful connection.

Content Must Go For Big Truth

Content that connects contains truth. Humor is about the truth – not facts, not data. Cartoons communicate a single big a-ha! in an economy of words. Just as cartoonists think through their ‘punchline,’ marketers need to convey a single big, bold human headline. The best content communicates a single big idea that’s contagious. And talking about products isn’t contagious. Marketers have to communicate the human headline behind their products. If you can’t get to that, start over. Start with the big idea and then build your content around it. Start with a challenge or issue that your audience cares about. Imagine you only had one sentence to communicate, what would it be?

The Truth is Simple and Funny

Cartoons deliver truth in a short caption. The truth is always simple – that’s what connects. And the truth is funny precisely because it is relateable. No content has ever been made better by making it longer and more complex. The simplest way is always the best way. Simple human headlines are memorable and shareable. The only antidote to complexity is simplicity, and simple facilitates word of mouth.

Kathy Klotz-Guest Kills Jargon that Kills Your Business

Bad Marketing Got Your Audience Jargonstipated?


Aim for the Gut

Cartoons aren’t about ticking the logic brain only. Cartoons aim for the emotional core. Great content, too, is about making people laugh, making them angry, making them connect. Making them think is good – making them feel is better. Feelings – not thoughts – move people to action such as sharing.


Target Narrowly

Cartoonists don’t create for everyone. It’s a nice audience – and they know their audience well – their likes, dislikes, challenges, etc. Great content works because it’s focused. Choose your most important audience and focus on their world. What do they think about most? Your enthusiast customer is your best customer – that base is usually the one that cares enough to carry your message and advocate for you. If they don’t see themselves reflected in that message, you’ve aimed too wide.

Deliver ‘Personality’

Cartoons have personality – funny, sarcastic, dry wit – whatever. Content reflects the beliefs and values of the creator and the audience being serenaded. Content without personality isn’t human. Content without a ‘soul’ doesn’t work today. There is too much noise and people are on overload. Content with a voice speaks loudly and attracts your ideal audience – the people who believe what you believe.

That’s part of what keeping marketing human is about!

What do you think? What do you think cartoons can teach marketers? Let me know!

Kathy Klotz-Guest

Kathy Klotz-Guest

CEO, Keeping it Human

Kathy Klotz-Guest, marketing and messaging strategist, and storyteller, is CEO of Keeping it Human. For 20 years she has helped companies turn marketing-speak into customer-speak so they get better results. With a background in improvisation, Kathy injects fun and humanity into brands, stories, and products. Kathy has an MA from Stanford University, an MBA from UC Berkeley, and a Masters in applications design (nerd!). She performs regularly with the ComedySportz San Jose Rec League, and has spoken all over the country on a number of marketing topics. She is a founding fellow for the Society for New Communications Research, and Marketing Chair for the Applied Improvisation Network Conference.
See Full Profile >