Find the Panda II – leveraging viral success without boring the fanbase
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Published Thursday 7 January 2016 at 3:43am
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One of the runaway successes of Christmas 2015 was a drawing by Hungarian cartoonist Gergely “Dudolf” Dudás. Challenging followers to spot a panda drawn among a sea of happy snowmen, the image went viral.

Above: a cropped and blurred version of Dudás’ Find the Panda follow-up because, you know, traffic stealing is a jerk move. Click here for the full version on Dudolf’s website.

The original post of the drawing of Facebook (below) has been shared over 185,000 times, and stolen versions reposted by companies wanting to cash in on its runaway success have also had huge reach. The image was even featured in news bulletins and on news websites around the world.

There’s a panda amongst them!Can you find it?

Posted by Dudolf on Wednesday, 16 December 2015

What is interesting is how Dudás has dealt with his almost instant fame. I have followed the Dudolf Facebook page since it only had around 200 likes. It jumped from around 500 likes to a five figure following within a day of the snowmen/panda post going up. It now stands at over 111,100 likes.

When your fanbase suddenly gains three digits largely off the back of one image, what do you do? The panda finding post was the first of its kind for Dudás and, while not unlike his other work (here is his 300 cupcakes for 300 likes post and his first owls upload), it was different to his usual comics.

Do you do more of what brought the new folk in, or keep going as you were and risk becoming Bart Simpson as the I Didn’t Do It Kid – a one-line wonder with short-term success and an audience closed to anything new?

Four days after the snowmen/panda post, a similar owls/cat comic came along. Cute and sufficiently different to the snowmen, the owls post has also been a success for Dudás.

A cat is hiding amongst these owls!Can you spot it?

Posted by Dudolf on Sunday, 20 December 2015

Since then, Dudás has mixed up more odd-one-out drawings with traditional comics on social media. It is interesting to see, however, that the odd-one-out posts have done much better than the other comics, despite the comics being good.

Audience management is a fickle thing and I do not for a moment pretend to understand it completely, but Dudás seems to be doing a good job. Turning his attention, I assume, to making a buck out of his cartooning work, a couple of hours ago he uploaded another “find the panda” challenge. This time the Dudolf Facebook page post is a link to his ad-carrying website, not an image directly posted to the social network.

Fortunately this is not a cringe situation – taking the panda into the real world, the follow-up rides on previous success while keeping the content relatively fresh.

Where things go from here for Dudás remains to be seen. Developing a successful online brand, or any brand for that matter, is difficult, and making that pay is even harder. Do you stick with the old or try something new? Creative people face this question all the time, especially musicians. (On that note, be sure to check out Dudás’ music – it’s good stuff.)

Dudás is in a good position; he is a great drawer with a style which translates well to merch. Snowmen/panda wrapping paper, an owls tea towel, or a Squitten beanie could all work. The success of similar products released by cartooning collective Cyanide and Happiness and umpteen other cartoonists shows merch can work.

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