Case Study: Taking ‘Steps’ Forward

How Brandcave web development, video production and inbound marketing helped a successful painter and first-time author promote his new book and find a new audience for his art.

A unique approach for a unique challenge


Lovers in the backseat of a car. Stone-faced men with shotguns. A volley of fire. It’s by no means a typical website video, but Steps is not a typical book and David James is not a typical author.

To help David bring his fictional memoir to life, Brandcave developed the ebook, an e-commerce website on which to sell it, a video that captures its raw power and emotion, and an inbound marketing program that helps David share his story with readers and art lovers.

In just the first week, that atypical video was seen more than 20,000 times, and a brand was born.

‘I am writing about my life’

Austin-based David James has lived all over the world – “mostly out of a backpack,” he says – and has worked as a professional artist for more than 40 years. His art is full of contrasts: vivid but dark, whimsical but thoughtful. His travels, he says, have made him a student of life; and he shares lessons he’s learned in Steps.

Not just a book, a brand

David reached out to Brandcave, as many clients do, to undertake a specific project. In this case it was to format and design an ebook, an electronic version of Steps that could be sold online. But our early discussions made clear David needed help not simply with creating the book, but promoting and selling it as well. He would need branding, a website, and an inbound marketing program employing public relations and social media that would bring readers to him.

An end-to-end solution – with a difference-maker

Asked by a client for a specific set of deliverables, most agencies would have simply created those deliverables, cashed the check, and moved on. But because we so wanted David to succeed, we pushed ourselves to do more.

Web development. With the ebook designed, we moved on to create a website that wasn’t merely optimized for search engines but designed to capture David’s complexity as an artist and author. We not only gave the website e-commerce capability, we helped him set up each of the more than 30 products on it. At, visitors can learn about James, download Steps, and browse among paintings with names like Minotaur Risen, Blue Child, and Road to Heaven II.

Inbound marketing. To bring attention to the website, and to Steps, we employed public relations tactics and social media marketing and advertising in a coordinated way. We created social media presences then managed them to build audiences among media outlets, book reviewers and lovers of fictional memoirs. To make it truly unique, we needed a lever – something that proved that this book was truly deserving of readers’ attention. And right there it was on Page 8.

Video Production. The scene in Steps in which the narrator’s mother and her lover meet a violent end was made breathtakingly real in a short video that takes the viewer back to 1950 and that pasture road and that lime green sedan parked in the dying light. The two-minute period piece produced by Brandcave is so compelling that it has won awards as a short film. More importantly, it alone created a wave interest in Steps and in David James.

New audiences, new channels, new opportunities

So what happened? Plenty:

  • The Steps video trailer was viewed more than 20,000 times in the first week it was available. Because the social media outreach was so targeted, each view came at a cost of only .004 cents.
  • A Twitter following of more than 400 was quickly built, but that channel used most effectively as a vehicle for very specific outreach that leads to two-way conversations.
  • The e-commerce website not only sells Steps, but James’ paintings. We urged David to offer gicleees, framed canvas prints, which made his work accessible to a much larger group of art buyers.

Implications: The power of three

David James came to us with a book. In a matter of months, we made him a brand. With everything in place, we continue to execute and improve a program in which all three Brandcave offerings are leveraged, and in which each bolsters the effectiveness of the others.