Very few products can stand on the strength of their packaging without an identifying brand. The opening image above is a good example. This article takes a hard look at branding and differentiates it from marketing, advertising, and public relations.
Editor’s Note: Fabrizia Costa is a portrait and wedding photographer who also helps photographers raise the level of their work and their business through workshops and personal coaching. Her work is all about deep shifts in perspective, seeing things with new eyes, and thinking outside the box. If you’re a professional wedding or portrait photographer, you can join her free Outside the Box Evolution group on Facebook.
Unpacking Branding to Make it Work
We all know why we like certain brands more than others. We can justify spending more for something we like, in some cases even fight for it passionately if someone disagrees with us. We choose products and services that resonate with us, sometimes represent us and always satisfy us in some way. We’ll buy again and again, sometimes until it becomes part of our lives, of our identity.
Good branding does this to us. We’re proud owners of XYZ, we wear those labels on the outside, we eat or drink to make a statement about ourselves. Companies spend millions to establish their brand, and the return on investment is obviously worth it (or they wouldn’t do it). Yet, when it comes to photographers, the ones who understand the concept of branding are few and far between. Why is that?
First of all, do you know what branding really means? In my experience at workshops, there are only a few hands that go up when I ask that question. So if you don’t have a crystal clear idea of what it really is, rest assured, you’re not alone. We’re here to clarify.
Branding is not marketing, it’s not advertising and it’s not referrals. Unlike a large company, which will create a custom brand for a product by employing the creative minds of some wildly expensive agency, we can focus on ourselves when creating our own brand. In photography, we show up personally. So why not put ourselves into our brand?
Branding has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Whereas at the beginning it was a matter of taking a product, creating a pretty package and a catchy logo for it, and then plastering it all over the place as far as the advertising budget would allow (Drink Coca-Cola everywhere!), there’s been a massive shift towards storytelling. Every successful brand will tell a story, and Coca-Cola is no exception.
Family Sunday lunch, friends on a beach…it’s all about moments and emotions and stories now. And guess what? That’s the stuff WE do! We have a unique advantage over any other professional because we have compelling images and we know how to tell stories. Right? Winners! But not so fast. How do we actually build a brand?
There’s Only One YOU
We start with the basic principle that there’s only one YOU and that your ideal clients will recognize, resonate and respond to you because you have something in common. We’ll get into your ideal clients in another post, but for now, let’s focus on your style.
Think of your business as a person. If you had to describe it in three words, which would you use? Do these words also represent YOU? Your personality traits, your hobbies, your passions outside of photography — these are all things that can go into your brand and can connect you with like-minded clients out there.
Do you love sailing? Your clients have boats. Do you ride horses? Guess what, they probably own a few (and would love their portraits). Do you collect marbles? They may be a great graphic inspiration for the background of your website. Everything that’s uniquely yours is unlike anyone else, and the more personal you make it, the bigger the difference will be from the other photographer down the road.
From Logo Design to Text, the Choice of Fonts and the Products You Offer, Everything Has to Fit Together to Showcase Your Brand
The place where it all comes together is your website, your shop window to the world. From the logo design to the text, the choice of fonts and the products you offer, every single part of it has to fit together to showcase your brand. It takes a little effort and attention to detail (but details are what makes our work special, right?), and it pays off enormously. You will be different. You will be seen and remembered. You will not be like any other Bill out there.
That is not to say that if you love sailing all your clients will be boat owners. Some will be, some won’t. But you’re more likely to get the sailing lovers to book you instead of Sally down the road because you have something in common that connects you on a different level.
Think of your favorite hairdresser. It’s not just about the way they cut your hair — it’s the shop, the mood, what they talk about, the people they employ, the music and the level of service.
We’ll get into the details of branding in more posts about designing your logo and building your website. Websites are not the only place to showcase your brand, but once you’ve done it there you can reproduce it everywhere: brochures, business cards…napkins…whatever takes your fancy.
For now, get started by writing down three words that describe your business and three words that describe you. And then see if you can decide on which ones are the right ones to work on.
P.S. — the word Creative is not allowed — we all are. Be different! Be YOU.