I sat down with them for a little over an hour. I poured all I had into impressing them, telling them why I would do a good job as their photographer, and then sheepishly telling them what I had decided were my “costs.” I felt mostly good about it, but then a few weeks went by, and I hadn’t heard back…enter sinking feeling. If you’ve been in the business a few months or even a few years, I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience. I had them a lot early on in my sales career, and I always came back to somehow blaming myself. I didn’t try hard enough. I wasn’t smart enough, well-dressed enough, eloquent enough, funny enough, quiet enough, smell good, on and on and on. I always figured it was just something I “did” that made them not buy what I was selling.
Fast forward ten years and I can sit through a consult, confidently display my products, talk with passion and concern about what I offer a client, show them happily the value of the packages I offer, then help them figure out what they want/need based on what we’ve covered. I give them an incentive to make a decision soon and then go back to working hard on the rest of my business. When they book, it’s not a surprise like it used to be. Not because I’m an arrogant jerk that just KNOWS how awesome I am, because I’m plagued by artist guilt and doubt (just like many, if not all of you). I’m not surprised because I knew before they came to my office that MY brand was what they wanted.
How did I know? What do I mean “my brand?” What did I do to make them want to come in to begin with? Well, there are lots of answers to those questions, and that’s what we hope to cover over in the next few articles on this series, How to Build Your Brand. You’ll learn how to establish yourself in a market that is literally flooded with talent and competition and give your client a clear-cut and unshakeable desire to hire you. Let’s first start off by asking some advice from a pro.
Advice From The Trenches
If you’re going to build a house, it’s best to first consult a builder who can guide you. The same goes for a brand. If you are planning on building a brand that stands the test of time, going to someone with some experience and asking questions is an excellent place to start. From designers to visual merchandisers and marketing pros, there are countless amounts of people that can help clue you in on what will make a solid brand and what you can do to start off on the right foot. I have the luxury of sharing office space with a graphic designer that has had almost two decades of experience in helping guide clients to “their unique voice” and identity with design. Jodi Melfi had this to say about establishing your own brand:
My number one piece of advice I give to someone trying to develop a brand, is to be consistent. A brand isn’t just a pretty picture. It’s having a clear documented marketing goal – determining your target audience, your voice, then your visual identity. You’ll refer back to that goal, and it will keep your marketing focused for years. Don’t be tempted to deviate from that original plan!
What I see as successful branding is a plan that withstands the test of time. It might get retouched, tweaked or honed over years, but it remains basically the same. Your audience can’t remember your old brand because your new brand has the same effect as the old one – might be cliché, but think Coca-cola. It’s that same red and white; that script font, teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony…
I’m not saying every brand I build will even come close to being as monumental as Coke, but it’s the same basic driving principle behind every project.
Do you recognize this?
Not a ton of change in the logo since its inception in 1887! Jodi brings up some excellent points and a shining example of consistency with the branding of the Coca-Cola company. They’ve been building their story of “bringing people together” for several generations now, and they’ve CONSISTENTLY spoken that image and look.
You’re an artist; you like change. You like to re-arrange the furniture, change your hair color, tweak your editing style, change your business cards, get a new website, grow your beard out, get new glasses, paint your walls, hang new photos… wait, this may be MY list haha! But you get it right? You are there, sitting at the end of the year, looking through your photos thinking what total crap it is, when a month ago it was the best work you’d ever produced, and you couldn’t WAIT to show it off!
Consistency In Your Logo
I called this a challenge because it’s going to be that – challenging. The first step we are going to work on is consistency in your “look”, and we are going to start with your logo. There are going to be a thousand things you can (and likely will) want to see your logo on. From photographic prints, cards, your site, your stationary, your bag, your iPad cover, your computer background, etc. you’re going to want to see it EVERYWHERE, and that’s the same with any other brand. If you get an Apple device, their logo/branding is on the bag, it’s on the receipt and the packaging, the instructions as well as the device, and they even throw in a few stickers just to let people know what you like! They are GREAT at being consistent and simple in their logo and presentation of that logo. You KNOW what it looks like, and it would be weird if it ever looked different.
(Our clients have come to expect and trust they will have emotion filled images like this due to consistently showing and delivering them!)
So, here’s the challenge. If you don’t like your logo, tweak it. And then stop. Don’t change it in a year or even in two years. People will come to recognize your stuff by that little logo. There was always something nostalgic and even slightly “prestigious” about having that gold-foil “Lifetouch” logo in the bottom of our family photos. They were the professional standard as far as I knew most of my childhood. And guess what, 25 years later they’re STILL putting that logo on photos in the same way! It’s how you KNOW it’s theirs and what you can expect it to look like. This brings us to our second point for this article and that consistency in your image editing.
Consistency In Your Image Editing
Editing and style play a large part in branding and having a similar look to your images overall is essential. It may seem a bit “boring” to not edit and tweak every image according to your weekly inspiration or latest Pinterest obsession, but consistency in this area will allow your clients (and future clients) know exactly what to expect.
Imagine it this way: you find a pair of jeans, and you just love how they look. That specific dark color and feel that you’ve been searching for is precisely how these look! You get on their site, order a pair of the same style you thought was so great, and they arrive more vibrant and slightly stonewashed. They decided this was something THEY really loved at the time of shipping, so they changed the look. You wanted something you had seen and fully expected that thing to look and feel a certain way, but when it arrived, it was totally different. There wasn’t any consistency.
Now, that may seem like a ridiculous example, but it can be something that your clients experience when they see a certain style, editing coloration, or even a pose that you shared and promoted, and then they signed up and received something different. Your brand message becomes a bit “muddied” simply due to a lack in your consistency.
Another side of this issue I wanted to briefly touch on is how consistency in your look and editing can increase your profitability. When you can produce consistent results with your look and editing, you can streamline those processes of producing those results as well as train others to edit or even shoot like you do. They take their own creative freedoms in areas, but the look and editing style remains the same. Being able to be consistent in this area means you can take on more work, outsource some processes you don’t need to do and overall, make MORE by not wasting time and money and effort simply by adhering to consistent results and processes.
So the consistency challenge is going to push you to look specifically at your logo and your editing style and “look” to push for consistent results that broadcast your message easily and clearly. For a little look into the past 5 years of my company’s brand building and marketing, here are a few examples:
One of our early Facebook images:
One of our fall wedding posts:
A few editing examples – Outdoor, Natural Light, Daytime vs. Indoor, OCF, Darkness:
One of my favorite images from a few years back (Summer 2012) gives you an idea of how our branding style/editing has changed a bit, but I’ve always strived to have a classy and “realistic” look vs. going overly vintage or heavy edit. (Don’t judge my dark vignette. YOU KNOW YOU DID IT TOO)!
What do you think? Are you consistent in your branding? Have these tips/thoughts helped you consider ways you should change your current brand?
Drop me a line or leave a comment and we’ll talk soon!