Positioning yourself in the marketplace so that you are associated with something particular is what branding is, according to Joel Grimes, as he discusses in this latest edition of his Behind The Lens series. Just like we say Kleenex when we mean any facial tissue, or Coke for any cola. In terms of photography, he essentially links branding in field with having a certain look.The biggest compliment for Joel is when someone can see an image and associate it with him even before knowing for certain whose work it was.
With as many photographers as there are, this can seem like an insurmountable task, but Joel insists it’s not exactly rocket science. Rather, it’s the combination of focus, time, and repetition.
That’s not to say repeating the same thing over and over again will garner you success, but that in order to be associated with something, a look, it usually takes having done it numerous times, and over a lengthy period of time – about 2 – 3 years in his estimation. His humility allows him to say often that he isn’t a creative genius, and that he’s not a brilliant man, but that his love for the creative process and strong work ethic are keys to his success. The passion is what gets him going, and the work ethic allows for it to be executed.
Once you are associated with a look, and have that brand association, Grimes stresses that you must understand that there is a shelf life to all branded looks, and you may be lucky enough to get in at the right time with your look, or perhaps the worst time when that look is ‘out’. Either way, you have to make sure the brand is yours, and your vision, so the process of evolution is really personal rebranding, and only if it’s yours will you have the staying power to see it through.
There’s some real value to be taken from what Grimes has to say. The admission that there is a shelf life to all looks, and the necessity of giving enough time to something to see it become something of value, are as true as true north. I would, however, like to differ, or rather suggest in addition, that branding isn’t just about the look of the work you do.
As a someone who puts stock in Seth Godin and his wisdom regarding the subject of branding, I’m inclined to say that the branding Grimes speaks of, while true, is only a part of the story. Godin has defined a brand as the following:
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.
While we deal in the visual as our end product, I still hold that much like what Godin has said, there’s a lot more to being a brand in our business – from relationship building, to timely execution, to delivering on promises and reliability, and consistency. Who you are, and how that plays a role in what it is you produce.
What do you think? How have you branded yourself, and what brands do you respond to?
Find more great food for thought and instruction from Joel from his site and Facebook, and there are volumes also to be learned from Godin which you can find here – if you are looking for a place to start with Godin, might I suggest Purple Cow.
Source: Joel Grimes YouTube, Images are screen captures from featured video and the work of Joel Grimes.