Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Branding DOES Matter. And what Branding really is.

If every client engagement comes down to a fight around your pricing and a desire to discount there is something wrong with your branding.

Take a second and reread that. It’s true.

‘Wait,’ you’re thinking. ‘You always say my logo doesn’t matter.’ That’s right. It doesn’t. So long as it is remotely presentable your logo doesn’t matter one tiny little bit. But I’ll reiterate, if your clients are constantly looking for lower pricing there is something wrong with your branding.

How are those two statements compatible? They are compatible because your logo is only an extension of your brand (and by comparison, an unimportant one). Here’s what I’m getting at.

In the highly projective world of internet communication, your brand is everything you are. It is not your logo. It is not your colors or your cool custom font that you developed that too truly just reflects you. It is these things PLUS everything else you have out there and every touch point in your business. It is your packaging, your pricing, your voicemail message, everything.

And most importantly it is what these things communicate about you to the people who may be interested in contracting you as a photographer. And it is your products.

What do I mean by all of this? Here’s the thing. If there is nothing that someone can only get from you, then anything that you sell can be found somewhere else. Wait, you say, my clients can only get ME from ME. I get that. And the funny hats and glasses and custom designed T-shirts, and all of the other stuff certainly set you apart. But you must understand that to a client that may not be enough. You’re just one highly stylized photographer among a herd of highly stylized photographers.

Ask yourself this question. Besides you, what ONE thing can a client get from you that they can’t get from anyone else? What thing can they NAME that they can get from you that they can’t get from anyone else? When they want to justify spending the extra money what are they going to say?

‘Well, I like soandso, she has a shoot fee and an album and a book and she has online proofing and we can get big prints or canvases to go over the couch. And all of that comes in the middle package that we can get for $5000.

‘Well I like soandso, he has a shoot fee and an album and a book and he has online proofing and we can get big prints or canvases to go over the couch. And all of that comes in the middle package that we can get for $4000.

See what I mean? Sometimes I think we spend so much time on the veritable window dressing of most branding exercises that we forget that it’s what’s written on the pages that will be most important.

Take some time and go out and come up with three things that you can incorporate into your business that are uniquely you. Name them as such. I am not necessarily talking about physical product, but I am talking about something your clients will name and say, “I like soandso, she’s the only person who can provide “nameofthingIloveandwantnomatterwhat.” I don’t care if it costs us an extra $1000. I want that.

When you do that all of the other stuff will fall into place ...




Josh Gruetzmacher said...

This is really good food for thought. I think that it would be really hard to use products as a way of setting yourself apart though. I think it will come down to the content that fills the products that will make you unique. If your style is so distinct that people must have it, your brand is in a good spot. Like with any art, if you can see an image and you can say who made it without it being said (signature style), you win. Everyone can see a Warhol and know who made it, even though it's not like he's the only person to ever use silkscreen as a medium. Signature style with your images (though just one part) will be the glue that holds your brand together (in my opinion).

Eric Cotter said...

Good thoughts Jim.

I tend to see a commoditization of the industry from a consumer's perspective and a differentiated view from photographers. (wonder if your perspective differs)

At the end of the day it might help to pay attention to the areas consumers find to be digestable points of differentiation and not our photographers friends. Most of our photographer friends speak/think/eat/breathe/live in ways that few consumers understand. Unless our target client is an art director etc, it might be beneficial to surround ourselves with the gatekeepers of our business.. brides, mothers of brides, coordinators, catering directors sales managers, publicists etc..

Have you ever thought of helping photographers understand the needs/wants/problems of these gate keepers? Could be interesting to see some of these people teaching classes at partnercon (i.e. what I want from a photographer)