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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Professional Photographer Column: March 2013

Branding not Blanding

Brand.  That word again and one which is loaded with meaning and confusion.  It is also recognised as one of the most hard to define marketing terms and explains the proliferation of articles and books written on the subject.

Despite working in marketing in a TV company it was only after moving to a branding agency that I really and truly ‘got it’. And I have been a convert and disciple ever since – believe me, it’s the only altar you’ll find me praying at.

Rather then attempt to explain exactly what a brand is I am going to try and clarify why YOU, as a photographer, need one.

I like to drink wine.  Sadly due to my wedding work I don’t get to drink it nearly enough these days.  Yet I don’t know very much about it and as a result I don’t enjoy buying it.  Why?  Because there is far too much choice and I end up feeling a little overwhelmed.  

So it’s Saturday morning and I’m in Waitrose (yes, not Tesco) standing in front of a bank of wine bottles trying to choose something to take to a dinner party that evening.  Three things are going to help me make a decision: price, packaging and product description.  I will have a budget bracket in mind so that immediately narrows the field.  Next I look at the packaging and I am not ashamed to say that this plays an enormous role in my decision.  Do I like the label - am I attracted to the brand identity of the wine producer?  Finally I turn the bottles around and read the brief description on the back – here the tone of voice as much as the content will resonate, or not, with me.  Based on the above I make a purchasing decision.  

Wine branding is big business and website TheCoolist point out ‘the design of a wine label can make or break the success of a new wine introduced to the market.  Even beyond the quality of the wine itself, the label plays a primary role in the purchasing decisions of customers’. 

Can you see the analogy?  Without a word of mouth recommendation this is how potential clients feel when faced with the task of finding a photographer.  We all need to accept the fact that most of our clients really can’t judge a technically good photograph and need other reasons to help them make a decision.

Here’s another sobering fact.  When Hallmark Cards commissioned me to shoot their UK brand photography they approached me after researching the UK lifestyle photography market.  They told me that whilst there are clearly many talented photographers over here all of the work looks the same and the majority of websites were instantly forgettable.  They were shopping for a photographer and my website stood out. 

What I am trying to make you see is that you cannot rely on your work to sell you alone.   There needs to be more – you need a brand.   Your brand should also position you instantly in the market place – are you a Blenheim Palace wedding photographer?  Are you?  Do you look and sound like a top end photographer because I don’t care how you judge me for saying it.  It matters.   Critically you may not want to be shooting weddings like this so determine what kind of weddings reflect you and your work and position yourself accordingly.   By the way, you need to be honest about who you are, as Oscar Wilde said ‘Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”.

An image will not position you in the marketplace.  You need a brand to do that for you and you need to work with specialists to help you define what yours should look and sound like. If this month’s column has helped you recognise why you need a brand, not just a logo, then I think I deserve a glass of wine.  Cheers.

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