So let’s talk about brands.
I know that many of us when we hear the term branding, we tend to think visual and I am sure at some point you have heard someone say, “I am currently re-branding.” Or “I just rebranded,” and usually what this means is that they had a new logo designed, or rebuilt their website. None of these statements are wrong, but a brand is like an iceberg. You can see a small piece, and that may be your logo and website, but there is a monstrosity of ice that is underneath, and if you ignore that, you may run into some issues. Building a brand is so much more than a logo and a site, so let’s explore the bottom part of this iceberg.
When I first started my career as a photographer I had no idea about building a brand, and when I discuss in photo groups the idea of a brand, I see that many in the industry are making the same assumptions that I made, and in turn making the same mistakes.
All I need is a logo, a Facebook page, and a “site” – I put site in quotes, because usually when we first start our very first website it looks awful and people get lost.
If we have these above things, people will want to book us.
My brand is visual.
I will address these assumptions in a second. But let me tell you how I view the term brand.
You are your brand. Everything you do is part of your brand. How you answer the phone is part of your brand; the way you deal with a particularly irritating customer; how you write your emails if you have bad grammar or good grammar. There are so many more, but I think you get the idea. Basically how you operate and who you are is the part of the iceberg that people forget about. If you are someone who wears clothing or drives a car with your logo/business name on it, you have to be aware of how you interact with those around you. These things all communicate your brand to the world and help form a brand image.
Companies work very hard to make sure that their brand identity and brand image skip hand-in-hand together. What do I mean by this? Well, we can think that what we want our brand to be perceived as is actually how our consumers perceive us. A brand identity is what we wish the world to see, but the brand image is how we are perceived by the world. Lets use a company like Nike for example. They have built a brand which is positioned in the mind’s of consumers as high-end. Some of those shoes cost more than a new camera lens. But will you be able to dunk, or run faster just because you bought their shoes? Probably not, but they have built a strong brand identity, and their brand image is in sync.
So how do we approach this in our photography business? Let’s explore the theories from above:
The theory that all we need is to have is a logo, site, Facebook page for our brand is the first theory to debunk. While these elements are beneficial, we need to know who we are to develop these. What happens when you get your first client who is upset with their images? How will you handle that? Did you have a contract in place? Did you communicate everything that client needed to know upfront? Having the coolest logo and site in town will do you no good if your brand identity does not have a solid foundation.
This theory falls in the same line with theory one… You can create stellar images, have a killer website, but if your brand foundation is crumbling, clients will be able to tell. When you have that client that keeps asking for more and more from you, and you keep trying to make them happy, you are losing part of who your brand is and what you stand for. Customer service is key to a good brand, but giving in to everything is not good customer service. Know who you are and what you stand for, and you will build a strong brand.
As I said when I started, I thought my brand was visual. But now I know it is all of me and how I communicate with the world around me. For me I do not have anything for my business on my car because even though I drive a Prius, I tend to drive it like a sports car – fast and furious. If I had my visual branding elements on my car, people’s brand image of me might be shaped by how I drive.
I also know that how I communicate with my clients is a huge part of my brand. I set expectations before any photos happen. I outline my contract, and mention things in emails prior too, during and after the engagement session. I give my clients a welcome packet that gives them tips for success. Not only do all these things help prepare them for the photos and know what to expect. It also shows them that I know what I am doing and establishes a sense of professionalism.
Branding is a huge part of your marketing, and a strong brand is essential to a strong marketing strategy. Knowing who you are will help you build a solid foundation. A strong brand won’t make you famous or rich, but it will help guide you if those things happen.
Matt Ritscher, of New Hope Photography, is a professional wedding photographer based in Colorado. Born and raised in Colorado, he has lived all over the United States. He is passionate about marketing + branding and helping other photographers find success. He holds a Masters degree in Marketing Communication. In his spare time, Matt builds and rides bikes, saves the world from zombies, and hangs out with his dog.