This guest blog is by Ellen Petty, the Head Brandslinger at Identity Kitchen, a marketing and design studio specializing in photographers. She and her business partner Marty Thornley launched a new line of affordable all-in-one WordPress portfolio sites designed specifically for professional photographers at PhotographyBlogSites.com.
Just yesterday, they announced new lower pricing on their self managed, all-inclusive BlogSites. As a special thank you to the Tiffinbox audience, they would like to extend an extra $50 off your first year when you use the code TIFFINBOX50.
Let’s Start at the Beginning. What is Branding?
Your brand is your touchpoint. Everything from how you answer your phones to the auto-responder on your email. Yes, it’s the big picture items; your website, your business card, your space, but it is the cohesiveness, that glue that gives a clear picture to your potential clients. There are some companies, (Starbuck’s anyone?) They do this very, very well. Talk about the Starbucks cup, how it fits perfect in your hand. Not a waxy exterior, not styrofoam, a little thinner than a regular takeout coffee. How much planning do you think went into just the coffee cup? Now let’s talk interior, advertising, their charities, the music, the Wifi.
“That’s great for Starbucks”, you say, but how can I create a killer brand for my photography business? Here are 9 steps to not only get you started, and make sure you stay on track.
1) What’s Your Mantra?
Your brand essence, sometimes called your brand mantra, is the heart and soul of your business. Sometimes defined in a few words. Your brand essence is “Who you are”. Try and define your brand in six words or less. If I said “Maiden voyage…iceberg…not enough lifeboats” you would know Titanic. How can you define who you are?
Start with describing your work, yourself, your approach. Ask, who am I, who is this business? Choose 5-6 words that best describe you and your business.
2) Who Am I?
This is your brand positioning; what makes my business different from my competition? Is it the service that you give? Is it the kind of photographs you take? Is it the kind of photographer you are?
One of the most important rules in positioning your business and your brand is to know your competition. Once you know what you are up against, once you understand your competition you can figure out how you are different AND create a unique business perspective and carve out your very own market share.
3) Define Your Target Audience?
Do you know your target customers? Who are you going after? Engaged couples? Parents? Parents to be? What is their demographic? How do you want to come across to them?
This is where you really think about who your client or potential client is. Where do they shop, what toothpaste they use, how much disposable income they have, are they like you are they not like you?
4) Get Inspired
Now that you know who you are, what makes you/your studio different, who your competition is and who you are talking to…it’s time to get inspired, and really push that creative envelope. Look to places outside the photography industry for inspiration. Fashion, architecture, music, fine art, even food. Wherever your muse lies, don’t be afraid to interpret. Pinterest is a fantastic place to create style boards and have a sneak peek into other creative formulas.
Below is an example of an inspiration board and how we translated it into the online brand design for Studio Diana.
5, 6 & 7) The 3 C’s; Get Creative, Make It Cohesive, Keep It Consistent
Ok, you have your strategy, you have your inspiration boards, now it’s time to get creative. Whether you are designing your brand yourself or hiring an outside designer, this is where the magic happens. The “Ah-?ha” moment. The spark, that can be realized as your own personal touchpoint or brand.
Once you choose a design path make sure there is a thread or a few that keeps your brand cohesive and consistent across all mediums. Print, online, advertising, promotion, and sales. Don’t be afraid to loosen the reins on your brand as you move between mediums, keeping your brand consistent, does not mean choking it. This is where it may be helpful to bring in a professional.
Below are some examples of the creative process of Partridge Lane Studios. Also, an example of how we kept the look cohesive from printed material to the online presence.
8) Choose Your Best Work
If you have completed the last 7 steps, we know you can make choices. Don’t question yourself now. It’s time to choose your best work. Go through your body of work and choose your best 5, 10 and 20 pieces. Those should always be front and center on all your promotional vehicles. Be strong, if you feel a piece does not live up to the standard of these choices, they should not appear in your portfolio. Your online galleries should be between 20 & 30 photos per gallery. Always aim to put your very best foot forward.
9) Be Unique
If you have followed these steps you should arrive at a brand that is unique, because it is you. If it is true to who you are as an artist, it is right.
One of my favorite sayings when it comes to finding your true voice in life and in branding is by Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.