Brooke from way back in the day… can you spot the ‘brand’ we were inspired by?
Why Thinking of Yourself as a Brand is More Important Than You Know
There are brands and there are commodities.
A brand is something or someone that people choose because of what they associate with the item – what intangibles that choice brings.
A commodity is something or someone that people choose because of price point or availability. Cheapest or easiest to get is what they go for.
A brand is not interchangeable, but a commodity is.
Cans of peas are commodities, Green Giant Peas are a brand. Some people will pay more for Green Giant Peas than any of the other brands. And if the store is out of Green Giant, they will happily take ANY of the others on the shelf – they are commodities.
Leica is a premium brand. Mention the name Leica and photographers instantly focus on excellence, vision, longevity and high value. Even people who are not photographers will perk up when they hear the word Leica.
There are dozens of other manufacturers of cameras – and each have their aficionados, but Leica can command high respect EVEN from the Canon, Nikon, Fuji, and Sony shooters who are also aficionados and fans of their own brands.
Looking for a premium bag, we may think Prada. There are other brands that we may think of, but Prada is Prada… and there is no substitute for that brand.
If we think about the bag as a commodity – not a premium, then almost any bag from any department store will do the job.
The Prada bag was not chosen ONLY because of its ability to hold things without them falling out. It was chosen because of what is associated to it, what makes it unique IS its brand uniqueness. It is better made, classier in style, more innovative or classic or whatever. It is a Brand that people associate with the bag.
The bag from the department store is utilitarian. It holds things without them falling out just fine. It comes with no other associations. One bag is totally interchangeable with another.
As a photographer, one of our most important part is our ‘brand’. If what we do is totally interchangeable with another photographer, or even a group of photographers, then the value becomes less, and the loyalty is simply not there.
Start to think of yourself as a total brand.
- What you do.
- How you do it… differently.
- What values you bring.
- What you value your own work to be.
- How you deal with prospective clients.
- What your visual strategy looks like (identity/graphics/website)
- Does the visual strategy enhance your brand?
- Will your clients be able to discern your value?
- How do you deal with clients to introduce and enhance your brand?
- How do your customers see your work – as a brand or a commodity? Don’t know? Ask.
- If they see you as a commodity, how do you change that view?
- If they see you as a brand, how do you enhance and engage that view?
- Brand can include your images of course… that is a given
- But also how you show the images: your portfolio, leave behinds, identity pieces
- What your website looks like – Is it modern and cool, or a free crappola site
- What your logo looks like. Is it professional? Does it speak to your brand?
- Where you show your work. Do you have an office? Do you have a co-work space? Is it a local Starbucks?
- What you wear when showing your work. Do you dress casually, formally, hip, classic, contemporary, eclectic?
- What you wear when you are shooting. Does it match your work, how you showed your work, and what you think of the work?
- What you wear… period. All three should match… and that gives you memorability.
Style, personal style, can go a long way toward building a brand.
It is why rockstars all look ridiculous… they do it to be remembered. It is why actors and actresses do outrageous things in public… to be remembered.
Do you have to do ridiculous and outrageous things while looking like a throwback to the Village People? OF COURSE NOT.
But you do have to maintain a style, a look, a personal brand that elevates your work from commodity status.
Here is the scary thing… if you are a commodity – an easily replaceable, easily interchangeable photographer – you will have a very tough time in a crowded market. It will come down to a buck cheaper or being the only one available that day. And that does not make for a career that builds.
A Brand photographer – YOU – is someone they want to work with because they want to work with you. Budgets are not a big deal (within reason) and the focus is on getting the best person (you) for their ad shoot, or brochure assignment. They WANT to work with YOU. You bring more to the experience than just great images. You bring integrity, values, wacky playfulness, serious classic styling, a relaxed working atmosphere, an intense working atmosphere… whatever it is that makes you – YOU.
Time for a personal assessment… look above at the list of statement / questions and answer them for yourself. Write them down. Answer them honestly and with no censorship – only you are going to see them.
Are you a brand or a commodity?
Knowing this will really help as you make decisions regarding your work, your fees and who you plan to work with as you begin to build your business.
Ideas on how to go from a commodity to a brand are plentiful, and I will offer some suggestions in the upcoming weeks.
I am very happy to announce that I will be working very closely with Robin Bramman on business branding and personal branding. We are planning on doing a workshop online for branding your photography business as well as yourself. It will be a free workshop for all of you LE folks, so watch for the announcement. Coming up soon. Visit Robin’s site for more on what she does for large corporations and entrepreneurs alike.
I will let Robin introduce herself here.
“Hello, I am Robin, Lead Curator + Strategic Brand Partner at RobinBramman.com.
Think of me as your Brand Partner for your digital presence – with personal and business branding expertise, strategic planning skills, social media savvy, project management and group branding implementation insights, and straight-from-the-trenches entrepreneurial wisdom.
I’ve logged over 20+ years as a visionary strategist + interactive services project champion (translation: fine-tooth comb detail-wrangling for smooth-as-silk fully branded website launches). I am super collaborative and have a host of partners I call upon to take your brand from ZERO to launched.
Throughout my career, I’ve worn high-powered hats in corporate America in both healthcare and financial industries, owned + operated my own brick ‘n mortar clothing boutique, successfully flipped + sold real estate properties, and dropped it all to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m a big fan of personal evolution, breaking as many rules as possible, and building a POWER team to support your branding initiatives.
I hold advanced master branding certifications through Reach Communications Consulting, Inc. and am a part of an exclusive enterprise team that allows me to deliver comprehensive learning programs for individuals, group branding sessions and deliver personal branding keynote and corporate workshops in support of brand building for the organization.”
“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.