Nope, it’s not the perfect composition or the latest full frame DSLR. It’s not entirely what lightroom presets you use or even your prices. In fact, you could be the best photographer in the WORLD, but without giving any attention to this, you will never reach your full potential as a photographer, or as any type of business owner, to be frank.
Ok, Kelly, enough already, what the heck is it?!?
Drumroll…. it’s BRANDING.
When most people think about branding, it’s the tangibles that they consider: a great logo, a catchy tagline, nice fonts. But in reality, branding is so much more than how nice things look. Instead, branding is the emotional connection you create with your clients and potential clients and it spans from the moment they lay their eyes on your business, til the moments after they’ve purchased your product or services. And actually, the emotional connection is so much more important than you probably realize. If you find yourself spinning your wheels, watching your competitors thrive while you’re still struggling to fill your calendar or even get on the radar of your potential clients, your brand is quite likely the culprit.
Here’s how a strong brand can make a difference.
1. It demonstrates a commitment to your craft
I hear it all the time: “Nowadays, anyone can slap a watermark on their work and call themselves a photographer.” Consider this a reminder that nothing about your brand should ever look or feel ‘slapped together.’ Your brand should demonstrate in every way that you are committed to your craft, you take it seriously and you are everything but a weekend warrior. A strong brand shows that you have invested time, money and thought into developing your company, and clients can expect an experience that is as strong as your branding.
More often than not, when I see a new photographer hit the market, there is incongruency with their brand identity. The new photographer will boast sophisticated imagery and a premium experience, but their business title and/or logo is whimsical or kitschy, which contradicts the offering, and to me screams “Amateur photographer for hire, buyer beware!” Be cautious here, make sure your brand reflects the level of seriousness you put into your photography business.
2. It’s consistent + unforgettable
I’ve said it before: You don’t actually have to be the very best photographer to be the most successful photographer.
Have you ever looked at a celebrity photographer’s work and secretly wondered what the fuss is about? I do this all. the. time. And, here’s the thing: If your images are impeccable, but your brand is weak or non-existent, you may never get noticed. But, if your images are pretty good, and your brand is exceptional, it will launch your portfolio to the next level.
When people can begin to recognize you and your name as the one behind that imagery that they love, you will become a source of inspiration and your status will be elevated. It doesn’t matter how saturated the market is nor how good the work is of those around you, as long as your brand is the most memorable.
That said, resist the urge to constantly tweak your brand in the early stages. It is difficult to be easily recognized or gain traction if you are in a constant state of flux. Also, inconsistency communicates insecurity which doesn’t bode well in brand land. Choose a brand that aligns with your business and your values, and stick to it.
3. It makes you feel something
Are you team Nikon or team Canon? Pepsi or Coke? iPhone or Android? Mac or PC? Tim Hortons or Starbucks? You may not realize it, but strong branding leaves us feeling fiercely emotional like we’re part of a loyal tribe. Whether the brand sparks sentimentality, instills trust, or leaves you feeling a sense of luxury, these emotions are far more important than any logo, price point or sometimes even more important than the product itself (and we know that there is no shortage of good photos, and good photographers in proximity to you). Be sure that what you are putting out there achieves the goal of getting your clients (and future clients) excited to work with you.
Your brand should most definitely reflect you, your unique personality and interests, but more importantly, it needs to align with the interests of your target audience. So, if your favorite thing doesn’t align with the values of your ideal clients, hold off on making that a part of your identity and instead find alternative common ground.
4. It can’t be duplicated
A competing photographer can copy your favorite poses, use your favorite locations, and try to simulate your tone of voice in their marketing copy, but they can’t replicate your vibe because they simply are not YOU. If your brand is solid, well thought out and consistent, people will recognize that you are the original and they will spot the knockoff a mile away.
Remember that photos don’t actually “speak a thousand words” in business. The idea of letting photos speak for themselves is a generic approach that will not set you apart. Using only your work as a part of your brand is a surefire way to fade into the shadows and have your brand and your work overlooked completely.
5. It touches the entire experience
A solid brand doesn’t start and end with your marketing collateral. A solid brand should permeate the entire experience of your brand: the imagery you choose to share, the way you write, the way you interact with vendors, the way you present yourself at networking events, the tone of your texts and emails and the method and process in which you deliver your final product. Every single touch point you make with your clients, potential clients, your competitors and fellow vendors is part of your brand. Of course, this includes anything made visible to them on social media and other media. If you emailed Google with a product issue, you wouldn’t receive a hastily written reply littered with typos. Make sure that you are writing every email, text, and social media post like it is an important part of your brand – because that’s exactly what it is.
And keep in mind, if you are haphazard with your communications, your potential clients will wonder where else you’re cutting corners.
Your brand extends far beyond a logo and color scheme. It is the way people feel when they hear about your business, it is the way they perceive your business and it is the likelihood that they will associate positive emotions and think of you first when it is time for them to hire a photographer. A strong and consistent brand will help you plant solid roots in the market and earn loyal customers, so make sure it is something that you’re giving at least as much consideration to as you do your compositions!
Ready to dive in to create the best brand experience for your business?