A brand and a business sound pretty similar but in all reality, they are really different. A business is offering a product or service and delivering it. A business is only able to stand apart and compete on price. a brand has a personality, has interests, things that make it stand apart, it evolves over time, it grows just like we as individuals grow.
Today we are chatting about what a brand is, and how we as photographers can work at building a brand instead of just a business.what is a brand trying to find a good definition for a brand is hard. It’s hard because it encompasses a lot. Originally the word brand was used by rangers in the late 1880s when they would physically brand animals to identify them. So I live on a farm and ranch myself. For years we only used ear tags on our cows and calves to identify them. When calves are born we tag one year with their calf tag. This has the same number as their mom’s cow tag. For the heifers, we kept they would get their own cow tag in the other ear. If you have never seen an ear tag is a rubber tag that is pierced through the ear just like we would wear earrings.
This system works pretty good for a few years, but over the years the tags get worn down, and you can’t read the numbers after a few years. Sometimes cows will rip out their ear tags if they get caught on something, or stepped on. About two years ago we started freeze branding our heifers. We raise black Angus so by freeze branding the heifers they now have a white letter and number that is all their own. It won’t fade over the years, and it is easy to see from across the pen.
We use brands to identify each cow individually, but may ranches have their own unique brand that use to represent their ranch. This makes it harder for someone to steal your animals and pass them off as theirs at the sale barn. Cattle wrestling sounds like something out of the 1800s but I ensure you it still happens today! Each ranch has it’s own reputation, as the ranch is passed down from generation to generation that reputation will change. Each generation will have its own spin on how they conduct business, what bloodlines they decide to integrate into the heard, and the final product it produces. All of that will go into how people feel about the brand. While we won’t be physically branding our clients or customers we do want to create that reputation, perception, and feeling that people have when they think about our businesses.
Much like a ranches brand reputation and preception is going to evolve over time so should ours. This gives us the ability to pivot. Businesses who are able to pivot are the ones who are able to keep the doors open. So what does pivoting look like? A pivot usually occurs when a company makes a fundamental change to their business after determining (usually through market research) that their product isn’t meeting the needs of their intended market.
Companies tend to undergo more pivots in the early stages, as they are still getting to know their target market and it’s needed. Companies will continue to pivot as these needs change or the company discovers new opportunities for the business.
I myself pivoted quite a bit in my early years as a photographer from families to seniors and then to weddings. While most of my pivots were based on finding joy in my work and not directly about missing the mark on my current market they were still pivots.
The first step is to find your place in the market place. You can check back to episode 2 where we talked all about finding your niche.
Basically you want to figure out what type of sessions you enjoy shooting and narrowing in on that.
The next step in building a brand is to find your brand’s focus and personality. So how do we find our focus and personality? My first suggestion is to figure out what words you associate with your brand.
Grab a pen and write down 3-5 of the following words that would describe your brand if it were a person.
Simple beautiful funny responsibly dry wealthy fun affordable charitable outdoorsy reliable smart fast manly trendy quirky active expert energetic daring artistic bold serious professional sophisticated silly patriotic silly rebellious caring witty young confident chill experienced flamboyant honest bookwork resourceful efficient creative zen strong childish goofy angry hipster bohemian modest fashionable activist handy effective peaceful weird but vigilant secure rugged sexy over the top, party animal discreet exclusive
The next thing I suggest you look into is choosing your colors. Colors don’t just define the look of your brand but also the feeling you want to communicate. While color psychology isn’t an exact science it does help to inform choices you make especially when it comes to the colors you choose for your logo.
I’ll share a nice little infographic in the show notes that you can check out but here is a little bit of an overview of color theory.
Starting with yellow, yellow represents optimism clarity and warmth brands like Nikon sprint, and bust buy use yellow in their logos
Next is orange, orange represents friendly cheerful and confident brands like nickelodeon, Payless and Shutterfly use orange
Red represents excitement youthful and bold brands like canon, target, and virgin mobile use red in their logos
Purple represents creative imaginative and wisdome here you will find brands like barbie, yahoo, and big brothers big sisters
Bands that use blue are trying to communicate trust dependability and strength. Brands that use blue include Lowes, hp, and facebook
If a brand is wanting to convert peaceful growth and health they may want to look at using green in their logos. Here you will find brands like John deer, animal planet Starbucks, and Whole Foods
Finally the greys black and white you will find brands like Apple, Honda, and Nike. These brands are communication neutral, balance and calm feelings.
So what else goes into a brand? As photographers, we are able to create what’s called a personal brand. A personal brand showcases different things that make you and uses those things to create touchpoints with your clients. Chip and Joanna Gains, Christy Teagan, Taylor Swift, and Jenna Kutcher are all people who have created powerful personal brands. Let’s talk a little about Chip and Joanna Gains. If you have never seen the HGTV show Fixer Upper, you are living under a rock, just kidding, but really you should go check it out. Fixer-upper isn’t the first show to showcase restoring a house. There have been dozens of them. So why is it that Chip and Joanna found so much success? They let you into their lives. Yes, the final reveal was amazing the product was great, but in the middle of the episode, we got to see them interact with each other, with their kids. We learned about Joanna’s love for gardening, and we got to see Chips funny sense of humor.
Now I challenge you to go back to some of the very first episodes. Joanna is wearing dark lipstick, and her style isn’t as relaxed as the neutral tops and jeans we are used to seeing her in. Chip is wearing a collared shirt and doesn’t joke around as much. He seems stiff. All the things that we know and love about them aren’t really being highlighted in the first couple of episodes. Luckily producers realized this and started showcasing who they are as people and a couple and that is why America fell in love with them. We love Chip and JoJo for chips humor, their marriage, how in love they are with each other, how they put family first. Joanna’s relaxed but put-together style.
They now have quit the show and are continuing to build their Magnolia Empire which includes a line a target, their own retail store, an online store, a restaurant, a cafe, a bakery, a magazine, multiple books, a marathon, rental properties, and their own TV Network! Because of the brand, they have build people are lining up for all of these things, even though they were first known by America for flipping houses.
So how do you start adding your own personality to your brand? Start by picking things you enjoy or are known for by your friends and family already and sharing these things on social media. These little personal connection points will become your brand promoters. These things will either bond you to others who share these interests, or interest others to know more about you even if they don’t have the same interests or lifestyle. Some of my brand promoters include being a farm and ranch wife. The story of how my husband’s heart surgeries shaped me. Helping out at my mother in laws greenhouse, which has now turned me into the crazy plant lady. I have 5 fiddle leaf fig trees and anytime someone in our area gets one and goes to facebook asking for information about how to care for them I always get tagged on their posts. About two years ago while we were restoring our farmhouse that became a brand promoter, and now interior design and decorating have become something I share a lot about.
Your community will let you know if the things you are sharing are resonating with them. Watch for things like comments, DM’s and likes on the subjects and topics you are sharing about. These are the topics you will want to share more about. The first place I suggest these little personal tidbits is on Instagram stories or Facebook stories. While video can be a little intimidating at first remember that these short 30 second videos disappear in just 24 hours! Not everyone who follows me for my decor or plant advice need a wedding photographer, but chances are in the next year they will know someone who is getting married. And guess who is going to be top of mind since they have seen me showing up on Instagram stories every day.
By sharing these little personal connections you are building the like know and trust factor and bonding with clients and potential clients on things you have in common. Photography is a pretty personal thing, as wedding photographers, we are with a couple on one of the biggest days of their lives. For newborn photographers, you are entrusted with capturing a new life first’s moments. Being able to connect with your clients is important, if not essential. By building a personal brand you are able to let your clients and personal clients into a little piece of your life to help build that trust! We are also attracting like-minded clients, and repelling those who don’t align with our values!
You’ll continue to shape and evolve your brand as you expose more customers to it and learn more about who they are and how to speak to them. It’s important to appreciate that you will never have 100% control over how people perceive your brand. You can tug customers in the right direction, make a great first impression, and manage your reputation, but you can’t control the individual perceptions that exist in each person’s mind (say, if they had a bad customer service experience). All you can do is put your best foot forward at every turn and try to resonate with your core audience. But hopefully, at this point, you have the tools, knowledge, and resources to start.