All branding basically has the same objective: to take whatever tactics make sense and pull them together to create a single memorable “image” for a person or business. But some folks mistakenly think of a “brand” as the logo that they see for a company: think Coke, Ford, MTV, etc.
Your brand, and the marketing that supports it, are critical in making you stand out from the competition.
While such graphic representations are certainly critical, they’re just one part of a potentially far-ranging set of elements that, when used consistently and in concert, create an aura for both existing clients and potential customers.
How you answer the phone, what you wear when you meet with clients and prospects, the design of your paperwork, whether or not you are punctual and meet deadlines and, of course, your photography all result in an overall impression of you and your business. That is your “brand.”
In that sense, then, branding for editors and art buyers is no different than branding for stock sales – especially since “editors and art buyers” are often the very people you would target for potential stock sales. But remember that perhaps the most important and visible element of branding for photographers – marketing – can and most likely should vary depending upon whether you are chasing after assignment work or stock sales.
You can effectively seek both, but you have to make some choices. You could, for example, establish one strong “brand” and then simply employ different marketing strategies for each side of your business (assignment and stock). Or, you could develop two different but complementary brands, with one dedicated just to assignment work and one to stock licensing.
This depends on a number of factors. For example, if you’re a real rock star in your particular field, then it might make more sense to go with a single brand and play off its well-deserved reputation in seeking both assignments and stock sales. Most shooters, however, don’t enjoy that kind of status, and for them it could make more sense to build one brand based on assignments, while a separate brand chases stock sales.
Why? Because your potential clients have differing needs depending upon which hat they’re wearing. Each of your brands could zero in more closely on those needs.
Stock, for example, is generally an anonymous calling in which art buyers don’t really care who created the picture – they’re simply focused on finding whichever image fills that hole on their page or screen. To sell to those buyers, the pictures have to be the hero!
But with assignments, additional weight is often given to such factors as your level of experience, your physical location, your fees, your ability to communicate a sense of professional competency, etc. These additional elements come into play in addition to image content and quality: Your pictures are still vitally important, but you have to have made yourself the hero of your marketing or branding, because they’re not just buying a picture, they’re also buying the services of a human being – YOU!
In each case, your marketing will reinforce your brand by differentiating what you have to offer from everybody else offering similar services – and your brand will be your aura.
Paul H. Henning spent 15 years working as a corporate location photographer, after which he co-owned and directed Third Coast Stock Source, a professional stock photo agency. After selling that business in 1997 he managed offices for the Comstock and Robert Harding picture agencies in London, followed by his founding of Stock Answers, a consultancy serving photographers and picture libraries, in 1999. He is a frequent picture industry event panelist and panel moderator and teaches classes on stock and other facets of photography.
Full biography and additional information: Stock Answers
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