What is your brand? I first heard about the concept of branding when I was working a a computer tech for a Madison Ave. advertising agency over ten years ago. They used to bring me as “insurance” and to run the Powerpoint decks during their sales pitches. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was receiving some of the greatest marketing training while clicking the right arrow button on a PowerBook. The big buzz word that always came up was branding. I was also involved in their focus group meetings when they would help a company define their brand. They had a patented process for figuring out a brand for a company and then using that data, they would transform that branding into advertising. So what is branding for a photographer?
Branding is the culmination of everything that makes an entity distinguishable from other similar entities. For a creative professional, it’s your creative style, your looks, the music you listen to, your political beliefs, your spirituality, what you ate for lunch yesterday. In other words, it’s all of the stuff that makes you you.
The easiest brands to define are the ones that have extreme positions. Lady Gaga was just another singer/songwriter as Stefani Germanotta. Once she took an extreme left turn and discovered her fashion style and changed her name to a Queen song title reference, she went from a successful yet unknown songwriter to a household name. But what if your personality isn’t truly extreme in any of your beliefs or style? That’s OK. In fact, that’s exciting. You get to discover and expand your brand!
Just like a fingerprint – the elements of your brand that make you you when combined like the ingredients in a family recipe are unique. That means you can exploit those points that excite you the most and clearly define them by pushing them harder. Soul searching is something we should all do on a regular basis because you need to define yourself before you can clearly sell yourself. Even though you are unique, you share parts of your beliefs and style with a lot of other people. That’s what makes people attractive. That’s how you strike a chord with your potential fans.
Try to define your current fashion style and refine it. What does it currently say about you? What would you change about it to push your intent further? Can you push it to an extreme and still keep your identity? How about your photographic style – What type of photography are you most comfortable with? If you take nature photos, how can you do something extreme and unique with it? Can you get closer or expose in a non-traditional way that pushes you into a creative place that you may have only touched on in the past?
Most importantly, when you do decide to go big and make some huge leaps in defining your brand, make sure you’ve got the chops to back it up. Lady Gaga would have just been another Milli Vanilli if she didn’t have the talent to back up her uniqueness. It would be tragic to have a brilliant marketing plan with no worthy product to market. I don’t believe in style over substance, but I do believe strongly in a style that matches the substance you have to offer. I speak of these things not as a professional photographer, because that is a realm I’m just starting to explore, but as a musician who was signed to a recording contract and toured the world and more currently as a small business owner who’s made it past the dreaded five year mark and is still expanding. Throughout all of my journeys in life so far, the most successful people and businesses that I’ve come into contact with are the ones who are clearly branded. So I ask again, what’s your brand?