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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Brand Identity
Dirk Weaver, Photographer, Assistant
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 9:19 PM on 03.07.12
->> From a branding perspective, those of you who use your name as your web address, do you and have you found it advantageous to use a logo or does your name serve the purpose in an effort to let the general public know who you are?
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 8:52 AM on 03.08.12
->> Branding is much more than a your name or your logo. It doesn't really matter how creative your logo looks if you don't have a branding strategy behind it. There are many great books on the topic. A good one to start with is http://www.amazon.com/The-22-Immutable-Laws-Branding/dp/0060007737/ref=sr_1...

I hired a company 4 years ago to help me develop a brand strategy. Coming up with a logo design was the last step in the process. Rather than to come up with a logo that focused on product/service (using a camera in your logo for example) I went the route of institutional branding (Nike swoosh for example).

The icon graphic that I use in my name means nothing at the surface level. It was actually developed based on a question that one of the consultants asked me. "What are your plans after photography?" My answer was, "Sitting on the beach of Lake Michigan watching the sun set and waves roll in."
http://www.kevinkrows.com/ I know, pretty silly, but so is the Nike swoosh. It's true meaning and branding value is what's behind the graphic itself.

Dirk, I'm glad to see that branding is a priority for you. Branding isn't an event .... it's an ongoing process of development and reinforcement of what your business truely is (and isn't).
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Robert Caplin, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 9:23 AM on 03.08.12
->> I think it's very important to have solid brand identity, especially now-a-days where your brand is spread across so many platforms: fb, websites, blogs, profile pages (ss, tumbler, Google+, Linked In, YouTube, Vimeo, etc), business cards, letterheads, and so on.

Like Kevin says, it's an ongoing process beyond your logo that you build for years.

Anyhow, here's a plug for my designer if you're interested
http://laiaprats.com/. She's done numerous logo designs for photographers and even some SS members here.

Cheers,
Robert
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Dirk Weaver, Photographer, Assistant
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 10:03 PM on 03.08.12
->> Kevin & Robert,

Thanks a bunch! This give me something to think about. I read Rhe Purple Cow and various other books on the subject but I wanted to reach out to the SS community for some assistance? I really appreciate your assistance. If by chance either of you come across anything that you think would be of assistance, I'm all ears.

Thanks again!

Dirk
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Gary Slickman, Photographer
Medfield | MA | United States | Posted: 11:13 PM on 03.08.12
->> Dick,
One suggestion is that if you are going to use a graphic to represent yourself it may be a good idea to use one with a higher resolution. This is meant to help and not criticize. The image you have on SS looks like it was copied off of a website and doesn't reproduce very well. Everything you put out to the public is a representation of your business. It looks like it could be a nice design but it's positive impact is diminshed becuase it is distorted.
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Octavian Cantilli, Photographer, Assistant
Orlando | FL | United States | Posted: 11:37 PM on 03.08.12
->> A strong brand identity goes FAR beyond your actual logo! Whether you choose to go with a logo or simply your name is purely personal preference. I've been very happy with the design work of Jaime Hernandez of Agency Access. His design and my new site will go live in a couple weeks :)
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 7:33 AM on 03.09.12
->> The book recommended by Kevin Krows is written by Al Reis, one of the best strategic marketers I've ever read. Highly recommended.
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Jamey Price, Photographer, Assistant
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 9:17 AM on 03.09.12
->> Branding. Is. Everything.
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Nina Zhito, Photographer
Bay Area | CA | | Posted: 10:12 PM on 03.15.12
->> yah, we've all watched mad men so we know that branding is everything. and that a logo is key to a product or enterprise's identity.

but... better be sure that logo is up to the big job -- that it is memorable, identifiable, and unique and that it supports the "brand" and product line and the inevitable line extensions-- all the while consistently communicating core values, product features, benefits.

indeed, with all respect due my vastly more accomplished colleagues in this profession in general and on this forum in particular, there are very very very few icons and logos --mine most certainly included-- that provide sufficient Identity-with-a-capital-I to do the heavy lifting needed to communicate WHO you are and WHAT your business does better than anyone else to reliably make and support that brand impression -- in a quantifiable, reproducible way.

these things take graphic excellence, a specialty in its own right. tested and perfected and affirmed in market research

abd this is why businesses like landor and associates
http://landor.com/#!/ command the respect and fees they earn.

much literature on this topic.... ogligy on ogilvy (i mean, ogilvy on advertising, is a good start...
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David A. Cantor, Photographer, Photo Editor
Toledo | OH | USA | Posted: 10:37 PM on 03.15.12
->> Everything I know about branding I learned from the fish.
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 9:54 AM on 03.18.12
->> A name (or initials) are an obvious, and generally awful, thing to base your brand on.

Unless you're already at the top of your game - your name is Liebowitz, Ioos, or Liddy - your name is just another nobody to the rest of the world. And to discriminating consumers, indicative of either a lack of imagination, sense of self-importance, or both.

I could care less if my customers (both purchasers of prints and visitors to my web site) know my name. What IS important is that they know I'm a guy who takes sports photos. THE guy who takes sports photos.

At events when I'm hoping to generate sales, it's very easy to separate myself from other photographers out there; I'm the sports photo guy. (And yes, I've registered several variations of that name, with and without "the," and they all point to my site.)

Even more important than 'branding' is 'positioning' - determining where in your audience's mind you want them to put you. "Sports Photo Guy" accomplishes my objective in both cases. My logo is cartoonish intentionally - it helps cultivate a sense that I'm approachable, which is essential to both ways I generate revenue (print sales + web site advertising and referral commissions).

Is it a concept that would work for everyone? Nope. But it works for what I intended it.

The key is not to start with a name then apply 'branding.' You need to start with your objective - how you want to position yourself - then develop a brand strategy to get you there.

Chuck

PS Read Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Ries & Trout. Still the definitive work to my mind.

http://amzn.to/FQvmMJ
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 6:43 AM on 03.19.12
->> "->> A name (or initials) are an obvious, and generally awful, thing to base your brand on."

Not sure I would agree with this statement. Most professional industries do use the the name of the owner in logo or company "mark".

"Postioning" has been on my shelf for years and is another outstanding book by Al Ries...don't really know much about Jack Trout the co-author. The entire book is devoted to to getting you to focus on the "perception of your prospective customers" rather than the reality of your products or services.

One of the main reasons I hired a consultant to help me with my branding strategy is objectivity. In the early development stages, there were two focus points -- Absence of arrogance and easy to do business with. Both of these were based on a generalizations that most photographer's tend to be self focused (what we think is best) and difficult to work with (how many flaming hoops we ask our clients to jump through). Humility and simplicity are cornerstones of my business.

Before you can begin to develop a branding strategy, you need to deal with the current perception of the prospect..not of you...but the market as a whole. If you don't you'll wind up inheriting the brand or position of the general market.
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Jamey Price, Photographer, Assistant
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 7:05 AM on 03.19.12
->> "A name (or initials) are an obvious, and generally awful, thing to base your brand on."

I also ABSOLUTELY disagree with this. What else is your name worth? Would you rather your name be some hooky slogan like "Moment Captured Photography"?
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David Harpe, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 8:32 AM on 03.19.12
->> A name (or initials) are an obvious, and generally awful, thing to base your brand on.

I think it really depends on what you're trying to do in photography. If you're trying to build a prep-sports empire with multiple shooters, a big fancy web site and a machine that churns out game photos to the masses, then yeah a brand like "MyKidsSportsPhotos" is going to work a whole lot better than "Bill Smith Photography". But that's a different type of photography than a lot of people are doing.

Most photography is unavoidably personality-based. Successful photographers become successful in large part based on their personality. Technicians are a dime a dozen. A true photographer is one that can finagle their way into a deal where they can put that killer remote in that killer location that nobody else has been able to do before. They are able to put a head of state who doesn't like to be photographed at ease to capture historically significant imagery. They are able to walk into difficult, traumatic situations and give a little (or a lot) of themselves to capture an image. They are the smiling face with the disarming joke in a sea full of assholes on the red carpet.

They're not known as "The guy from Intertrode" to the subjects they photograph. They're known as "Pete" or "Amy" or "Bill" or "Chuck" or "Brad" or "Annie" or "Robert" or "Vince". That's who subjects and clients know. That's who they trust. That's who they hire.

Even if you build a huge generic brand, most people are still going to say "Hey who was that guy from Intertrode that was here last week? Jeff? He was really good. I didn't like that other guy...Steve or whoever. Make sure you ask for Jeff when you call those guys..."

You can be "Intertrode Photography" and have your "brand" stand for the best Industrial/Corporate/etc. photography if that's the type of thing you're going to do. But there is nothing "awful" about hanging your name out there. It means something to people when you're willing to put your own name on what you do. In most types of photography, that's important.
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 7:01 PM on 03.19.12
->> A personal name says absolutely nothing about what your business is or does. "Moment Captured Photography" is sappy, but at least it says something. Not much, but...

Kevin Krows Photography. Nope, nothing. No idea what you do or what service you provide.

Jamey Price Photography. Yes, I think I see...no. Nothing.

(Don't mean to pick on you guys...I know you do good work. But this is about branding, not "your good name.")

SportsPhotoGuy. Hmm...big mystery. Creative? Not really. Something I take pride in? Not particularly. Ego-swelling. Nope. But that's not the point.

David - All those things you say are true only AFTER you've busted your ass to establish a brand. None of those "personal" traits you cite come from your name. And in fact, unless someone else has told you what David Harpe means, none of your potential/new clients will know anything about what your brand means, either.

One day, I will move from being SportsPhotoGuy.com when "Chuck Steenburgh" becomes a household name. But until that happens...I'm the guy. :)
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David A. Cantor, Photographer, Photo Editor
Toledo | OH | USA | Posted: 7:18 PM on 03.19.12
->> Here's my all time favorite most effective brand:
http://www.sportsshooter.com/members.html?id=4043
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David Harpe, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 11:39 PM on 03.19.12
->> One day, I will move from being SportsPhotoGuy.com when "Chuck Steenburgh" becomes a household name.

Of course if you move into Photojournalism or product photography, you're kinda screwed. :-)
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 5:05 AM on 03.20.12
->> It's Kevin Krows Sports Photography.
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 5:33 AM on 03.20.12
->> I just have to roll my eyes when so many people start spitting out the words "branding" and "strategic" and so on in the belief that if they toss those phrases around people will perceive them as hip, current, and in-the-know. What bull****.

Let's take Brad for instance. No question he's the best baseball shooter in the land, and has a very cool logo, great website and very appealing and great-looking blog. I don't know Brad that well, but I will venture a guess he's didn't start out with a brain full of uber-scientifically researched marketing goobledy-gook with "branding consultants" about what his "strategic" plan for the logo and his branding would be. Maybe I'm wrong. But through all, the bottom line is he's a great shooter, has a long standing good reputation and is very reliable on his assignments. His very cool logo has nothing to do with his success. He was successful before the logo. I do believe that his great logo reflects that he takes his career seriously, though. If, however, someday he should become unreliable, a poor shooter and lazy toward his clients, his logo won't mean a damned thing.

There's no question that when you are dealing with huge, national mass products and corporate images and millions of dollars of advertising, building company image and perception (branding?) is very important; but in small business, especially ours, you don't perform and don't offer a quality product, all the freakin' branding in the world won't mean squat.

I purposely avoid doing business with entities in which I see a plethora of cool, hip business jargon; that tells me they are either thinking too much about the wrong thing, or there's no substance to the hipness and they are trying to blind me with bull****. When I was in the mortgage business, we used to call it Buzzword Bingo...

Heck, I will admit to succumbing to that temptation six years ago when I started my workshops; I went to several logo designers asking for a logo with a play on the initials PH woven between the words "Phil Hawkins" and "Photography". No one was giving me what I wanted to see. Finally, it hit me I was spending too much time thinking about something that didn't matter and instead went back to focusing on doing good workshops. I now have a very successful independent Yosemite photography workshop company and I did it (OH MY GOD!!!) without a freakin' branding strategy. I do a good job, people like what I do, the word gets out and the rest takes care of itself.

Guys and gals, don't make things harder than they should be. Just do good work, carpet the land with your business card, be friendly and reliable, take a shower every day, keep a good website and ultimately over time, the world will beat a path to your door. Don't get overwhelmed by what you THINK other people will be impressed by.
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 5:40 AM on 03.20.12
->> Oh, I forgot to include my brother; he's won three Emmys for videography, turns down work every day, and he doesn't even have a web site, much less a "branding strategy". He's got a cheap business card, does good work reliably, and the people who matter know who he is. 'Nuff said.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 12:48 PM on 03.20.12
->> Phil,
Two well written posts. As you suggest, ultimately, in small segments, branding is less important than doing good work, being responsive to needs of one's clients, and doing all the other things correctly.

If you enter a new segment, a good name (i.e. Brand) get help cut through the clutter since the average person is bombarded with advertising messages that's in the thousands every day.

A good brand name is descriptive and creates a mental image of you for the potential client. This is why using your name is a bad move unless it has decades of advertising behind it (Would Heinz work for ketchup if they had to start from scratch? Then there's Apple...) The expensive part is promoting it if your using something other than social media or Facebook.

But you're right when you say too much emphasis communicates the wrong thing; it's like people assuming that if they had a camera just like ours they could make images just like ours.In the final analysis, if it's dreck, no matter what you call it, is still dreck.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 4:03 PM on 03.20.12
->> "A good brand name is descriptive and creates a mental image of you for the potential client."

This is one of several reasons why I choose not to use my name when I got back into photography after about an eight-year leave of absence. It took two weeks to decide on a name. I wanted/needed a name that was versatile as well as describe the main business activity then (editorial photography) and what it would be in the future (editorial content delivery - words/photos - and ultimately sports/news/entertainment print and electronic publishing). The other reason, looking into the far distant future, was based on exit/retirement strategy. It would be far easier to sell the assets, transfer copyrights and transition clients to the new ownership with an established brand name in a large or niche market than say (photog's name) Photography if or when I wanted to pursue other interests.
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Ross Dettman, Photographer
Bensenville | IL | USA | Posted: 7:03 PM on 03.20.12
->> Chuck,

->> A name (or initials) are an obvious, and generally awful, thing to base your brand on.

I think the evidence is clear that your statement above is simply not correct. While I'm sure you can present name/initials-centric brands that aren't successful, there are thousands more that are.

Consider successful brands/entities like:

Post
Proctor & Gamble
Walgreen's
Culver's
McDonald's
Kellogg's
Mercedes-Benz
Ford
Chevrolet
Chrysler
Amy's
Hewlett-Packard
Ferrari
Cessna
John Deere
Weiden + Kennedy,
etc.

I could go on and on listing law firms, more ad agencies, design firms, and all kinds of other companies, but I think I've made my point.

Every one of those, is based on a founder's name.

Even just among photographers, I would venture that the majority of successful "brands" simply used their names.

Consider just a few (in no particular order):

Walter Iooss jr
Vincent Laforet
Gregory Heisler
Tim Tadder
Donald Miralle
Peter Lik
Dan Winters
Brian Smith
Sarah A. Friedman
Jed Jacobsohn
Robert Seale
Annie Leibovitz
Brad Mangin
Bill Frakes,
etc.

In fact, it's clear to me the vast majority of the most successful people in our industry simply used their name as their "brand". Then, to Phil's point, they developed that "brand" by simply being really good at what they do.

Just thinking out loud ...
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 8:26 PM on 03.20.12
->> Ross, thanks for doing this post; I was about to write exactly what you said. You saved me the work.

Oh, you left out:

Sears AND Roebuck
Smith AND Wesson
Levi Strauss
Stradavarios (violin maker)
Edison Electric

and you are right, there are more but as you so eloquently pointed out the point has been made.

Focus on the SUBSTANCE and leave the pretentious bull**** on the curb where it belongs.
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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 10:54 PM on 03.20.12
->> I agree with Phil's posts.
The one negative thing about having "xxxsportsphotographer" is you are limiting yourself and most people will just see the "sports photography" and never hire you for anything else. That's fine, it that is all you want to do but in this day and age, diversity is the key.
I have never had a logo, no branding, my website is a billion years old, I am using the same business cards from 17 years ago (but I will admit it's a cool card) and (thankfully) work is more than plentiful.
What has worked for me? Always delivering the goods to the client, being polite and nice to everyone I meet. My long term clients-as well as the news ones I have recently acquired, tell me over and over how many rude photographers they have worked with. You can have all the cool logos you want but if you are rude, no one will want to hire you
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Jamey Price, Photographer, Assistant
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 8:57 AM on 03.21.12
->> [Also thinking out loud here....]

Do you think the model of not really running your business from a "marketing" standpoint will last you much longer? (ie old or no website, no brand identity etc etc)

Personally, I don't think it will. Generation X is hooked up to the internet every second of the day. And like it or not, the more entrepreneurial group in my generation will be the ones running the show in 15 years time which means they will be your clients, no matter what you specialize in. Currently we have baby boomer CEOs and households that were from a time prior to the facebook, myspace, twitter, and the website marketing age.

I'm not saying you're wrong, because you're clearly right. If you are making money, then you're doing just fine. But I'm thinking about the future more than the present.

For example. Lets take the struggling newspaper industry....there's no cash flow. Not enough web traffic. Not enough print subscribers. Furloughs and layoffs are abound because of it. Why? Again, and this is my personal opinion, I see the newspaper industry as having not caught on soon enough. They took the global changes in internet marketing and social media less seriously than they should have and they paid the price for it. They're catching on slowly, but in many cases, it is way too late. Most if not all newspapers are skeletons of their former selves. It's sad but we have all been touched by this downfall of print news media.

I'm kind of with Ross. Saying that basing your "brand" on a name is a poor decision doesn't sit with me because the photographers I've looked up to over the years are the ones that do just that. And his list of name based brands are proof that you can successfully run a business off your name and have almost no description in it.

This is an interesting debate though! That's what I love about the medium and the industry. We all come from different backgrounds and from different thought processes and there is no right or wrong way to do things. It's your name and business and ultimately your success or failure is your own doing.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 9:38 AM on 03.21.12
->> Ross, you left out a important factor - two in fact.

All of the national brands spend Billions collectively to impart who they are and what they do. IF you go back to my earlier post, I wrote:

"ultimately, in small segments, branding is less important than doing good work, being responsive to needs of one's clients, and doing all the other things correctly."

While I don't run a advertising agency, my degree is in marketing. A good brand name that conjures up a vision in a potential clients mind cuts through the clutter. The broader the market (size wise), the more expensive. A good brand name is a short cut. Hard to do? Yes. Expensive? Yes. A small business with a good brand name, a good investment in marketing, a good product, good customer service etc WILL do better than one with exactly the same qualities less the effective brand name if both were starting from scratch.

Why?

Because it will cut through the clutter fast. The other secret if you read Reis and Trout's books is to create a new niche you can be FIRST in.

Not my opinion... but based on real world ... aka .. realities.

M
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 10:09 AM on 03.21.12
->> "Generation X is hooked up to the internet every second of the day. And like it or not, the more entrepreneurial group in my generation will be the ones running the show in 15 years"
Yup, and herein lies the real problem. GX has grown up expecting to get everything for free on the internet. music, photos, term papers, book reports, any information they need..etc. etc. etc...I think the problem will get worse and not better for freelancers. As many smarter than I have said quality will always account for something....but there is no beating free...which many established shooters with a "brand" are facing more and more.
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Ross Dettman, Photographer
Bensenville | IL | USA | Posted: 10:16 AM on 03.21.12
->> Michael,

I won't dispute the fact that the national brands have spent billions to impart who they are and what they do. But the effective photographers I noted certainly have not. But that wasn't my point.

My point was simply a response to Chuck assertion that "A name (or initials) are an obvious, and generally awful, thing to base your brand on." That's all.

I also don't dispute the effectiveness of good marketing. But what exactly is a good brand name? Prior to effective advertising campaigns, do you think Coke really conjured up the idea of a refreshing soft drink? Did Tide make you think of clean fresh smelling clothes. Are those brand names any more effective than Ford or Ferrari in communicating what their product is about?

The name is just a starting point. If you don't do what you do very well, then what you've called yourself is irrelevant. There are plenty of good/created brand names associated with products/services that have failed miserably - despite how effective their names were.

This is not to say that branding isn't important. I simply don't think that what you call yourself is as important as doing what you do really well and effectively communicating that to potential clients.

Just thinking out load ...
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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 11:25 AM on 03.21.12
->> Janey,
not sure if your question was geared at me but if it was, I have been doing this for 28 years this May and 13 years as a freelancer and it hasn't slowed down.
I am also one of the rare breed who hasn't done anything to market myself with the exception of handing out my business card and having an old website. Oh-I have a facebook photo page that earned me an extra $15k last year but that page didn't cost anything, unless you consider the price of my internet provider.
In 15 years, everything that is important to you Gen X'ers will be so outdated and people will come up with new gimmicks.
"If it ain't broken, don't fix it." My husband and I have never marketed ourselves, we don't have a logo...but we both get more than enough work that we can pass jobs onto to friends almost weekly. We pick up work from almost every shoot we go on-some have been a one time shoot, others have turned into regular steady clients. To us, word of mouth has been our best marketing.
Oh, and in 15 years (tomorrow if we wanted to) we will be in retirement, but pretty sure still shooting since it is still a passion.
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Michael Granse, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 12:23 PM on 03.21.12
->> I do not need a marketing strategy, as I just received an email stating that I can become a Premier Photographer, though I did not read far enough to find out what that is. If that does not work out, I have my good looks and charming personality to fall back on.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 11:37 PM on 03.21.12
->> Ross,
Actually, Chuck is right.

If you read Ries and Trout ( I put what they wrote about into practice over 25 years ago), you know that the real trick is to be FIRST - in other words, create your own niche that will be attractive to potential customers.

So, Dettman Photo isn't such a good approach, but Extreme Sports Photo - if you were the first to specialize in it - would be if you were trying to attract clients that needed images of extreme sports.

The power in being first in a niche - or I should say - the first that the market becomes aware of - is incredibly valuable.

So building a brand is one thing, but the REAL power is building a brand in a niche that didn't previously exist. It can sometimes be as simple as this: Apple was not the first company to make a personal computer. But they were first to use GUI (borrowed from Xerox) and make personal computing easy and simple.

Then there is the iPod. And now the iPad. Those are two of the better examples of recent inventions. For the record, before the introduction of the newest iPad, world wide market share was a incredible 62%. With the introduction of the new iPad, some projections are that marketshare will go to 70%.

Branding is more than a pretty logo. It's more than good images and good customer service. It is about being first, with a unique and different product. And then doing everything else right.

And then, last but not least - communicating the values and differences - and why those differences make you better to the marketplace.
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