When you say “branding” to most photographers and filmmakers, all they think about is how their logo looks. Branding, however, is so much more than a pretty logo. It’s what you want people to feel when they hear your name or see your work. Branding sets up a level of expectation to potential clients and customers. It’s what separates you from your competitors.
But how do you even begin to think about how you brand yourself and your work? This video from filmmaker Kris Truini helps to explain the basics with some tips to get you started. This is by no means a complete guide, but a good starting point to get you up and running. These tips will lead to more questions, but that’s a good thing. Questions make you think and push yourself. There are no shortcuts.
Kris talks about five basic questions you need to ask yourself.
Why are you creating your brand?
This might seem obvious. Because you want to pick up clients and make money. But it’s never really that straightforward. The better question is “Why should anybody care that you’re creating a brand?” Why should people get interested or excited with your brand? Or you? Or your work?
Kris feels that a compelling story is vital. Something which informs people how you arrived where you are today. It adds an interest to you and your brand that is unique to you. Everybody has their own unique story. People are more likely to align themselves to brands when they have a story they can relate to.
What is your company about?
Having potential clients know what your company (or just you) is about and what you do is vital. If they don’t know what you do, why would they hire you? When a client is looking for a photographer, they look for a photographer. They’re not going to find somebody who doesn’t give a clear idea on exactly what they do and say “Hey, do you do photography?”. Same goes for filmmaking, or pretty much anything else.
Personally I think this is one aspect of branding you need to get right before you even start to promote. Get this wrong in the early days, and it can take a while to adjust and recover. When you’re fresh and new, all your friends are shouting about how awesome you are. If you change your direction a few months down the line, they’ve mostly already done all the shouting they’re going to do.
How will you communicate your ideas through your brand?
This is the section your logo kind of fits into. But it’s not about how pretty it looks. It’s about the message it sends. I see so many photographers using intricately designed logos that you can barely even tell what it’s supposed to be. They use fonts that are difficult to read (at least I haven’t seen Comic Sans in a while, though). And often they don’t really scream “PHOTOGRAPHY!”. Then there’s the other extreme. The cliched lens iris in place of the letter “O” somewhere in the name. That might tell us what you do, but it doesn’t tell us who you are.
Slogans also fall into this category. Kris uses Apple as an example, citing their very popular “Think different” campaign. He also talks about the photographs used alongside the slogan and the feeling they evoke in the viewer. Even though the campaign ended in 2002, that phrase is associated with Apple even today, and vice versa.
Where will your brand and content primarily live?
Where your brand will live will depend largely on where your audience is. For Kris, as a filmmaker, this means YouTube. Kris talks about other social media platforms he uses, although he focuses primarily on YouTube. This is in line with advice Chase Jarvis gave in his Q&A we posted yesterday. Focus on one and don’t spread yourself too thin in the early days or it can just get overwhelming.
For you, as a photographer, it might be Instagram. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky few that Facebook pages still work for. Or it may be a local gallery where your work is on display. Or it could be one of a thousand other places. It will all depend on who your market is, and what venues and services they use.
And this brings us to the final point.
Who is your audience?
Who are you trying to reach? Look at the food industry. Are the $100 a plate restaurants advertising in the same place as McDonald’s? Are Bentley advertising in Boy Racer Monthly magazine? (I don’t know if that’s a real magazine or not, but you get my point). No, of course not, because the people seeing those advertisements for McDonalds aren’t generally looking to spend a couple of hundred bucks to go out for a meal with a friend.
The same is true with filmmakers or photographers. If you specialise in corporate video, there’s not much point marketing to those who just need a guy to shoot video at a wedding or birthday party. Likewise, those looking for good wedding photographers probably aren’t going to be looking in landscape photography Facebook groups for one.
So, “Who?” and “Where?” kind of go hand in hand. Although, I think the “Who?” should be answered before the “Where?”. “Who?” will generally determine the “Where?”.
The thing about branding
Branding isn’t just a one time deal. It’s not like you decide to start a company, do your branding, and that’s that. Your branding has to constantly evolve and adapt as you and your business does. Times change, clients change, our competitors change. We have to be able to keep up with the times and adjust.
Just as Apple only ran their “Think Different” campaign for five years before moving on, so must we all.
[via No Film School]