Friday, June 13, 2008

Brand Envy has a new blog address:

Hope you enjoy!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

#7 Promotional Hierarchy: what works and where to start?

The main question is what works?


The hierarchy works like this:

A good promo gets them to your website.
A good website calls in your book.

So really then it becomes a need for strong brand, a foundation to remember you by. I always tell my clients, the two most important things that anyone takes away from the brand we build is your name and your work. The design just allows those things to be notices first.

So what do we recommend to our Brand Envy clients?

Strong Brand
Yearly Marketing Plan
Strong Image Selection (Suzanne Sease or Amanda Sosa Stone)
applied to:

Spend the money on a unique, well designed promotion campaign over ads that anyone can purchase... The promo should have a unique design that works with the works with the brand, and makes the work memorable. Pair printed promos with e-blasts, the cost of the blasts are so minimal and allow for a year of consistent face time with creatives. (I love working with Agency Access for lists and e-blasts.)

Getting them to your website is a good first step and you need to keep their interest once they get there. The best way to do this is not with an overly tricked-out site that is so complicated to navigate it overpowers the work.

There are several ways to get a site that is simple to use and update. We design and develop html sites, that load images dynamically (that means a new webpage does not need to load for each image view) Added bonuses to having an html-based sites are that you will have better search results with engines like Google, Yahoo, and Ask. Another option we offer is template sites, this is a fast and simple solution, we work directly with companies like Neon Sky and LiveBooks to make sure their templates represent your brand in the best way possible.

Also avoid the 10+ portfolio sections that say I can do anything: weddings, food, family portraits, corporate work, etc. This again is not a viewpoint, and creatives get confused. This is when I recommend photo consultants to pair the work down and create visual hierarchy.

The website and their connection with the work calls in the book. It often comes down to their connection with the printed portfolio, getting the job. We hear it and see it all the time, the scramble for a portfolio. Today, so many photographers think they do not need a portfolio in an electronic world, and then last minute their portfolio gets called in and they scramble to send out a book. Interestingly we have seen our greatest growth with our portfolios these last five years, in the "digital boom". Our average order of portfolios: 3-5, Busiest photographers: 5-10, and believe it or not, we have a handful of photographers who have 20+ books; of course they have reps worldwide. The trend today with portfolios - Custom or customized books, that works with the brand. This paired with a great selection of images and layout is a winner! Check out many of the custom portfolios we've designed...

Click here to view some custom portfolios by Lost Luggage

"Suzanne Sease Says"

The other day one of my clients received a call from a very prestigious magazine- you know the type of publication that launches you in your category of work. They wanted to see his book the next day; a request not untypical at all in this industry, there is virtually no time between the request and the delivery. He had spent the past year on mailers, e-blast promos and updating his website but forgot to edit the book. He scrambled to get a book out the door and in his haste, had no time to work with me to make sure the submission was right. The book was received and returned with no note, no indication of like or dislike, nothing- the “thrown together” book fell flat. This was to the publication that could have taken him to the next higher level of his career. I asked him why he hadn’t updated his work in so long, “no one really calls in a book anymore”, he replied. “Oh really”, I replied, “and who was it who just called and you blew it”. Needless to say, he is burning a disk and sending it my way to review and edit his new upcoming portfolio.

Before a portfolio gets called in, you need to get the attention of the buyer- but how?? I remember when working at the Martin Agency and that special promo would arrive, I would find it the only piece the art director had opened and filed in his “special folder”. Sometimes when the piece was that special, it would create a buzz at the agency- “Have you seen this one?” they would say. That special piece got our attention, and the simple postcards or tri-folds that followed only reminded us of that special piece and the name of that photographer. I do want to caution you, that consistency wins the race here- you send out a special piece, it gets put in the special folder for that project down the road- it may not have a return immediately but ultimately, it will. The postcards or tri-folds are to remind them of that special piece in that special folder.

Now you’ve done your mailers, you’ve done your e-blast and you’ve finally gotten them to your website, congratulations, I hope! This is where you can lose them so fast, you never saw them even come in. You have about 5 seconds to win them over- yes, just a mere 5 seconds and if it takes that long to load- bye, bye, they are gone!! This is one of the main reasons I prefer either LiveBooks or Neon Sky. DO NOT get so caught up in bells and whistles that take away from your work. Be careful of how you title the work- even if you have portfolio 1, portfolio 2, make sure the work in each portfolio is different. I reviewed a site with a client the other day where he had five portfolios all with the same genre of work and no rhythm or reason why they have been separated. Some of his best work was buried in portfolio 4 would not be seen if the viewer didn’t like portfolio 1 - click, click and they are gone.

The whole process of your business is a complete branding of your company. If you fall short in one area, you fall short in getting the work you want. When mapping it out – review all your images; select the best for your portfolio; select the best, and then some, for your website. Maybe the portfolio is a montage of categories where the website has the categories divided. As you are finishing up this area, start with your “kick off” special mailer, to get them to the new designed web site, to call in the new designed portfolio. Now you have a consistent brand that gives you a better chance of winning the assignment!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

#8. Find a designer that is willing to work with a photographic consultant 'it takes a village to launch a photographer'

I touched on this topic lightly when discussing Martin Thiel's brand development. I brought Suzanne Sease into the process to do the image editing for his portfolio. Here is why, I have a strong design background, I have been designing for over 10 years directly out of school and from year one winning awards. I was first hired out of school at Cahan & Associates, worked there for two years doing annual reports. For those of you who advertise in the AR100, I am sure this name is familiar. I won all sorts of awards under his direction, and once I left continued to do so. He gave me great insight into the world of photography. I hired many photographers including Robert Schlatter, Jeff Corwin, Bill McCloud, for the photography. I received promos from photographers on a daily basis. I viewed websites and called in books. But with all this I do not have the same background in the advertising arena, I have one client I do advertising for, Lost Luggage, and while I work with a great photographer David Emmite, that is not enough for me to say I have the same expertise in advertising. To make sure I am serving my clients, building them up to succeed, I bring in Suzanne on almost every project. She was an art buyer at the Martin Agency, she is amazing, if I mention I like the Absolut ad, and she can tell me the agency, and often the team who created it. During her 12 years with them, she was responsible for hiring photographers like, Harry De Zitter and Michael Thompson for Wrangler and Vanity Fair campaigns.

Suzanne says this about her team experience, “When I worked at The Martin Agency, Kaplan-Thaler and Capital One (and many smaller shops) it was always a team who created great advertising. It is the same thing with a photographer who presents themselves to either ad agency, design firm, in house corporate and editorial to work with a team of people who are going to present the best of that photographer. It is virtually impossible for one person to know what is best for the target market. A photographer knows how to shoot and what is the best genre for them but do they know what their target is looking for if they have never been the target? When working with a consultant, look for someone who knows the target market because they were the target, use a designer who understands the importance of making you look good and not over design forgetting the importance of you, their client. A great designer is also your current target so they know what gets their attention. I have seen over and over photographers who live in a vacuum and are unaware of the market out there- the schools don't teach that, maybe a workshop can inspire that but to get concrete details of how to market you, you need a team.”

The team does not stop there. It often consists of, a photographic consultant (I work with Suzanne Sease and also highly recommend Amanda Sosa Stone), printers, mailing houses, email and list company (I recommend Agency Access). We create and manage this team for our clients from start of design, to final execution of all the mailings and eblasts. We pre-print all the mailings a year in advance, have a marketing plan with dates and execute all the mailings. Our clients have freedom to work, build their business while we build their name up.

I believe this basic idea: in today's market you need the best helping you get noticed by your desired audience and a team is better that an individual.
Its tough out there, there are a lot of photographers scrambling for the same job and poor marketing, web and image edit will not get you ahead. You need a great team, building you up pushing you in front of your competition. Your designer and your consultant should be open to building a team, creating a unified look, one that is unique to you, and making your marketing strategy and execution easy to accomplish. If either is not open to working in a team style, I say, move on.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

#9. Find a design firm / designer that is current and understands the ad market.

Design & creativity are key:

Here is the thing:
The people you are promoting to and wanting to work with, eat, sleep, even dream design.

So much so, they collect design books, read design magazines (Communication Arts, ID, How), they collect these magazines and read them cover to cover, especially those featuring design awards. They make movies about typefaces (i.e, Helveticaby Gary Hustwit). They buy every apple gadget, because its design worthy. They covet any house featured in Dwell Magazine. They collect furniture from modern gods including Charles & Ray Eames, Philip Stark, Heywood & Wakefied to name a few. And, when shopping for food, wine, cosmetics, etc a vast majority of what makes its way into their cart is based on packaging design.

And look around. Design is everywhere, and important to just about everyone. This is why brands like Target or H&M bring in top name designers to create lines of clothes, housewares, etc. that all can afford.

A good designer will guide you and your brand into a place that resonates with the creative world, and makes you memorable.

And creatives will love it and you.
They will call you when they get your promo.
They will comment on your business card.
…and they will appreciate that you have an eye for design.

Your designer should be aware of all this, bring solutions to the table that will resonate with this market, and be willing to give you good design that matches your budget.

Tip on how to begin working with your designer:

• Provide your designer with a clear understanding of your likes and dislikes and where you are in the market place.
• Show them 2-3 of your competitors: commercial photographers who you feel like you lose business to (not who you admire or hope to be)
• Do your own design research, look at brands, websites and marketing materials you admire and present them to your designer
(include examples that are not photographers)

Here are a few I like:
Retail: (fabulous look at culture, and great give aways every year that we collect) (clean simple site product and focus is clear) - very strong and well executed brand - one of the coolest design stores - started by designers - these guys put out the best design books

Design: these are the places designers / ad guys comb through

Photographers who have a rockin’ brands - John Sharpe is a very smart man, he uses a different, hip design firms every year to do his marketing materials

Q&A with Suzanne:

I asked Suzanne Sease to contribute a weekly comment. My question was: Coming from your background at the Martin Agency, what do you feel is the focus for ad agencies when receiving materials?

“Long before I became a consultant, I was a senior art buyer at The Martin Agency (as a freelancer at Kaplan-Thaler and Capital I dodged the mailers). I was your target in your mailer marketing efforts. So many mailers, so little time. I found myself looking at postcard or self mailers as I could review them quickly but I did not necessarily keep them unless the images were something special that I felt I could use sometime in the near future. The mailers that were always kept were the ones that I could tell were thought out in image selection, design and execution. If your mailer got my attention and I had time to check out your website, I wanted it to be fast and user friendly. Don't use some "clever" navigation tool that I have to figure out. And if you get past all that and I call in your portfolio, it better be great. In many cases, your printed portfolio is what seals the deal. Imagine your portfolio called in for a big meeting with all the agency folks presenting to the client and your competition just blows you out of the water. I have seen it happen. The whole package is what is crucial to your success.”

Friday, September 28, 2007

Never Hire a Friend or Family Member and/or Never Arrange a Work-Trade for Design Services.

Welcome to my first installment of a ten part series on hiring a designer. Good design is hard to come by, and choosing the right designer is too important of a decision to take lightly. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting “10 Things You Need to Know When Hiring a Designer” and here is number 10.

#10: Never Hire a Friend or Family Member and/or Never Arrange a Work-Trade for Design Services.

You know you need to market yourself to build up your business and create a brand that distinguishes yourself in the market place, but who do you rely on to help you get this done? Hiring a professional designer is the obvious decision.

The hard decision: the money. Its a scary proposition, paying for design and the printing of large quantity of materials all at once, plus applying this design to all piece of your marketing materials, such as web, portfolios, promos, identity and managing the print process, web building and promo mailing can be overwhelming.

Often, photographers turn to friends or try to work out a trade with designers who have hired them, resulting in a hodge-podge marketing effort that does not really pay off. As you are building your career, you eventually need an assistant, a studio manager, a bookkeeper and yes, even a designer.

A designer is a business asset.

Why? The answer is simple. Because, commercial photographers are marketing to creative people, and one of your most important assets is to build a brand that creatives relate to, respond to, and remember. A good designer can do that and an exceptional designer will project you to the head of the pack.

So, we have established that you need a designer, like you need a camera to build a memorable business that creatives respond to. Now the issue is why hiring a friend or doing a work-trade can be a hindrance.

The reality you face is that:

  • Work-trades do not give you all you need. Trading of services are often not comprehensive, they may only give you a logo, or one promo, but you need a whole package with consistent marketing. Very rarely does trading work out equally between both parties.
  • You may not truly be objective and tell them if you do not like something for fear of hurting their feelings.
  • You may want to rush to make sure you are not a burden which could compromise the final design and or the job is low on the designers radar and takes longer than you want.
  • Skimping on design is skimping on your business— well executed design is of primary importance. If you chose to invest in brand strategy development, your will see the real value in your investment, utilize it, and continue to invest in it with good promotion. Plus, hiring a designer should be more, it should allow you to establish a yearly marketing plan and have that plan executed. The idea is that you never again have to execute the design of your marketing materials, your designer (maybe along with a consultant) create a marketing plan, select images for all the promos, get them printed and mailed.

We recently completed a job for Suzanne Sease, photographic consultant, and believe it or not, it took her eight years to design and execute her website. Here is why: “I left The Martin Agency in 1999 and it took me eight years to get a website, why? because several times in my busy world I agreed to a trade (or barter) with a friend in exchange for my advice. They got my advice but I never seemed to get a website. Finally, I realized it was time to be serious about expediting a website with no more trade. I hired Nadine Stellavato Brown and yes, she is a very good friend of mine but we chose to keep business, business. And what did I get - a great website that has been getting compliments from all who view it. I have never heard a success story from trading with a friend and in fact I have heard of many losing a friend because of it. I have learned it is best to keep your business out of the hands of your friends and treasure your friends for who they are, your friends.” — Suzanne Sease

Now she gets sign ups from people just viewing the site. Imagine what her business could be today if she had that website eight years ago?

Your brand is important. Your business is important. Invest in your business.

Next week we will cover topic #9: Find a Design Firm / Designer that is Current and Understands the Ad Market.