Many years ago, during a long-term goal planning session, my wife, Lesa, and I recognized that our focus on being a general purpose, mom-and-pop studio needed to change. We determined that growth in the 21st century would depend on elevating our images to the level of fine art. As a result of our changed target, we developed a new business model and plan that would transform our studio over the next several years. This involved a lot of energy, determination, brainstorming, staff participation, and a process we called branding, which is what I want to address here.
What makes a brand successful? First, the product must be so distinctive that it’s easily recognized. For example, my daughters know exactly what a Tiffany & Co. box looks like and they can spot an Anthropologie store from a mile away. That’s because of the branding.
Second, a brand must evoke such a strong emotional reaction that potential customers want it: the allure of holding a Tiffany blue box or the pride in leading a style trend.
If the public is confused about who you are and what you stand for, they will not buy your product. Big companies spend big money to ensure you know who they are. Mercedes calls to mind words like high-end, expensive, limited, upper class, and luxury. McDonald’s makes you think fast, clean, convenient, consistent, and inexpensive. It’s no accident that most consumers have similar impressions of these companies. Public perception is a powerful tool in your arsenal of marketing weapons, so put it to work for you.
The following four steps will help you develop or reexamine your brand. I’ll use restaurants as an analogy to develop a strategy.
1. Identify your target market and ensure you have a group to whom you can promote your product. For example, you may not think a fine French restaurant would be successful in a small town populated by blue-collar workers. When they hear “It will never work in my town,” successful photographers respond, “It will work anywhere.” Before assessing the likelihood of success, you have to take a deeper look to understand what the consumer market looks like in terms of quantity and demographics.
2. Develop a survey to find out who the public thinks you are. For example, you may believe you are a fine French restaurant, but the public may think you are a cross between a McDonald’s and an Olive Garden. Caution: It can be very painful to find out what the public really thinks about you and your product. It’s just as difficult to build a survey that does not use biased questions to get the results you want. After reviewing the answers to the surveys, you’ll quickly see if the public perceives your product the same way you do.
3. Focus on the results and develop a business plan that helps you be who you want to be. Focus on what you love to do and what you do best. For example, if you want to be a fine French restaurant, then you must serve quality food with spectacular service, rich surroundings, and outrageous prices. Leave no room for doubt as to who you are. In our business, we want the community to envision what a Gregory Daniel portrait looks like when they see or hear our company name. Our brand says a Gregory Daniel portrait is a substantial investment and that we create for our clients incredible, personalized art perfectly sized for their beautiful homes. Our business plan ensures these elements are consistently delivered.
4. Renew the process by asking the public again and again who you are. Take the results and adjust or refine your messaging by repeating steps one through three. Never assume you have completed the process!
We want our market to envision a Gregory Daniel portrait and what it represents without seeing one. The name alone should evoke a consistent response from the public. Developing goals and sound business principles is a worthwhile investment. Branding is just one of the principles we use to help us focus on who we are and where we want to take our business.
Review how the public sees you and develop plans to solidify your image in the market. The renewal process can breathe new life into your business and streamline your marketing.
Gregory Daniel is the owner of Gregory Daniel Portrait Artist in Titusville, Florida.