Some of the biggest and most often asked questions on the DWF, (from new and old members), almost always revolve around brand identity. Whether it’s an opinion poll on a new logo design or advice on where you go to even start, there’s always an active thread on the topic.
The following information will help you avoid common pitfalls and alleviate some confusion as you’re navigating your way through a competitive market. Below are the top 5 branding pitfalls a photographer faces, and ways to avoid them provided by the resident DWF graphic designer, Elizabeth Atkins.
Branding 101: Top 5 pitfalls to avoid when branding your business
#5 Pitfall: Designing for yourself
One of the biggest and earliest mistakes a photographer can make is accidentally trying to design for themselves. It’s hard to leave your own comfort zone and ask someone else to design something for you, but trust me when I say this: you’ll thank me later. It’s really not a question about whether you CAN design your own logo, it’s a question of whether or not you should.
How to avoid it: In a highly competitive market cluttered with ads, commercials, billboards, and fierce competition a great brand identity shouldn’t be left to chance. A seasoned graphic designer knows all the right questions to ask about your business. Hire a qualified professional that will help you bring to life ideas and concepts that are not only visually well crafted, but extremely marketable. A graphic designer’s goal is to make you appealing to your audience, and ultimately… make you more money.
#4 Pitfall: Trying to say too much at once
You’re a photographer, a business owner, a timeline wrangler, sometimes client therapist and you want your clients to connect with you on an emotional level. You want to seem fun, or professional, or luxurious, but accessible. You want your client to value you, and you want to stand out. You want to load your 10 pound identity in to a 5 pound bag. Now what?
How to avoid it: Keep it simple. This is especially true when you’re leveraging internet marketing to reach new audiences. Pick one message. Attention spans are low, and you want to be consistent and concise. Develop your brand identity like an elevator pitch. Get your message across in 5 seconds or less. If you find you have to over explain yourself to get your point across, it’s way too complicated.
#3 Pitfall: Being something that you’re not
It’s really important to know what kind of business you want to run, and that has a lot to do with who you are personally. Often people think the ticket to success is to project a certain image. However, if that certain image isn’t capturing the essence of your overall business model, your audience will instantly not trust you.
How to avoid it: Take a very close look at your own photography work, and the type of clients you’re attracting. If you’re currently not attracting the clients you want, think hard about the clients you DO want, and why you want them. Who are they? How do you think you’ll get along with them? Is your work bright and sunny? Is your work dark and moody? Keep those things in mind while you’re constructing the concept of your visual brand… A bright sunny design won’t jive with a dark, moody body of work.
#2 Pitfall: Working inside of a vacuum
Business owners often create campaigns, marketing efforts, logos, brands, and other materials completely without the outside opinion of their audience. Most of the time you’re sitting in your office scouring the internet for new ways to make your business more competitive, faster, or better. The most often over looked part of research is the facet of community- working in secret is great if you’re a mad scientist, but not if your target demographic is a part of the general public.
How to avoid it: Once you’ve finished designing, crafting, honing or building your business, test it with your target demographic. Take a sample of your past clients and ask them what they honestly think about your new idea. Bonus points for offering an incentive to the participants. I.E. : If you offer an incentive for being a good guinea pig, not only are you insuring your new business venture will be successful, you’ll start building repeat business and your customers will gain a stronger/faster sense of your new brand identity.
#1 Pitfall: Starting your visual brand design before finishing your business model
As a designer my very first question, out the gate, is about my client’s business and who their target demographic is. Nailing down an idea of who or what the business is about, what kind of people participate in the business, and what the owner’s ultimate goal is is crucial before starting the visual design process. Designing a visual brand identity is the last step of completing your total branding package. If you put the cart before the horse, you’ll be setting yourself up to fail.
How to avoid it: Graphic design can be really exciting, but don’t be pulled in by what’s shiny. Stay one step ahead of your competition by developing a solid and strong business foundation that you can build on for the years to come. Have a game plan on how you want to run your business, how you’re going to handle customer service, who your target market is, how much your competition in charging… the list goes on! Research your market and find your place in it. Once you have a solid sense of what type of business you will be, aligning a visual brand identity will be the final step in your business plan. Behind every strong design is an even stronger business model.
Now get out there and good luck!
About the Author:
Elizabeth Atkins is the visual artist and graphic designer for photodough.com, digitalweddingforum.com, and owner of postfilmdesign.com (set to launch Jan 15th 2013). She’s the chick behind the computer screen working magic and bringing the brands of the companies she loves to life through social media, logos, landing pages, buttons, and baubles.