There are a few branding rules that everyone should consider while creating their brand identity, but none as difficult to execute than the principle of being divisive. Being memorable, being consistent, identifying with your market, and separating from your competition are all rules that brand developers know and strive to follow. But, being divisive, which means intentionally building in brand principles that will turn people away, is more challenging. It may sound crazy and counter intuitive but follow me here: Photography is for the most part an emotional purchase. Even at the commercial level, clients often have to push themselves to spend outside of their comfort zone for something they aren’t entirely sure they need. What we need to embrace here is that we aren’t a “need” purchase, we are a “want” purchase. That doesn’t make photography a lesser product or service. Oh no, on the contrary it’s that emotional side of things that, if embraced, allows us to charge the rates we strive to charge and know we deserve.
We are an emotional purchase. One step further, we are a non-tangible service, which means the client may not even really know what they are going to get when they hire us. So when selecting a photographer, clients do not choose the brand who they like or who they think is good enough. No, instead they choose the brand they are passionate about. Clients who like us don’t do us any good. Clients who simply like us aren’t willing to spend an “illogical” amount of money. No, that is precluded to clients who love us.
We’ve all heard people say that a particular athlete or personality is polarizing. People either hate them or love them. That’s what we need- to be polarizing. The clients who hate us don’t hire us, and the clients who like us don’t hire us, its only the clients who love us who send us those checks. So if a 1000 people like you and don’t see anything wrong with your work, then you have 0 clients and 1000 friends and fans. But if 500 people hate you and 500 people love you, then you have 500 clients. Maybe that is a bit inflammatory, but hopefully you get the point.
Don’t be afraid of statements that may drive clients away, because for every client that reads it and says, “that’s not for me” there will be another one that says, “that’s exactly what I’m looking for.” To cite, Bobby Hundreds of the popular, Hundreds Clothing Brand, plant your flag, and “the best way to define what you are, is by what you’re not”.
Some of the quickest rises to success that I’ve seen over the past few years have been from photography brands who say, this is who I am and this is who I’m not in the most unapologetic fashions. Clients quickly know this brand isn’t for me or exactly for me.
My suggestion is to sit down and think exactly “who” your brand is, and exactly what your brand isn’t, and be bold is stating it. A few months ago I added a descriptive blurb to my wedding photography site that ends, “Fine Art Wedding Photography is for brides and grooms who seek artistically expressive images that capture the emotion of their wedding, who want creative images that often do not fit the traditional and expected, and who seek emotive imagery that captures the details and essence of the wedding.”
I made sure to highlight that fact that if you want the traditional and expected, we aren’t for you. But if you want creative imagery that highlights the emotion of the day, then we are a perfect match. For the sake of full disclosure, I typed this up and then parked that blurb off to the side for about a month before actually posting it on my site because I was still considering it, and now that it’s live I still think it should be bolder. The concept of embracing polarizing statements is not hidden knowledge, but it can be one of the hardest to pull the trigger on. We generally want to try and please everyone, but in that process we often end up pleasing no one. You see, we absolutely must be polarizing in order to be truly successful.
I would also encourage you to visit the social media accounts of some of your favorite photographers and even celebrities and see for yourself how much negative feedback the often most popular brands receive. If no one is hating on you then you might not be pushing the envelope hard enough.
Be polarizing. Be bold. Embrace who you are, who you want to be, and create followers and clients that love, not just simply like, your work.