Thursday, 8 October 2009
Friday, 2 October 2009
- Differentiation is the big challenge - transparency, trust and tone should be the new bywords
- Consumers are looking for "beacons of truth and constancy"
- Shared narratives cut across silos - a rather nice example of this, I think, is Nick Hand on his slow bike ride around Britain
- There is a need to re-tribe consumers eg Gen Y - under 26, sceptical of traditional media, tech savvy, creative conversations; Boomer woman - thoughtful messaging, set to inherit from both sides of the family (parents and husband)
- Conversation is a big thing - consumer centric behaviour will be embodied by creative conversation companies, conversations are peer to peer, consumer to company, company to employee, employee to employee etc
- the rise and rise of the conversational company
- "treat employees like customers"
- we are entering the "era of consequences"
- As Elmo's Mum said, apparently, "Sometimes waiting for something makes you value it even more when you get it."
- Invest in smart R&D
- living standards will drop by 20% in the next 2-3 years
- belt-tightening becomes a fine art
- big growth in health stuff
- twitter facts - 85% of people on it use it less than once a day; 53% of users are women; 5% of twitter users account for 75% of the activity
- the rise and rise of the 'android' phone
- 10% of all UK internet traffic is iPlayer
- we'll be tracking our kids soon
- technology will be used less as virtual life and more to enable/facilitate real life
- those who succeed will be those who have global insight, invest in it and act without hesitation
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
What’s the point of employing a photographer? I’ve got a Nikon DX40. I love it. I need an image. I take it. Download onto the laptop. Into iPhoto. And there it is, ready to use - whether it’s just for a blog, an article, a report, a bit of packaging, an ad - what’s the problem?
Along with all the general cut-backs, downsizes and rationalisations going on - everybody thinks they’re a photographer. And on top of that, what about picture libraries? Do they just create a Getty-esque photo-soup where buyers can search, click and buy with no human interaction? What can you do?
One approach is to ensure people know who you are and why they should contact you, in particular. We have two rules of thumb in deciding how to communicate a brand: Who are you? and Why should I care? The first question implores you to sum up your ‘brand positioning’, where you place yourself in the market, what you stand for, what sort of photographer you are. The second question ensures that you have an offer that is appealing to your target market - what is it you are doing that will improve their ad, design, exhibition, book, report - how are you going to make them look better - and how is this different from the next photographer (or any old bod with a Nikon)?
The good thing about brands is that they still work when you’re not actually there. There is a story, a point, a raison d’etre, that exists and lives beyond your physical presence. Your task is to communicate. There are lots of avenues to pursue, with varying cost/time penalties attached. An exhibition is great - but who, how, where, why? A bit of PR would be lovely. Lots of phonecalls to artbuyers. Using Shank’s pony to take your portfolio from glitzy ad agency to warren-like publishing house to too-often overly resourceful designers (who are quite good at d-i-y photography).
A relatively simple way of creating a shop window is a website that works for you. This helps because it gives you somewhere to refer people to if you meet them at a party, give them a card, phone them, leave details, drop in and leave a card at reception. If you are one of the 1800 or so members of the AOP you can get a link from their website - the AOP Members Portfolio.
I’ve been commissioned to write this article from a position of knowing little about photographers these days, not being over familiar with their websites, but having a professional practice developing brands. I’m fresh to what’s out there and unbiased. I’m just going to react to what I see.
The first place I go to to look for photographers’ websites is the above mentioned AOP Members Portfolio. There’s lots of ways to search it - by specialism, by region, by country, by photographer’s name.
I start by a few random clicks just to see what sort of things are out there. There’s two things you can do. Click on the photographer’s name and get a new little window open. This gives a mini-portfolio on white, contact details, as much info/biog as you want and a link to your website. Alternatively you can go straight from the listing to the website.
The first few I look at give me some clues to what works best. A good example is David Parmiter . His home page, whilst clean, fresh and uncluttered, includes a slide show of his photographs, his contact details and a straightforward proposition, “I specialise in the creative photography of commercial and domestic interiors and exteriors, working throughout Europe.” Others take too many clicks to get to a photograph, two clicks to get to contact details or lost me so that I couldn’t get back to the homepage. Another very elegant site was Sophie Broadbridge’s. You do have to click to get to contact details, but her portfolio comes up by default and looks stunning. So simple, white, show off your work seemed to be the first general hints.
My next ‘search criterion’ was people I know. First I looked at Edmund Clark’s site. A beautiful site, white, elegant, an intelligent mix of pictures and words. Ed’s site begins to articulate his position in the world of photography. He clearly communicates why I should care about him. He is a story teller - his documentary work has curious, moving narratives. This illustrates the next vital ingredient of the self-brand. Somewhere on the internal map of the potential buyer you must plot your space. What are they looking for? Narrative? Colour? Texture? Commercial and domestic interiors? What’s your thing? Ideally something people can’t do so easily themselves. Just look at the work of Martin Wilson, an intriguing designer/artist/photographer or Cenci Goepel and Jens Warnecke at Lightmark.
What’s the role of your website? Step one is to prove you exist. It’s a reassurance to any potential commissioners. A good example of a simple, straightforward website that can achieve this initial result, without too much financial outlay, is Richard Cooke’s where he has created a simple online portfolio. He has the problem of having a namesake photographer so has had to be a bit more creative in choosing a domain name.
The next step is to use it as part of the relationship you build up with your client base. I talked to Catherine Gratwicke about her website. She didn’t think that it brought in work, but it did give people something to look at before calling in her book. It creates a focal point for maintaining relationships with the loyal clients that she has nurtured over the last ten years. Her original brief to the designers was, “Simplicity, no music, no flash plug-ins, quick access to the pictures.” Importantly for Cath, the website is just part of her toolbox. By refreshing her website, and then mailing her clients, she can renew contacts, remind people she exists and point them in the direction of her new work. She shies away from looking too flash and slick and likes to keep something textural and tactile in her work, and a personal touch to all her communications - redolent of her roots as a textile designer. When I ask what is her point of difference, her ‘why should I care?’ she’s very lucid, “My work is painterly, tactile - I’m known for rich colour, textural images.” A clear point on the commissioner’s mind map.
Relationships tend to work best when you are alive. A dusty website with images a couple of years old often worries a potential commissioner. A useful tool is to add a blog. Yes, it’s a bit of a cliche perhaps, but it does give you an effective way of communicating your personality, posting up your latest work very easily, show that you’re active (you can always talk about ‘personal’ projects) and create a two-way exchange with your audience.
Another way to both create interactivity and keep control and ownership of your brand is to create your own archive. With people turning more and more to picture libraries, there is a temptation to take pictures specifically to sell to them. Yes, it’s an income, but there is a tendency for you to become anonymous and commoditised. With your own transactional offer you can retain your distinctive position. Tessa Traeger has a career’s worth to offer, but everyone has to start somewhere, and the potential of technology today makes things a lot more possible.
10 top tips to using a website to help build your personal brand
- Why should I care? What’s the thing you want to be known for? What can you be best at? That’s your positioning. That’s the start of your design brief.
- The photos should be hero - have a look at Rankin's
- Build a relationship with your contacts - contact details on homepage, blog once a week, link to other sites - exhibitions, galleries, friends
- How are you driving people to your website? Get some good cards, try moo via flickr
- Use your toolbox - anything you do on the website is worth telling people about - e-newsletter, postcards, phone calls...
- Keep control of your brand - think about your own picture library
- Make it personal - make sure you love your website, it feels like you and everything you send out has that little extra you-ness, tell your story
- List yourself wherever you can - AOP Members Portfolio for example
- Don’t let the dust build up - refresh, renew, re-energise
Friday, 12 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
So...carrying on from the idea of "there's never been such a good time to create a brand", we thought we'd have a go ourselves.
- authenticity is king
- real brands take time
- believe in what you do
- listen to customers
- reward advocates
- a vision that we are passionate about (what we want to do)
- that we are able to do (available 'actors').
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
We have been working with Sony for a few years now naming computer games, and one we were particularly proud of was MotorStorm for the Playstation 3 – a top seller in Europe (and everywhere else for all we know). A year ago our client rang us up and said we had a week to come up with the sequel.
Much scratching of heads and game playing took place (strictly for research purposes you understand) and our list of names was dutifully despatched.
Due to various conference/presentation client complications our client told us the final decision was on hold, but he would definitely get back to us when the powers that be let him know what name they would be going with.
We promptly forgot all about it as other assignments took our attention, and before we knew it – there it was – MotorStorm Pacific Rift – and it’s one of ours!
Now all we need to do is send off the invoice for the success fee…
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
It’s always nice when a brand you have been working on finally gets to launch, but it’s especially nice when the brand that emerges fulfils the promise you saw when you first won the job - and extra extra special when it is a johnson banks design.
It’s a little over a year since I first went to see Debbie Bannigan, the CEO of Swanswell Charitable Trust, a drug and alcohol charity based in the West Midlands, and although she had a number of specific issues about the existing brand image, her main brief to me was ‘give me a brand my people and service users deserve’.
Nice brief eh?
Ones like these don’t come along very often, and true to her word, Debbie set the bar high, but was invariably open and positive as we closed in on our solution. As all our clients will confirm, I never tire of telling them brand development is less about invention, and more about archeology. We know the solution is ‘in there somewhere’, it just has to be revealed.
So we spent a fair amount of time talking to everyone we could; interviews, workshops (I like workshops because someone will usually have the solution without always knowing it!), service users (they swept away a few of my own personal pre-conceptions), in fact anyone who would talk to us.
Debbie also had a compelling vision for where she wanted to take the organisation – expansion of the service, expansion beyond it’s traditional regional base. We got a very enlightened bunch of trustees to buy in to all these new plans and endorse a new vision and mission.
Once we had done our brand strategy ‘thing’ (capabilities, competition, customers, vision and mission etc) we pitched out the visual identity work. We were delighted when our old friend Michael Johnson of johnson banks won the pitch, he impressed everyone with his usual combination of creativity, wit and charm.
Michael and his team did a great job, interpreting our creative brief, and bringing to life a brand idea that is both eye catching and engaging.
So what are the highlights?
1. We got rid of the multi-various names Swanswell had been operating under (and there were quite a few) and re-named everything Swanswell
2. We broke away from the generic market language (which tends to be rather grey and neutral) and adopted a defiantly upbeat message – ‘Change and be Happy’ (no glass half empty here!).
3. Michael came up with a great visual device/metaphor that underpins the identity, something we call ‘crumple’. The logo (and many of the other components of the identity) is a half crumpled piece of paper with the name written on it (see below) – this device illustrates the process service users go through as they change their habits of substance abuse – from crumpled to smooth. We even have business cards that staff have to half crumple before they hand them out, so they have to explain what it means (we’ve had amazing feedback on how well this works, it’s funny, surprising and amazingly touching!).
4. Michael developed an entire visual look and feel that helps to simplify the language and messages for the brand, that is distinctive, fresh and like nothing else in the sector.
5. We have a very hard-hitting photographic route suitable for advertising and promotion, which we are holding back until the right opportunity arrises.
6. Michael and his team have diligently worked through the minutiae of stationary, leaflets, printwork and ‘stuff’ to ensure the brand embeds itself into every nook and cranny of Swanswell (lets face it, designers never make money on this stuff – but it has to be done). They oversaw a quick ‘re-skinning’ of the existing website, which will undergo a more significant upgrade later in the year. Oh, and lets not forget creating a comprehensive visual identity manual, powerpoint templates etc etc.
7. We have taken every staff member through the brand story – ‘the why where what when how what-if’ of their new Swanswell brand.
Well I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture… Why not visit the website?
Thanks to everyone who worked on it – the management team, their clients, the service users, the designers, the trustees, the staff, the printers, the web designers…. I love you all!
Swanswell Charitable Trust - before...
Swanswell - after...
Friday, 13 March 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
- 56% of marketing directors of blue chip companies believe that a downturn could be the best time strategically to rebrand
- 63% of business leaders agree that the act of launching a new brand identity in uncertain times signals a bold embracing of change
- 65% of business leaders believe that rebranding would help large corporate institutions get back on track