Let’s say that Lady Gaga was getting married. Gaga picked three photographers she really liked, you included. Her time is valuable, so she invites all three photographers to sit in her mansion for a simultaneous interview.

She says in a poetic voice, “Each of you have two minutes. Tell me why I should hire you.”

So, why you?

If you don’t like Lady Gaga, pretend it’s the Queen of England or whoever you fancy to photograph.

Why is Your Brand Important?

Customers are offered a myriad number of choices. With choices, you need differentiators to stand out. Otherwise, if we compete solely as a photography service, we quickly become a commodity. To avoid that, your brand will help you compete aside from price alone.

We’re in the people business serving coffee, not the coffee business serving people..

Howard Schultz
Pioneer and Chairman of Starbucks

Notice how Schultz did not commoditize his business?

Brands communicate how we see ourselves. Through brand association, we belong to a larger group that defines more than just us. Gloria Vanderbilt was one of the pioneers in branding for jeans. She had her name embossed in script on the back pocket, as well as her swan logo. Now we have other clothing companies that do the same – True Religion, Juicy Couture and etc.

vanderbilt jeans

Brands are Categories

According to The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, the goal in commerce is to be first in customers’ minds; not necessarily best.

I mentioned in a previous article about being first rather than best –

Anyone know of Buzz Aldrin? He was the second person to step on the moon. We don’t remember him because it was Armstrong who registered first in our minds. I’ll give you some more examples using beer / ale since I’m a huge fan.

  • Jamaican Beer – Red Stripe
  • English Ale – Newcastle
  • Dutch Beer – Heineken
  • Belgian Ale – Fat Tire

The list goes on… So according to Al Ries and Jack Trout – positioning as a leader requires one to brand first in said category. Otherwise, create a new [sub] category.

So even if you create the best tasting imported English Ale, you will never beat Newcastle. So create a new category such as the first Imported English Light Ale.

Here’s another example – mustard. Since the mustard market was already taken, Grey Poupon decided to become the premium mustard. “Premium” became their sub-category.

How It Applies To You

Just as how no other brand can take the place of America’s Steak Sauce – A1 Sauce – you can’t take the place of someone else’s. In a previous article, I wrote –

Let’s think wedding photography – who was the first person to burn a bride’s dress? John Michael Cooper. Let’s say that I were to burn 20 dresses tomorrow for a shoot, but who’s going to be remembered? John Michael Cooper. In fact, I will only reinforce his name by doing what he already did.

burn trash the dress

So ultimately, you have to create a new category [if you can’t be the first to brand it].

Loophole

Since most photographers are not aiming for a worldwide awareness, branding just for that one bride will suffice.

So as long as that bride will know you as the (blank) photographer, you’re always going to be remembered that way. Ultimately, there can be multiple lifestyle photographers or multiple Anthropologie-like photographers…because Bride A and Bride B and Bride CCC will unlikely cross paths.

Start With This

Branding is a holistic attachment that we share with the company – relating to our senses such as taste, smell, look, touch and sound. However, words stick to the mind.


Tagline

This is what most people struggle with. What words define you?

It took me weeks to conjure this formula, but I think I have a way to help you define yourself so that your client will know immediately what you represent. What is…

  1. One word that defines you – edgy, spirited, casual, destination…
  2. One word that defines your photography craft – wedding, lifestyle…
  3. One word that defines your target audience – young, chic, modern, luxury, Asian…

Ready? Here’s the formula (feel free to customize it):

I am a [1] [2] photographer for [3] people / couples / brides.
Example: I am a casual wedding photographer for modern couples.

Sacrifice

According to The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing‘s Law #13 – the Law of Sacrifice is summed up in one line – you have to give up something in order to get something.

In layman’s terms, it means that we need to have focus (cannot be opportunistic). Taking my aforementioned example, “I am a casual wedding photographer for modern couples.” It means that “classical couples” will never hire you. It also means that you can’t shoot pets, seniors, newborns, maternity…and post it on your blog. Ultimately, those images will reflect your brand.

And if there is confusion with your brand, you won’t even get hired for modern couples, let alone weddings and etc.

Conclusion

With focus, you will be clear as to what defines you. So if the next time someone asks, why you? You will be ready.

If you don’t have focus, you run the risk of being part of the ubiquitous mass of photographers trying to shoot anything and everything that pays.

In the end, it’s better that Gaga declines you because of a style she disliked rather than being declined because you weren’t sure of yourself (image of lacking confidence).

What I want you to do now…

  • Help others answer, “why you?” by sharing via Retweet or Facebook buttons below.
  • Comment and let me know if this post helped you with branding.

Whew that was long,

Lawrence Chan

P.S. I hate to beat the proverbial stick, “what makes you YOU?” or “what makes you unique?” Let’s just say that this is only the beginning. I will elaborate with future posts.

P.P.S. You might be able to tell that I LOVE Lady Gaga (for more than music). Law of Sacrifice – all Gaga non-friends might non-friend me. I hope that’s not the case though. You can bet that I will reference to Gaga more in the future. Love or not, she is an icon to be reckoned with.

P.P.P.S. It took me about two bottles of Fat Tire to write this post. I was thinking…just thinking…since beer gets my brain juice going, maybe we should all have a happy hour hangout. Anyone interested? I think I owe Joel Llacar a beer or vice versa.

P.P.P.P.S. If you want to create a goal with your unique proposition, then read below.

If your unique position is:
I am an edgy wedding photographer for stylish couples.

Then a suggested goal can be:
I want to be known as the edgy(iest) wedding photographer for all stylish couples.

This narrowly focused vision means that you only want to be known as an edgy wedding photographer and don’t want business from anyone who is not edgy. Sounds like shooting yourself on the foot, but there is more than enough business if you’re priced and packaged correctly (more about this soon).

If you feel that it’s too ambitious, limit yourself a bit with specifications – such as …in Los Angeles and Orange County.