Over the last several years a photographers vision and their visual approach has become the major defining tool for Art Buyers. Shockingly, most photographers are still unaware of how important it is to define, develop and market their vision.
Many still feel that their current relationships and their technical skills will win assignments. What is your perception of why clients hire talent? Do you feel that your personality, technical abilities and professionalism are the key elements that you are selling? Or do you realize that your clients are demanding that you define and market a specific vision?
Assignment buyers now look to each photographers visual approach to clearly show them if the shooter is “right” for a particular project. Previously “the fit” was defined by the relationship with talent as much as it was by the photographer’s abilities and that has now changed, “The fit” is defined by Vision. If the photographer has a vision that matches the assignment they are considered for the job.
One of the major reasons for this shift can be summed up in two words, CORPORATE BRANDING. Corporations have spent and continue to invest tens of thousands of dollars to define, identify and sell their “Brand.” The Brand is their value message to consumers and that is what is clearly front and center in each annual report, and ad campaign.
In addition, companies have done their research and have clearly identified and defined their audience. They know who they are, what publications they read, what TV shows they watch, what they eat and drink and what types of music they listen to.
Before art is assigned to any photographer the art director has defined the look of the campaign and that look is based upon the corporate brand with tha target audience in mind. Because of that an art buyer will look for a photographer whose images represent that look and feel.
Different visual approaches speak to different company messages. You may be a lifestyle photographer, but is your visual approach to lifestyle defined? Do you shoot moments that are quiet and reflective or are you shooting sports lifestyle that is active bold and demands lots of color? Different visual styles appeal to different corporate messages.
To understand how corporate branding works and why it has achieved such a monumental place in the advertising process, lets look at the example of the automotive industry and see how branding has been affected the advertising process.
Each auto company has created its own brand identity. For years the VOLVO brand revolved around safety. The car was not overly attractive yet the safety records were remarkably, high. The company focused on the vehicles record for safety, which led them to determine (after market research) that their target audience’s were families. After all, teens and young adults are not as interested in safety as they are in looks, speed and performance.
The next factor considered was economics. As the price point of Volvos was high, the target family for Volvo was affluent. No trips to KMART for these families. They were canoeing, skiing, or trekking to the local Caf. Images depicted families in these activities. As VOLVO ad campaigns continued to focus their communication around the brand message Volvo in the minds of buyers, indeed became synonymous with safety.
A few years back, VOLKSWAGEN wanted to reposition their brand (value message) and after market research the decision was made to target buyers who were connected to the driving experience. The youth market were the target audience for Volkswagen as they created the “DRIVERS WANTED “campaign.
The focus was on the experience of driving; the fun, the adventure. The images were full of energy, had a young lifestyle feel, and were a bit quirky and contained a bit of dry humor.
In the Art Buyers world, the photographers chosen to shoot Volvo’s campaign were most likely not going to be the same folks that shot Volkswagen. The campaigns had completely different agendas. When a buyer is looking for a photographer to create images that contain warm family, connected moments (ones that represent keeping your family safe) the books they call in, the web sites they cruised are not the same as those they would look for when searching for talent that exhibits images that are fun, quirky, and energetic.
While Volvo and Volkswagen produce the same type of product, the look, feel and the value (branding message) to the consumer of each product was vastly different. The photographers chosen for each campaign obviously needed to have had different visions as well.
This example is repeated throughout the corporate, editorial, design and ad worlds.Companies have specific messages to communicate to consumers. The messages have a look and feel that calls for a specific type of photography. Art Buyers, photo editors and designers are looking for the type of imagery that speaks to the assignment in front of them.
It is clear that assignment clients are asking you to show up with a well-developed visual approach. They want to know which projects are a visual fit for you. Your print portfolios, website, online galleries and marketing materials are the clues that will lead the right buyer to you. You must accept the reality that buyers are looking to match vision to project. Your visual approach to a specific subject is what a buyer needs to see. Will you choose to give them what they need?