Part I: Brand Differentiation
The imagery that you use to represent your brand conveys something fundamental about your company. Photography and cinematography becomes a language that engages customers in a conversation with your brand identity. This is important because catching a customer’s attention is harder and harder to do. The goal: generate desire for the brand and its associated products. Brand differentiation through visual media is why customers stand in line for the new Apple product, why they lust after a Ferrari, or value the exclusivity of Tiffany over a mall jewelry store.
The key question is how do you do this in a world starving for visual media? As we all know, social media has changed the playing field for our industry. Photographers, agencies, and company brand stewards are up against rogue marketing teams struggling to keep up with fast paced social media conversations. Images are often hastily acquired with the mindset of: just about any image will do. When media purchases are considered, it is often with more importance placed on cost than quality and brand value. And, they often end up opting for cheap, generic stock images they find online. The problem is that most of these images do not adhere to overall brand strategy and run the risk of diluting your brand. Differentiating your brand through well-designed, unique images is ever more important. I did a shoot for Boone Tourism that had an interesting premise of juxtaposing the everyday with the imaginary. The photos were composited to encourage outside the box thinking, mixing reality and fantasy. The award winning campaign has a distinctive visual style that subliminally associates zany fun with Boone, North Carolina.
When I’m hired to create media for brands, my goal is to evoke passion for the product. The photos above are a great example of this, though different than creating desire for a product, the process is the same. The campaign was for Homeland Security. The goal: express the pathos of the victims of human trafficking. One part of evoking that passion is to build a unique visual style that resonates with the viewer. I am not talking about just showcasing a product line. I’m talking about generating the emotional appeal that creates a connection, either sparking fierce loyalty, intense desire, or in this case, inspiring action for awareness and change. Creating that desire requires artistry and a strong emotional connection between the image and the viewing audience.
Images must be impactful. Often the only perception a customer may have of your product or company comes from the visuals on the web, or a billboard they speed past. A single image forms an immediate and often unshakable perception of your brand persona and what your brand stands for. Visual media can define you as elegant, sophisticated, quirky, romantic, luxurious, expensive, economical, or alternately can paint you as inane, insensitive, or out of touch. Every image counts. In the hands of a skilled photographer or director, you can generate powerful visual media that sets your company apart in the right way.
The Miromar campaign is a great example of how to create brand differentiation. In our earliest conversations, Miromar brought a concept to the table, one that evokes the elegance of vintage Hollywood glamor. The challenge for a campaign such as this is highlighting the distinguishing features of the resort against competitors whose properties are often just as beautiful. The resort was designed with a striking Italian Riviera style reminiscent of the by-gone days with playgrounds for the Hollywood rich and famous. I was able to capitalize on the resort’s inherent charm to create a visual voice for the imagery and draw out beautiful and unique shots. I capitalized on the architecture and purposefully framed the shots against distinctive Italianate structures. To convey isolation and escape, I chose locations with broad views and minimal talent. This had the added benefit of creating the feeling of a serene and romantic escape. For Miromar’s concept, black and white was the key to making connections with a classic Hollywood style. I added a bit of cinematic fantasy by making the whites so bright that they glow and deepening the blacks to a brooding depth. Truly emotion is the critical element, whether emotion shown by your talent, design, or other visual elements, emoting the right feeling about your brand consistently is the goal of brand differentiation.
The Bottom Line
Let’s address the elephant in the room, creating a library of branded visual media like I describe above with Miromar, is not cheap. To be effective, media libraries must contain assets of the highest quality and with enough volume to feed all of your marketing channels, including print, web, and social media. I have been successful in helping clients realize a greater return on their investment by leveraging an efficiency of scale where the initial up-front cost may be higher, but the price per shot is reduced. This is achieved by applying forward thinking to the creation of visual media libraries. Often media use is upside-down, with marketers thinking: what do I have to fill this hole? Instead, I see the value in pre-planning for the right brand conscious media, and generating enough quantity of it to meet your usage needs for years to come. I often work with agencies and corporations to plan an efficient media library shoot well in advance to conceptualize a cohesive brand story that reads well visually. My experienced team and I execute the shoot with a practiced shooting style, capturing hundreds of quality images and videos that speak in your brand’s voice, yielding a volume of images at your disposal for use in print ads, brochures, mailers, web ads, banners, video for broadcast, video for web, social media and more.
Differentiating yourself from competitors requires a level of artistry and skill that cannot be found in cheaper options like online stock image libraries and graphics apps. The connections that your brand makes with your customers is the ultimate measure of success. Building loyal brand affiliation does not happen overnight. Strengthening your brand identity takes careful crafting and curation. That’s why investment in building differentiation is critical.
It is time to differentiate yourself and defend your brand.