As a freelance photographer, you might not think you have much in common with global brands like Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, Apple or Nike. But no matter how small or large your business is, branding can be just as important to you as it is to these corporate titans.
Obviously, Fortune 500 brands spend millions of dollars on branding — but the principles and benefits are the same no matter your marketing budget. And one of the most important aspects of effective branding is consistency.
Consistency Across Channels
I deal with global brands on a daily basis for my employer. We work with brands to bring them exposure not only in print or online, but across many other channels. These range from events and exhibitions to phone apps. We also reach our audience through e-mail, letters and other forms of communication. Global brands must have a fully integrated visual identity that works across all these channels.
In the same way, you have the opportunity to brand your business whenever and wherever you make contact with a prospective client. That’s why it is so important to create a consistent look and feel for your Web site, mailers, invoices, letterhead, and all of your other communications.
You might think that visual branding — a logo and associated design elements — is not as vital for you as it is for other kinds of businesses. After all, your work product itself is visual, right?
But of all the channels that you use to interact with clients, how many of them actually display your product? Do you include examples of your work on your invoices or contracts, for example? Probably not.
Creating a visual brand that resonates with your audience reinforces your work and reminds clients of your talents.
Creating a Visual Brand
So, what process should a freelance photographer undertake to create a visual brand?
The first step is to understand what a brand is. A brand is a promise you are making to your clients. Based on your insight into yourself and your competitors, what unique promise can you make to your customers?
The second step is to create a brief that describes this promise — a process that helps you really hone in on the values you wish to communicate to your clients and prospects.
The third step is to hire a designer, if your budget allows, or perhaps to work with a designer for a trade of services — for example, graphic design work in return for photographic services or a print or two. The designer’s job is to take your brief and translate it into a visual identity.
Logo, color palette, and typography are all integral elements of any brand identity. You might take an approach for your logo that is type-based, such as IBM’s, or a more graphical approach such as that used by Apple.
Whichever route you take, the consistent application of logo, type and colors in all of your communications builds and reinforces recognition of you as a brand. And make no mistake about it — you are a brand.