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5 Reasons You Don’t Need To Be Your Photography Brand

The following article on branding is by Doug Cohen, co-owner of a photography studio a few miles from my home. He loves social networking and has a strong opinion, contrary to what many experts say, on branding your business. After reading, let us know your thoughts “on being your brand” in the comment section.

I follow a number of people on twitter whom I respect a great deal – several of them have written books on marketing and social media that I’ve modeled.  There is one topic in which I disagree as it relates to our photography studio.

The experts say that when Tweeting, Blogging, posting to Facebook or representing your business that you are your brand and you should represent yourself that way.  For example, most “social media gurus” emphasize your twitter profile picture being you – not a logo. The two reasons are that people like to have conversations with people and not logos, and that you are what is unique about your brand.  I even agree that this works for many brands.  But after thinking it through for our photo studio, I’m not convinced. And if I’m not convinced for us, then I suspect that this approach isn’t perfect for everyone. I owe it to the evolving art of social media strategy to get the counterpoint out there and get some healthy debate going.

Here are the 5 reasons I respectfully disagree that I should “be the brand.”

1)  I am not a brand.  I’m just not.  Yes I am unique and Ally, my business partner, is too. We make our brand special, but we are people, not brands.  We tweet as @frameablefaces and I also tweet as @dougcohen10.  My life is and isn’t Frameable Faces.  It means a lot to me, but it’s not all of me.  I need to have my own personal identity apart from my brand – it’s healthy.  The Frameable Faces tweets are  content relevant to our studio and our community.  The Doug Cohen tweets are about social media, football, music, history, and even Frameable Faces, as well as whatever else might be on my mind – Doug Cohen’s mind.

2)  People actually do like brands.  I actually think a lot of people like brands, local brands in particular.  People are loyal to the brands they like and they like to promote those brands.  Many say they prefer to talk to and interact with people especially on twitter, but I appreciate when a brand responds and I can tell if it’s a real person.  That says to me that the brand has made a point of designating good representatives to communicate and listen to their fans.  If I’m constantly promoting and retweeting a person I feel it could get a little awkward.  I don’t feel that way as much if I’m promoting/retweeting a brand.  If I love a product, it’s the product I want to spread the word of mouth about – a favorite food item, a store – I might not know the business owner’s name and I don’t always need to.

3)  “The Team, The Team, The Team.”  These were the words of the great Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler.  We are a team.  Championships aren’t won by one player in a team sport.  Tom Brady doesn’t win Super Bowls without lineman to block for him, receivers to catch the ball, running backs to carry it, a defense to stop the other team, coaches to coach, and so on.  Doug Cohen isn’t Frameable Faces, and neither is Ally Cohen. You would never see Tom Brady’s face on the Patriots helmets (although that might work for the female fan base).  Their logo is recognizable and it represents their brand.  Many old school traditional forms of marketing might be just about dead (advertising in something called the “Yellow Pages” comes to mind) but a good brand and a good logo is still important in my opinion.  The Patriots logo has come to represent team excellence and we want our logo to do the same.

4)  Blanket Rules don’t apply to all businesses when using social media to build a brand.  This one actually serves as a disclaimer, because I do agree that “being the brand” works for some people.  If you have made a brand out of you and your persona and they are pretty much the same then it works.  As much as it annoys me, Oprah takes this to the extreme by appearing on the cover of every issue of her magazine and that works for her brand.  She is the brand and her fans respond to that.   This can work for an individual photographer’s studio if the appeal is a singular style and vision.  Ultimately different approaches work for different businesses.  Hopefully you’ll know which works best for your business.

5)  Frameable Faces Photography is about community.  It may sound cheesy but we mean it.  Yes Ally and I have something special together, and we are really good at what we do.  I know this.  But we truly want the focus on the #frameables –  our clients.  Our studio is in the center court of the Orchard Mall in the center of West Bloomfield. It’s often a gathering place as much as it is a photography studio and that’s how we envisioned it from the start.  People stop in to chat and our clients get to know each other.  Our approach is a lifestyle.  It’s about being frameable – living a life that you would want to capture and display to the world on a wall.  Yes it’s about Ally and me because it’s our livelihood, but our people are the fabric and the stars of our studio.

What do you think?  Do you represent your brand on twitter, facebook or the other platforms with a logo or a photo of you?  Does “being the brand” work for you?

Doug Cohen is a co-owner of Frameable Faces Photography with his wife Ally in the Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield, MI.  Ally is the photographer and Doug the business person and the social media strategy.  Doug consults with other businesses on social media as well for a company called Smart Savvy Social and sings in a rock band called the Detroit Stimulus Package. 

 

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9 Comments

  1. 1
    Dacia says:

    Oh wow,thank you so much…I couldn’t agree more!!! In the beginning stages of my business, while researching and deciding on a name,I saw so many photographers using their own name. However,I just didn’t want to use “me” as my business name. I wanted it to be an extension of who I am…but not my whole identity. I am so glad I stuck to my heart on this and decided on a separate brand name instead, even though I felt like a long ranger for doing so. It is great to know I am not the only one. :)

    • 1.1
      Doug Cohen says:

      Thank you Dacia! Glad you enjoyed this and got a little reinforcement out of it. As I mentioned if being the brand works for some that’s fine. I’m not arguing against it for everyone, I’m just arguing against it being a hard rule either way. :-)

  2. 2

    Nicely said, Doug. Whether you’re using social media as a studio with multiple photographers or an individual photographer, the idea is the same. It’s a matter of the persona that is different.

  3. 3
    Jen Taylor says:

    Love the idea that your studio is a gathering place as much as a place of work. Well done! My aim is to one day have a space that will be like that, too, and will house both my photography business and my yoga teaching business, both of which embody my passion for children and their families.

    • 3.1
      Doug Cohen says:

      Thanks Jen! Yeah we really like the community aspect of our studio – very rewarding to get to know our peeps and even more so to see them get to know each other through their shared connection of our studio. I like the “About Me” page on your website – just seems very real – you seem like you get it. Stay in touch!

  4. 4

    Doug, Doug, Doug… :)

    I think you have made great points, but I don’t buy in. I think where I disagree with you, is that you essentially are saying that a “person” can’t be a “brand”. That is where small – no, micro – business is heading. So though, you are doing business as Frameable Faces, they really are doing business with Doug and Ally. In fact, you argued my point pretty well in #2 – people want “brands” but only in a personable way.

    I will say this, though I believe it’s better for small (ie mom and pop shops) businesses to build around their personal brand, I definitely think it’s also possible to build a brand outside of “you”. The key to any of it is putting a real name and a real face with the brand. It sounds like this is exactly what you and Ally are doing, so it’s working for you.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • 4.1
      Doug Cohen says:

      Ha – Andy I figured you might not buy in on this… :-)

      I’m not saying a person CAN’T be a brand, I just don’t think you have to be. I think our philosophies overall are much more similar than not which is why you and I have had a pretty good running dialogue. As you mentioned we are pretty much saying the same thing with point #2 and I see both sides to be sure. You can definitely use my case in point #2 to flip it as you say.

      Thanks for reading – I was looking forward to hearing from you on this one and I knew I’d be going slightly against the grain with some people I have a ton of respect for. As I say, it’s all in the name of healthy debate! It can be a great way to drill down into the topic.

  5. 5

    […] with plenty of other topics covered and I have had the honor of guest posting here twice.  The first time included the debate between Andy Bondurant and me in the comments which I referred to […]

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