Lately, I’ve read on a few photographer and videographer forums the laments from advertising in a particular high-end wedding magazine. The consensus was that it was not worth it. Then, this week while shooting for Pictage’s PartnerConference in Los Angeles, I got to hang out a little while with my friend, and uber successful wedding photographer Me Ra Koh. She shared with me that about 70% of her business comes from this magazine. And she has a full page ad (which costs north of ten grand I believe). Here’s the kicker. Me Ra’s ad is a full page picture…of herself! Huh?
In a sea of full page ads with amazing photographs of elf-like brides in Vera Wang gowns on seaside bluffs, there’s Me Ra, in a simple blouse and slacks, holding her camera and cracking up at something (and if you’ve every heard Me Ra laugh, you can’t help but look at the photo and think, “Yep, that’s Me Ra!”)
The first time I ever saw this ad I was in a book store flipping through the magazine. I was trying to get some marketing and branding ideas when I came across this full page (pink) ad that just had a photo of the photographer. I thought to myself, “That has got to be the stupidest ad and biggest waste of money I’ve ever seen.” I called my wife over to show her. “What on earth would compel a photographer to put a picture of HERSELF in a bleeping gazillion dollar full page ad? Oh well, good luck to her.” Oh boy, how little I knew.
I first heard Me Ra tell the story of this ad at Pictage’s PartnerCon Chicago May 2007. She knew she wanted to focus on building her brand around her as the photogra-PHER, so what better way to do that than to put a picture of yourself she thought. But not just any picture, a picture that captures the essence of…Me Ra. If anything, that alone made the ad stand out.
Then, once the ad ran, she got a call from a bride who saw this ad and just had to call Me Ra and say, “You totally understand me!” A woman who has never met or talked to Me Ra in her entire life, said Me Ra totally understands her, because she saw a picture of Me Ra laughing on a bluff. Me Ra told me this week that she gets a number of comments like that from brides. That they see that photo and feel like it would just be so much fun to have Me Ra on their wedding day all day long. Go figure!
Now, I’m sure these brides go to Me Ra’s site and confirm she actually knows how to take great photos too. But, the draw was not Me Ra’s photography, it was Me Ra herself.
The lesson is, how can you infuse your branding with who YOU uniquely are? My good friend (and client) Dane Sanders talks at length about this in his book “Fast Track Photographer” (which is a great resource for small service business people, regardless of whether or not photography is your business). One of the best ways to set yourself apart is to capitalize on who the real “you” is. Think about ways you can communicate that the value you bring to the table as a photographer (or videographer, or coordinator, or [insert your relevant service-based people-oriented business here]), is…you. There is no other “you” out there. Make “you” valuable, and the scarcity of that commodity (you) will make your financial upside limitless.