The Power of Being You-nique

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!”)

merakohThe 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.

12 thoughts on “The Power of Being You-nique

  1. Ron, it’s interesting to note that it is mainly still photographers who do this. Other than David Robin Films I don’t know of any other video producer from the wedding industry who has done this. I mentioned this to Helen some years ago but she reckons that people who do that are a bit up them selves – I don’t agree with her because I feel that potential clients would rather deal with a studio that is represented by a real person than some entity.

    Evro Moudanidis
    Moudanie Studios

  2. Good points, Ron. I’ve been preaching the importance of making yourself the Super Star for many years. As an independent creative resource, in most cases you ARE your brand…and it’s good to emphasize the traits that make you different from (and more attractive than) your competition.

  3. What a great blog post! I love this one. I’m currently working on a post of a similar theme: Authentic Entrepreneurship.

    When it comes to how to present ourselves, rather then conform to a preconceived or traditional mold… How many of us are daring enough to just be, of all things, ourselves? And if one does embrace this approach what are the risks and benefits?

    I’m going to go take a peek at Me Ra’s website right now to learn more about her. She and this topic fascinate me.

  4. Ron,
    What a great post! We were just talking about this at Partner Con, and it’s great that you posted about MeRa & the ad and having “you”-nique-ness. It was great to meet you and to talk at PartnerCon! I also joined your facebook F-Stop & Beyond group! You are doing great things for the community! Keep it up!

  5. Great post Ron. This is also part of the confidence piece clients look for in a wedding photographer. A photographer who hides behind their images might be confident in their past work, but brides want to have someone along who is fun and is comfortable in their own skin. I’m just starting out in this business, so confidence seems a little out of place, but maybe that a lie of the past decade that we can leave there!

  6. Our brand is about being a cool couple (of videographers) and altho we’ve thought about putting ourselves in our print ads – and haven’t yet – we HAVE finally made the first image on our flash home page an image of us. It seems brides like it – and we do find that “we” are a major part of our brand.

  7. Your brand is more than just a logo…it is the feeling that people get when they see your logo. Every interaction you have with a client or potential client contributes to this…from your website, blog and newsletter…to your phone conversations and personal meetings. It all matters folks!

  8. MeRa is amazing and I truly admire where’s she’s come from, how’s she’s risen to success, how she appreciates every detail in life (good and bad) and how she inspires everyone she meets. I have the great opportunity to be in the PUG group with her…at her house (yes, I feel like I’m hanging out with a super star…but without the superstar ego). Her pictures are beautiful…don’t get me wrong…but it’s her personality that sells her. And don’t forget, she has an amazing and talented husband that goes along with the package. They are a TEAM. I took one of her Advanced workshops and learned so much…and I remember asking “I’m trying to figure out my logo…would it be weird if I included a picture of myself?” She basically said go ahead, her’s was already out there and she was the FIRST to brand in that way. What a genious! Dane Sanders book also reflects so well on being a YOU-nique photographer and selling who you are, not just your photos. Before I truly start branding myself…I have a lot of rethinking to do.

  9. My gut sense tells me that your article makes a “causal” connection between Me Ra Koh’s ad and the responses it allegedly gets. Though marketing nowadays is about building relationships with the person behind the camera, I’m thinking there are other factors in force that contribute to her phones ringing, which create a synergic effect that pulls.

    In that particular magazine, for example, is Me Ra Koh listed or hyped elsewhere as “one of the best” by the editors or has her weddings featured? A full page picture alone of just the photographer laughing tinted pink isn’t what’s pulling brides.

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