Can Brands Have Second Chances?

Today is part two of an amazing educational event called Escalate Live. It’s being hosted by friend, colleague, client, and Fast Track Photographer author Dane Sanders. It’s a training seminar with some of the top photogs in the industry sharing their knowledge live via internet video. Yesterday, one of the speakers, the never too-bashful-to-say-how-he-feels Chris Becker did a slam against Pictage (full disclosure: Pictage is a client of ours). It was during his talk about the importance of branding. It caused a little bit of a stir in the wedding and portrait world as word circulated about the slam. Personally, I felt it was bad form for Chris to slam a company during Dane’s event when that company has been a major supporter and sponsor of Dane and Fast Track. There are any number of companies he could have used to make his point: AT&T, American Airlines, and B of A come to mind.

But it got me thinking: can a brand get a second chance? Is it possible to win clients back and change consumers’ perspectives. Anyone who’s been associated with Pictage over the past five years (whether as a client or an employee) will tell you that there’s a night and day difference in the company since Jim Collins and the rest of the new management team has taken over. Old clients have returned, and the company is winning new evangelists. In addition to the strides they’ve made improving their technology, addressing customer service issues, and expanding their price offerings, they’ve done a significant amount to give back to the community (i.e. the Katrina family charity shoot and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas “Lens & Learn Event”). It’s still a work in process for sure, but they are definitely headed in the right track. In an earlier post I did about them, I predicted that not only are they making a come back, but in a few years, if they continue down this track, they’ll be a lovemark in the photo industry.

So, the question I pose to you: can a brand get a second chance at greatness?

13 thoughts on “Can Brands Have Second Chances?

  1. Hey Ron,Thanks man. I have to admit I'd forgotten that Escalate was starting yesterday so it came as a little bit of surprise when I started getting a string of emails from clients and friends offering support, etc. I had no idea what they were talking about! Once I got to twitter what had happened became clear and frankly was no surprise.I wrote an article on my blog a while ago talking about the importance of understanding criticism in the marketplace, especially when you're the one being criticized. While it was written for the folks who were being targeted at that time by a series of anonymous online folks, it also applied to me and to the company. A recent Pictage Blog post that I wrote drew similar fire from a series of photographers who had been members years ago. (and some who for the life of us we were unable to track down as ever having been members!). Pictage's email marketing efforts are certainly controversial. Since I started we've dramatically decreased the volume and we are constantly monitoring click through, spam reports, unsubscribe percentages and stay rate/page depth in the landing environments. The team doing this has vast experience in email marketing and they are all new to Pictage. We still get the occasional complaint, but the company's proactive stance in problem solving has driven these to an all time low. Even so, many Pictage photographers use the company's new global or event specific photographer driven marketing settings to either stop or dramatically slow the outbound marketing campaigns generated by Pictage marketing. While these events generally derive significantly less revenue, we understand that there are situations where this is prudent and that our clients know their customers better than we ever will. (A lot of these folks use the email reminders generated by Pictage marketing and showing up in the new “snapshot” interface as reminders to trigger their own marketing campaigns. That's fine with us!)Chris's comments are a stark reminder of where we've come from and a healthy reminder that while we've covered some ground we have a long way to go. I appreciated Dane's efforts to mitigate, but I also completely understand that what matters is each Pictage customer's personal experience. Do they get what they are seeking? If not, why not and how can we be better? What are the steps that take us from where we are today to where we need to be tomorrow? Let's get on that path. We're a long way from perfect, but we are learning from every misstep.Frankly one of the things I like about this space is that I never have to look hard for something to do better. Having passionate customers means that there is no fear of telling us where we mess up. This thread will no doubt draw some comments and fire from many who in varying degrees either dislike or hate us. We read all of those threads too, and we look at what they're telling us and then figure out how to be better. The only thing I promise is that we'll be better tomorrow than we are today and we'll be better the day after that.Thanks for mentioning the Katrina Families and B&G Clubs events. Those are not marketing activities and the company doesn't promote these outside of sites catering to our own customer base. They do not serve to change the marketplace's impression of Pictage in any way and are designed instead to serve the folks we do them for; our photographers and folks for whom a day either in front of the lens or behind the viewfinder can be meaningful. We've done a lot more than these two, and some may comment on this as well, but I am uncomfortable with any mention of these activities when considering the broader marketplace reputation of the company.Onward!JC

  2. Hey Ron,Thanks man. I have to admit I'd forgotten that Escalate was starting yesterday so it came as a little bit of surprise when I started getting a string of emails from clients and friends offering support, etc. I had no idea what they were talking about! Once I got to twitter what had happened became clear and frankly was no surprise.I wrote an article on my blog a while ago talking about the importance of understanding criticism in the marketplace, especially when you're the one being criticized. While it was written for the folks who were being targeted at that time by a series of anonymous online folks, it also applied to me and to the company. A recent Pictage Blog post that I wrote drew similar fire from a series of photographers who had been members years ago. (and some who for the life of us we were unable to track down as ever having been members!). Pictage's email marketing efforts are certainly controversial. Since I started we've dramatically decreased the volume and we are constantly monitoring click through, spam reports, unsubscribe percentages and stay rate/page depth in the landing environments. The team doing this has vast experience in email marketing and they are all new to Pictage. We still get the occasional complaint, but the company's proactive stance in problem solving has driven these to an all time low. Even so, many Pictage photographers use the company's new global or event specific photographer driven marketing settings to either stop or dramatically slow the outbound marketing campaigns generated by Pictage marketing. While these events generally derive significantly less revenue, we understand that there are situations where this is prudent and that our clients know their customers better than we ever will. (A lot of these folks use the email reminders generated by Pictage marketing and showing up in the new “snapshot” interface as reminders to trigger their own marketing campaigns. That's fine with us!)Chris's comments are a stark reminder of where we've come from and a healthy reminder that while we've covered some ground we have a long way to go. I appreciated Dane's efforts to mitigate, but I also completely understand that what matters is each Pictage customer's personal experience. Do they get what they are seeking? If not, why not and how can we be better? What are the steps that take us from where we are today to where we need to be tomorrow? Let's get on that path. We're a long way from perfect, but we are learning from every misstep.Frankly one of the things I like about this space is that I never have to look hard for something to do better. Having passionate customers means that there is no fear of telling us where we mess up. This thread will no doubt draw some comments and fire from many who in varying degrees either dislike or hate us. We read all of those threads too, and we look at what they're telling us and then figure out how to be better. The only thing I promise is that we'll be better tomorrow than we are today and we'll be better the day after that.Thanks for mentioning the Katrina Families and B&G Clubs events. Those are not marketing activities and the company doesn't promote these outside of sites catering to our own customer base. They do not serve to change the marketplace's impression of Pictage in any way and are designed instead to serve the folks we do them for; our photographers and folks for whom a day either in front of the lens or behind the viewfinder can be meaningful. We've done a lot more than these two, and some may comment on this as well, but I am uncomfortable with any mention of these activities when considering the broader marketplace reputation of the company.Onward!JC

  3. Yes, I do believe that brands can get a second chance. Many well known companies have faced hurdles during the course of business and have come back all the better for it.

  4. Pictage has done nothing allow me to grow by leaps and bounds as a small photography business and I am and will be eternally grateful. No other company has done this for me. Thank you Jim Collins for leading the way into the future for Pictage.

  5. Yes, I think brands can have second chances. The chances of it succeeding though depend on the “crime” they committed. Some things are hard to forget or live down while other things are easily brushed aside. As for Pictage…I have never personally been a paid member, so my perspective is limited. I did have a free year subscription that I never used as I was happy with my SmugMug account. Having been on the receiving end of the endless emails, I can tell you it's so aggravating that I would never ever subject a client to something like that. If a friend gets married and their photographer posts the pictures on Pictage, I rarely submit my email address to see them. That said, I have heard many good things about the “new” Pictage. I'm happy they've been listening to their clients and making changes. I believe in a free market and that competition drives businesses to compete to be better. I truly wish them the best!

  6. I have been a Pictage member since 2003 and was very happy with them even before Jim came on board. Having said that, I have been more than impressed with the direction Pictage has taken since he's been there. I think its important to note that Pictage may have had issues with too many emails in the past, but that has all changed due to the fact that Pictage actively listens and responds to what its clients want. I, for one, really appreciate that.

  7. hey ron, thanks for watching escalate. for the record… i don't think i “slammed” pictage. you really have to take my comments out of context to be construed as a “slam”. i didn't say they ARE spammers. while trying to prove the point that brands live in the consumers minds… and after disclosing that i've heard that pictage has gotten a lot better about it… in my mind… Pictage = Spam. and anyone who used them back in 2001-2003 when i did, would probably relate to those sentiments. my experience with pictage was that they spammed a lot. to the point where guest of the weddings would complain to the brides, and then the brides would complain to me. their brand harmed my brand from my association with them.as for your question… do brands deserve a second chance… sure they do. like i said in my presentation… i've heard nothing but good things about the new folks at pictage and i've heard good things about what they are doing. but that still doesn't change the fact that IN MY MIND… the Pictage brand stands for spam, because that's the overwhelming FEELING that comes to my mind when i see their logo or hear their name… just as when i see the Burger King logo i think of diarrhea. thats how brands work and that was the point i was making and i think i proved my point. while i am sure on this blog and others, people who love the pictage brand, have and should continue to voice their support for pictage, i got a ton of “Amens” to my pictage comments from other people that have shared my experience.i personally won't be giving them a second chance since i am so thrilled with my WHCC and Pick Pick Proof Pro online sales solution. on the [ b ] School and when i do my workshops… i always encourage people to figure out what solutions work best for them. anyway… thanks for sharing this with your audience. if anyone wants to watch the actual comments i made, feel free to order the Video on Demand of Escalate… it was an incredible conference. Jerry Ghionis was off the hook! http://escalatelive.com/vod/

  8. Hey Becker,Thanks for visiting. I appreciate you explaining your side. To say Pictage = Spam does seem like a slam to me. I don't think that's taking it out of context. Others who saw it also felt the same. And you're right, lots of people had that experience and probably still feel that way, so I'm not even saying you were wrong. That is your feeling and experience. I just didn't think it was wise (or sensitive) for you to do that during Dane's event (especially if you've heard they are making changes and amends, why stir the pot?) This industry is analogous to a small town. Word gets around quickly, especially when someone of your stature in the industry says something. There are so many other examples of companies outside the industry you could have used to make your point. You're a smart guy, you had to know that a comment like that would stir things up in the industry (and I know you don't like to stir things up.😉 Since Pictage has sponsored and supported Dane, it seemed like making them your example proved your point at the possible expense of his relationship with them, or at least making it very awkward for him.

  9. As I mentioned in the thread on Pictage, I watched becker's presentation on the web and did not feel that he was slamming Pictage. Back in the day when he was an active Pictage user many photographers, myself included, were having issues over the very active emailing campaign that Pictage was using. I had a few complaints from my clients as well. What I also said was that speaking for myself, I would not have used any photo industry company as an example of poor branding or any kind of problem. There are plenty of other poor brands that could have been used, and were used in his presentation.

  10. Yes, all brands deserve a second chance, and many of them require it and get it and succeed because of it. Having been somewhat on the inside of Pictage for five and a half years now (half as a full-time employee and half as a remote part-timer), I have witnessed the changes in not only the operation of the company's infrastructure, but also the changes of attitudes within the staff. I can honestly say that times have never been better for Pictage and their customers (both photographers and consumers) than it is now. Even though it is true that sometimes, you may get a bad taste in your mouth for a company and no amount of change will make you change your initial impression, I think the way one expresses their impressions of a company to others says a lot about one's character as a person. For Becker to make such an obvious slam on Pictage at Dane's Pictage-backed event (and, anyone with half an eye can see that it was a slam), is an unfortunate insight to how Becker's mind works. Yet, since he does seem to be all about earning a buck any way he can, I still am having trouble figuring out any way to even put myself in his shoes and see how that could have been a profitable thing to do. I just don't get it.

  11. Thanks for the comment Loren. And good points. For the record though, Pictage did not back EscalateLive. Becker's comment is provocative b/c it was Dane's event, and Dane has been supported by Pictage in the past (most recently as a co-sponsor of the FastTrack tour). Plus WHCC/PickPic (a Pictage competitor) is a sponsor of Escalate, so it just makes the comment more “suspect” considering house close he is to that company.

  12. Thanks so much, Ron, for posting this! There is a lot of wisdom throughout for those who are speaking and listening. When I met Jim Collins at WPPI this year, I was so pleasantly surprised that Pictage had made a turn for the better….WAY better. Though I had left Pictage a few years ago with much frustration and very little hope for them as a company, I was so happy for them when I heard people talking about the changes. When we visited the booth at WPPI (wanting to see Tasra speak) we talked with a few of their reps and were convinced that the changes were real and at a depth that would cause redemption in the marketplace. With all of the hype in our industry about marketing and branding we may have lost touch with the fact that there are people behind those brands. “Branding” ourselves may have given us the permission to be less human. Just a thought. Pictage may need to go through a name change, unfortunately, but with the force that's behind them now, I doubt anything could stop them from becoming the best.

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