Whose Brand Does Your Work Project? Yours or Your Clients?

Shawn Reeder in YosemiteI recently put the finishing touches on the promotional film for Shawn Reeder Photography. Shawn is an amazing photographer specializing in the Yosemite and Sierra mountain region. Shawn is one of those people who exudes this amazing sense of peace and generosity. He is Zen personified. It’s an undeniable and 100% sincere aspect of his personality. Shawn is real.

Yesterday he officially premiered the promo to unanimous praise. One of the proudest moments for me as the filmmaker were the number of comments about the film that were more about Shawn vs. the video itself. Naturally there were comments praising the video too. But the overwhelming sentiment was how amazing a person Shawn is. One comment from his blog reads , “…it was the sincerity with which you shared your passion for Yosemite and photography that made this film top-notch.” Not the cinematography. Not the cool color grading, or amazing depth of field shots. But Shawn’s passion and art authentically communicated. To me, that is a successful project.

So it got me thinking: when you create work for your clients, whose brand are you projecting? Yours, or theirs?

I think one of the most difficult aspects of my job is striking a balance between my signature/personal style as a filmmaker, and authentically promoting the brand of my client. I’ve seen a number of promotional videos where the style of the video itself is really all about the filmmaker, and less about the client. I know this because I might see five or six videos from a filmmaker for as many clients and they all look alike. Now here’s the crutch. That ain’t necessarily a bad thing. It comes down to who your client is. Let me splain.

If the the women’s antiperspirant/deodorant maker Secret hired Quentin Tarantino to direct their next commercial, my guess is it wouldn’t really do well to promote their feminine, soft brand. However, I bet Right Guard would see a huge spike in sales if QT directed one of their commercials. If you’re a photographer or filmmaker with a very distinguishable style, and if you choose not to veer from that style when you create work for your clients, your client really only benefits if their brand is compatible with yours.

But you may ask, “Ron. Aren’t you always saying it’s important to stand out. To be different. To create your own signature style? How can I do that if I have to change it up for every video or photo shoot?” That is an excellent question. I’m so glad you asked. I’m going to address that answer in two parts. Part 1 today. Part 2 tomorrow.

Part 1: B2B vs. B2C

The first thing to realize is that there’s a difference between a B2C studio and a B2B studio. A B2C (business to consumer) studio is one that primarily shoots weddings, family portraits, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc. If this is your primary market, you absolutely should develop a unique and signature look that makes you stand out. This is especially important if you are on the higher end of the pricing spectrum. A bride isn’t going to care if her photos or videos look like that of other clients you shot. In fact, that is precisely why she is hiring you, because she wants something like the other projects you’ve shot. The same is true if you’re a filmmaker creating content for consumer consumption. Quentin Tarantino is a B2C filmmaker. People who go to his movies do so because they enjoy his style of filmmaking.

B2B (business to business) studios are those like mine, we primarily market to other businesses to help them market their businesses to their clients. Yes, a client will hire you because they’ve seen and like your work, but in many cases they don’t want the same thing you did for that other company. They want something that will help them stand out and be unique. They just need to trust that you can pull it off.

Selling Shawn

Honestly, I can’t take all the credit for this video being so authentically Shawn. It helps when you have a client who clearly understands his brand and is willing to speak up to ensure the final product represents it in every way. I got it about 90% there. But with Shawn’s input (along with the input of trusted friends), we made a few tweaks to arrive at this final rendition. The most notable ones were:

  • Removed a primal scream scene that I filmed. It was Shawn staring out over the valley, raising his hands in victory and yelling, “Glory!” Yeah. We got rid of that one pretty quick.🙂 (If you know Shawn, you know why. He’s definitely more of a soft-spoken soul.)
  • Changed the title from “Glory Daze” to just “Shawn Reeder: Yosemite & Sierra Photographer.” FYI, the whole “glory” thing originated from the fact that Shawn and his rock climbing buddies love to use the term “glory” to describe beautiful scenery, an epic climb, etc. (e.g. “Wow. Look at the view of the valley. Total glory.”)
  • Changed font of the title to one more bold.

So, if you’re making each project different, how do you stand apart? Tune in tomorrow to find out. In the meantime, check out Shawn’s video. Instead of me posting it here, go give his blog some love and watch it there.

9 thoughts on “Whose Brand Does Your Work Project? Yours or Your Clients?

  1. Ron, beautiful job on that Yosemite piece, my favorite place in the world & you captured the essence of not only Shawn but of Yosemite also……..great job.🙂

    1. Wow. Thanks you Mr. Mayor. That is indeed quite an honor. I appreciate it. That was my first time in Yosemite and it was quite a trip. There were a few times up on the side of one of those mountains where I am certain I got more gray hair.🙂

  2. Ron, Although I understand the basis of your question, another POV is this if the client has come to you: Does yours or my creative work align with what they’re trying to say by the very nature of what our core mission statement is?

    Defining what it is we do as visual content creators will by the very nature of the diversity of clients out there, allow us to approach those clients accordingly with our work being similar to the clients own message.

    I think it’s a little remiss to ask which brand message one is creating. I, for instance, won’t shoot work for those clients out there who are not in alignment with my core values. IMO, you can’t produce authentic work for a client if you don’t believe in their brand.

    Does it preclude one from potential sources of income – more than likely, but at the end of the day, I would rather know I had purity of purpose in producing a project for those clients who held similar beliefs to what I have than be a hypocrite.

    Hopefully I’m not ruffling too many feathers with my response🙂

    1. This is an excellent point Cliff. I completely agree with you. You will attract clients who are attracted to your brand. I actually write about this in this blog post: https://daredreamermag.com/2012/04/04/john-jay-of-wiedenkennedy-break-out-of-your-silo/

      I also personally believe you should ideally take work for clients who brand you “believe in.” However, I would change it up a tad. There are some clients I’ve had in the past whose product or service I’m apathetic too. They sell widgets and they need a good video. So I’ll make them a great one. Even if I could care less about widgets. It helps pay the bills. HOWEVER, I would NOT take a gig for something that was specifically counter to my personal or professional moral or ethics.

      And you’re always free to “ruffle feathers” here as long as it’s done respectfully.🙂

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. Just wanted to comment on the film itself !
    I took a few minutes out of the day to watch this video and I can honestly say that it was the best few minutes spent today so far. I loved this. From the peacefulness of Shawn’s personality to being completely in awe of the fantastic landscape ….. all tied together with some wonderful filming .
    Yosemite has always been on my wish list of places to go, but even more so now🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. It was a joy to make the film. And equally so working with Shawn.

      I must say there were some scary moments up on that mountain with that rope.🙂

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