Steve Zugelter of Studio Z Films: Is Having Both a High and Low-End Brand Worth It

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure to coach a talented event filmmaker who was going through a re-branding process. At the time his company was called Glass Eye Video (yeah, I know, not necessarily the best name for a video production company). But that was then, and this is now.

The filmmaker was none other than Steve Zugelter. His company is now Studio Z Films, and boy, he has come a LONG way since the days I coached him. He’s been voted in the Event DV top 25 event video producers in the world, he’s taught at WEVA and InFocus, and as I wrote yesterday, he has a killer about page.

I invited Steve to share some of his thoughts on the experience he and his wife Reagan (co-founder of the POSH Workshop) have had starting and running a lower-end event video business as a sister company to Studio Z, which caters to a much higher-end bride. He also gives us some insight into the making of that great about page. Get ready to take notes.

1. What kind of work do you primarily do?
Studio Z Films is our wedding brand.  We cater to the high-end couples in our market as well as regionally.  We formed Zug Media a few years ago for our corporate and commercial clients.

2. A couple of years ago you underwent a brand shift, what was the experience like? Why did you change?
The brand shift was one of the most amazing things for our wedding business. When we first started out in 2004, we didn’t put much thought into our name and we didn’t have a business plan or even goals of where we wanted to go with our company. With Glass Eye Video, we were trying to target both brides as well as corporate clients. When our business started to grow, we knew we needed to take it to the next level. We changed our name and announced it in June 2009 and the experience was unbelievable. Not only did we change our name but we invested in a custom site, logo, marketing materials to cater to our target bride. We also decided to separate our weddings from our corporate work and created Zug Media later that year.

3. I understand you started a low-end sister company to your high-end brand, when did you start it and why?
We started the low-end brand back in 2009 because we were being told we were too expensive and losing business. Our high-end company, Studio Z was thriving but we thought we were missing out on some business of the lower end budgets. We wanted to create a low-end brand that offered a simpler product, which would basically be less time of filming and post production.

4. I also know that you recently ended that low-end brand. Again, when did you do it and why?
We ended the company in 2010 about 6 months after we started it because at the time we felt we didn’t have a strong team in place to service these additional clients and we were spending too much time focusing on this low-end brand which was taking away from our successful Studio Z and Zug Media brands. We weren’t passionate about this brand as we were Studio Z so it didn’t feel right to continue something because the product wasn’t something we loved.

5. What were the biggest challenges of running both brands?
The biggest challenge was not having a strong and dedicated team in place to help run this brand. That is the biggest key: having a great team who you can trust to film when you are not physically there. Another challenge is making it worthwhile as far as revenue you are generating. At the end of the day by the time we compensated our team and paid for insurance, branding, marketing, etc, there wasn’t that much of a net profit to really continue it for us.

6. Would you recommend having both a low and high-end brand? Why or why not?
I would recommend a studio considering this must create a solid business plan to start that includes researching their market, competitors in that same budget range, financial investments and at the end of the day what is the net profit. They also need to create a solid team of not only shooters and editors but also someone to help manage this brand. For us, trying to manage both brands ourselves was too much work and it didn’t allow us to have time to grow our corporate side of our business. If a good plan and staff is in place then it could be successful for a studio.

7. I’ve seen a number of high-end wedding filmmakers start to increase their commercial business, any plans for you to do the same?
We actually created our corporate brand, Zug Media, back in 2009 and this brand is really growing. We’re constantly gaining new clients and we have a great existing client base. Some of our biggest clients right now are non-profit organizations because they love our approach of storytelling we bring to the their projects. We have found a way to differentiate ourselves from some of the other corporate video production companies in our area because of our style. I think that is mainly due to the fact that we do film weddings also and have experience in telling unique stories. We are actually in the process of doing a rebrand with Zug Media because our company is doing so well and we think investing into the marketing/brand identity will continue to grow it even more.

8. Yesterday I blogged about your great about page, seems like you put a lot of thought into it. What’s the story behind it (e.g. the photo, the copy, etc.) and what has the reaction been by brides?
We wanted the bio to be about me as a person, not about the business. I didn’t want to go on and on about my passion for filmmaking, the person on my site already knows I’m passionate about it, I started a business for it. I wanted it to be a more personal approach and talk about myself as a husband and father, something that humanizes me that people can relate to.  The response has been amazing. I’m constantly getting compliments from brides and mothers of brides about the bio page and some even expect to see my dog Guinness when they come into the studio. I think adding a little humor about being dashing or about my horse that thinks he’s a dog, gives a great idea of my personality and I wanted to make myself someone they wanted to meet and ultimately spend 10 hours with on their wedding day.

Named one of the top 25 event filmmakers in the world, Steve has been featured in EventDV Magazine and has presented at events including INFOCUS, WEVA and MIVA and is currently partnering on Voyage. Reagan co-founded POSH, a filmmaking retreat for women. When they aren’t working, they love spending time with their daughters.

4 thoughts on “Steve Zugelter of Studio Z Films: Is Having Both a High and Low-End Brand Worth It

  1. Ahhhhhh the moment i decide to merge my Corporate and Wedding into one you show up with this article with a lot of sense Ron Dawson i hate you !!!!! (Joke of course thanks again)

    1. I definitely think you should keep your wedding and corporate brands separate Morgan. 🙂 Do a search on my blog for the guest interview with Ryan Koral. He talks about starting his corporate brand and the reasons he did. I think it was two weeks ago today. Not sure exactly, but something like that.

  2. Great post, Ron and Steve! I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a budget brand as well. The wedding days are shorter and the editing is easier, but the money sure doesn’t go very far. Thanks for the very timely post with lots of good info!

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