What happens when you ditch the shotlist?

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What creative can look like

I was recently at a conference focussed on how big brands are using digital marketing to help grow and engage their target markets, and unsurprisingly, photography plays a huge role in helping marketers achieve their goals.

One of the presenters threw up a slide showing a wall of beautiful, on-brand photographs, each one like a unique page in a big story book. The images ran off the huge screen behind the presenter and you don’t need a degree in marketing to see the immediate value these kinds of high-quality images have for a variety of digital campaigns.

The presenter explained how they had gone about creating such an impressive bank of images to help them fill the huge need for continual and creative content that is the new normal in advertising today.

Did they send out a detailed list of requirements to their agency? Did they pore through hundreds of thousands of images on stock photography sites searching for ones that had just the right look and feel? Did they (shudder) run a crowdsourcing campaign directed at photo enthusiasts and amateurs, relying on their user-generated content (UGC) to give them what they needed?

Nope. They did something far simpler, and far more effective (both in terms of time and significantly, cost). They hired a professional, whom they gave a creative brief to, then let loose.

What they needed were a lot of images, rights-free, fast that they could use to fill the image needs of their planned campaigns. The company sells healthy quick meals under one brand in its portfolio of brands. Their analytics on previous campaigns had shown a strong reaction to fresh, authentic photography, so they hired a photographer to do a shoot for them. Importantly, while the creative brief specified the key brand characteristics and personality that the photographs needed to convey, their was no detailed shot list included. Instead, the brand astutely relied on the creativity and artistry of the photographer to come up with the kinds of images they needed.

The result? They got 4000 images, shot over a 3-day span, and delivered with no strings attached. The cost per image was less than half they would have paid had they gone a more traditional route hiring through an agency, or by trying to develop a complicated set of requirements to coordinate and set up a big photoshoot.

This type of contract is trending in popularity and I think it is to the mutual advantage of photographers and their client brands. I’ve always been a proponent of bringing the photographer in on the development of creative, as opposed to having the hired hand execute on someone else’s vision. While it is unquestionably the role of a creative director to make decisions about how a brand message is articulated, creative workers do their best work when they are allowed to engage their creativity independently. It seems obvious that if you are hiring a creative person for their creativity you allow that person to actually use and engage their creativity. Yet surprisingly, there are still many contractual arrangements that view photography as a commodity and consequently diminish the role of the creative photographer.

Not all products or brands lend themselves as readily to this more creative approach to generating images, but I suspect many more could than do, and an increasing number of them will into the future.

The driver is, as ever, simply that this is what the market wants and expects. People are increasingly sensitive to what they perceive as advertising. Ads, in and of themselves, are often viewed negatively and most people would not admit to liking and ad or taking action based on an ad they saw if you asked them – regardless of whether the data says otherwise.

Photography that looks too much like it is controlled by a brand has less of an impact than a more natural, authentic image. This is one of the reason why UGC campaigns are popular and there are growing numbers of UGC platforms developing that allow brands to tap into this pool of content providers.

There is a risk/reward tradeoff of working with UGC vs. professionally generated content that brands need to consider. While crowdsourcing has the allure of being a much cheaper alternative than hiring someone professionally, by definition the quality will vary and the results may not all fit the needs of the campaign. There is a place for both kinds of content sourcing strategies, but in the case of getting high-quality, brand-aware images that meet an immediate need, nothing beats working directly with a professional photographer.

Consumers see hundreds of photographs daily streaming across multiple social platforms, sent in messaging apps between friends, and on the websites they visit.  They are sophisticated viewers and most can tell within milliseconds if an image looks real, or if it has been faked somehow. Authenticity and wholesomeness don’t just apply to ingredients on  a Chipotle menu, they are what people are searching for.  In an age characterized by easy connectivity – making a real connection matters more than ever.

Photographs crafted and designed by real photographers who take their work seriously – professionals in other words – can help brands achieve this. And they can do it on brand, on time, and on budget.

Confessions of a closet Pinner

 

I can’t help myself. When I come across an article I like, particularly if it’s showcasing some new piece of camera tech, I don’t snip and clip it to Evernote, I don’t copy and save it a Google Doc, I don’t email the link to myself. No, I Pin it. And I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that as a grown man, one of my latest online habits is making interactive pin-up boards. It’s my dirty little online secret, but I think it’s time to come clean.

Pinterest deserves more respect than most people I know give it credit for. My habit started out innocently enough. Like anyone interested in digital marketing and extending the reach of their little brand in a giant universe of noise, I first delved into Pinterest just because it was there, it was free to use and experiment with, and I figured that having one more linkable platform back to my blog/photo portfolio couldn’t hurt.

https://www.pinterest.com/kaleidoscopium/So I started up a few photography related boards, some pretty obviously self-serving, like my Photography-Events board (which I realize is supremely lame with only one pin), but quickly spent more time on others that I thought other people interested in photography and camera gizmos might be interested in (Photography Tech, Tools and Trends). As interests have a way of spreading online, I soon found the need for a board on Drones. Then Robots. Then what I christened, Future Humans as a place to put stuff that wasn’t just purely about robots. And what about staying healthy (The Healthy Living Project)? Or my interest in world-changing organizations that focus on making the world a better place for girls #GIRLPOWER? Or Startups and Tech?

One Pinboard led to another a before I knew it, I’d added the Pin button to my browser to make it easier to feed my addiction, and not long afterward, downloaded the app so I could Pin to my hearts abandon when sitting in airports (happens to be one of my favourite times to Pin) or am otherwise idle.

The habit has now fully taken hold of me. It satisfies my internet-enabled neurosis of losing a piece of information that I might one day find useful, and it’s kind of fun. Even if it’s not that cool. I’ve tried, in vain, to interest my few fishing friends to join my Fishing board to no avail.

But if you are curious, I recommend giving it a spin. Need some help on getting started? Check out my board on Productivity and GTD. And don’t forget to breathe and stay happy (How to Be Happy).

Want to join the fun or are equally addicted? Come find me under my Pinterest user name: kaleidoscopium

 

 

Are you doing enough to market your business?

How many business owners do you know who think they are doing enough marketing?

What if I told you there was a way to market your business using the world’s most powerful search engine that would ensure you have a visible presence online right where your customers will be looking for you? Tie that presence into the free analytics you can get out of Google Analytics and you’ve got your own digital marketing agency at less than your quarterly spend on coffee.

I’m talking about Google Business View, a remarkably poorly understood tool public facing businesses can use to boost their search rankings, attract more customers online and entice in new customers when they are conducting local based searches on their mobile phones.

See Inside – link to a virtual tour of The Monkland Taverne, by Julian Haber Photography 514.757.7657

All marketing today and into the future will be digital. It is already past time when we stop using the term “digital marketing” and simply refer to it as “marketing”. All businesses, whether you are selling pizza or complex financial derivative products, is about information. If no one can remember your phone number, no one orders the pizza. If they can’t understand what you are selling, they won’t buy it.

Having the correct information about your business that is easily accessible across the multiple devices people use hundreds of times every day is entry stakes for any business today.

How do people find your business? They search online, overwhelmingly using Google and the majority through a mobile, hand-held device. Gone are the days when having a website, or a Facebook page was something to proudly state “you were doing online marketing.” If you own a restaurant, a fitness club, a medical clinic, a hair salon or any kind of business that relies on people walking through your front door and you are not fully taking advantage of everything Google Business View now has to offer, you are leaving money on the table. And you may be slowly putting yourself out of business.

Here is an example of a search I just conducted on a business in my neighbourhood. Take a look at the huge amount of screen real estate dedicated to the right sidebar. That entire package of visually engaging information – virtual tour (See Inside), photos, direct link to Google Maps and reviews as well as the correct address and telephone number is what happens to a business that invests in its Google+Business Page.

You’ll see that though the Monkland Taverne company website is the top result, the vast majority of people on this page won’t visit that site.

Conduct the same search on a mobile phone and the results are even more striking. It fills the entire screen in your hand.

That second search, on the fly, on a mobile device, is where most people will be searching for your business

Google Business View is a virtual tour of the interior of your business. If you’ve just spent $50k on renovations, you want to be sure that as many potential customers as possible see your space. If you run a state-of-the art medical clinic, you want your potential customers to be able to visualize the environment and see the investment you’ve made in advanced medical devices. If you are a restaurateur, you want the visiting tourists walking down your street to find you on their phones when they feel a rumbling in their tummies and search for “family friendly restaurant – near me”.

The key to all of this is of course, investing the time and effort in understanding what Google Business View can do for your business, and then doing it.

You can start by Googling your own business (and this even includes service professionals and freelancers who may not have a public-facing office space, but still offer a service to the public) and see what comes up.

You’ll notice first that your search results on the right hand side of your desktop screen, or right in full view in your mobile device, point to a Google+ page. As a business owner, this site is yours for free and can be managed and exploited fully by you with just a little attention. Your customers who visit can also rate and review your business here, which provides even more attractive content for search engines to help lift your business higher in search rankings. Providing visually engaging materials here – photos and 360 degree panoramic tours of the interior spaces of your business will also give your business a huge lift and increase traffic to your online presence which will translate into increased traffic through your front door.

If you are a business owner and you think you don’t need to be found online, or that you already have enough customers, then I guess this post isn’t for you. I’d be surprised to find your business doing as well in one year, and in three years, with no change of marketing strategy, I doubt I’d find your business at all because it won’t likely exist, but hey, I could be wrong. Maybe digital marketing is “just a fad.”

But if you are like most business owners who are strapped for time and trying to manage their cash flow as best they possibly can while still putting a little profit into their own pockets at the end of each month, than I strongly encourage you to get your Google+ business page up to date and invest the small amount of time and money it will take to engage a photographer to shoot a virtual tour for you.

Here is a helpful link to get you started: Google My Business: