Branding and Identity
So let's talk a bit about branding and identity let's do that shall we look at that? Is that the best ones that you've ever seen that's my that's my next website what do you people know? I'm just getting that that's why two thousand fourteen sites no this is the very first web site that I ever had back in two thousand two and you remember a program called dream weaver I made it myself I made it myself it was awesome I literally made it myself out of the corner of my bedroom and my husband at the time was a web designer before he became a disaster management specialist and he helped me make my website it's really professional but if you'll take a little note she'll get that s hold onto that s for a little bit we're gonna visit that a couple of times then it went to this this is later ino too I still it's still homemade but it's starting to refine a little bit the first when I got up there just because I needed some type of website to put on the internet this one started to kind of get a...
little style to it and you see those double s is that's all the way back in oh two my ex husband made those forming we flipped uh font upside down and called it a logo but if you hold with that you're going to see that pan through all of my branding and still be a part of what I'm doing right now. But back in oh two, back when we were building my very first website, we didn't have templates there, weren't you. You couldn't get a three hundred ninety nine dollars really fantastic looking website, just by googling on the internet, it was either all done yourself or you had to hire somebody to do it, and there weren't a whole lot of options for wedding photography site designers in the ones that were out there, I couldn't afford them, I was new in business, I would have been all over a three hundred dollar template back then, but I had to do it myself, so these were kind of my my early stabs at putting up a website and what this basically was was. I thought that if you were a serious artist, you had a black and white website because the other wedding photographers that I saw out there, they all had black and white websites are quite website with black fonder of black looks like I was an artist, I needed to have an artist site. Now, did this really say anything about me or my work, or any type of brand or me as a person? Of course it didn't, but I didn't know that it should I just thought that the website was the thing that you put out there to put your work out there I didn't know anything about branding I didn't go to school for any of this I had to figure this out on my own so do I have any sort of degree that I can put behind anything that I'm teaching you knew but I have thirteen years and they can pretty crappy websites do with that what you will then I went to this this was my next website okay, I'm kind of closer here this isn't so bad this is maybe lato three early oh four we're kind of getting there the crummy logo is starting to evolve a little bit we've still got the s is we're trying to do something with some typography there's my daughter in the upper right corner she was tiny perry tiny and I'm making an attempt to put some color and some personality into my sight and then the very next year we animated my side like so this was a big deal back then none of you are looking suitably impressed enough but we made the text move a lot well by we I mean my ex hasn't text move I did not actually build this but it looked like that now it's getting a little more refined when you look at this versus what you look at a way back long ago, this actually has a feel to it this just looking at the logo and just looking at the site makes you feel something, and I was trying to get closer to and I didn't know anything about branding, and this was before people were getting up at conventions and giving entire creative life seminars on branding. I just didn't know anything about branding a small business, but I knew enough to know that the web sites that I had had before we're not reflecting the way that I felt about my business and that the way client it should feel about my business when they first look at it, not just my work, but the business itself. There was no experience when they came to the website, so then in two thousand eight, when I moved up to new york, this is what it looked like. Now we'll talk about why this was a hilarious mistake in a little bit, several things happened, I got divorced, we've talked about that my ex husband made my logo, I didn't want any piece of it, so I just threw it away and made a new one. I hired someone to make this for me, I worked with two paper dolls out of wayne, pennsylvania, and they're wonderful, but I was also moving into a new market, and I didn't know where I was going. So what I was looking for with a website what I was looking for with branding with something completely inoffensive pretty happy and very generic after about three weeks with it I thought oh god, what have I done? This doesn't look anything like my work does this look like me at all? No no isn't beautiful yes was it ripped off repeatedly by other web designers? Oh yes but it just wasn't just wasn't right so I made a misstep with it but I sat with it for a while because not only did I make a misstep with it, I didn't know where I'd misstepped I didn't know what I done wrong because I knew that this wasn't me but I didn't know what wass me because I was trying so hard to reinvent my business because I was trying so hard to do something new I had no idea where I was going so I sat with this website for four years, three and a half four years because I knew that my next move I knew that my next move would be deliberate so to paper dolls did my logo brock and dave from infinite design any of you heard of infinite design I n f I n e t single best web designers and branding team I've ever worked with ever they did this site then they did my next local in my next site which looks like this now this looks like me, this is much happier. This is where I've been going the entire time, and the most important thing was that I had finally committed to a style all those years of trying to figure out who I was is a business person, and I'm like doing that whole time figuring out who I am as an artist thing because that's not what we're talking about here, this is figuring out the face of my business that I'm putting out into the world, that when people walk past my virtual storefront what's in the window, what does it look like? And I realized that what I was giving them before was I was giving them generic, and I was giving them just like every other girl that shops in anthropology and really lets her husband and loves to go for walks on the beach and, oh, my god, like weddings were like, it wouldn't be the best thing ever, like they're so adorable. I love them, I looked like everybody else and for those people who can sell that aesthetic and do it better than everybody else, so follow the trend and then rise to the top of it is incredibly hard, but I realized there was following a train that was completely and totally an authentic to me I don't really like anthropology, no offense to anthropology like there were a lot of black I have way too much jewelry like I'm kind of I like horror movies like none of this was my aesthetic at all like it wasn't reflecting my my dark black heart like dark gray not like black but it just wasn't it wasn't mature enough I was reaching my mid thirties I felt like I had the website of a twenty two year old girl and it didn't feel truthful to the work that I was doing but I was really afraid right like god nobody here is really old enough to understand when talking about your all babies but when you kind of start shopping and you realized that you can't shop in the junior's department anymore but then the other option is like the clothes if your mom wears and you're not really there yet like what do you do when you're that weird demographic where you're not a kid but you're not like middle age like it's awful where do you go so I realized I was in that place with my work as well that I needed something that reflected ah more grown up aesthetic but they didn't look stodgy or they didn't look dated or that I didn't like over age myself right so and I know ages it's number I get that but when I'm trying to come for something very specific in my branding and have it reflect my work I was really struggling so what eventually did end up happening? I ended up with this website on dh we're going to talk about exactly how I educated the designers and the branding team into what I wanted, but I went in there with one line of description. What do I want with my new brand? I want alexander mcqueen meet chanel that's what I want and they said, huh? Okay, I'm gonna go to some research. We'll get back to you on that one because I wanted something classic timeless, simple, tested and true that looked immediately like luxury when you see that chanel logo when you see the chanel store you know it's expensive, you know it's well made you know that it is timeless. Your grandmother carries it. Your high school daughter covets it like it is across all ages and countries and it is an icon. But then you look at alexander mcqueen, who is just weird it's cutting edge lighting things on fire like it's. Just it is creativity added it's, weirdest and wildest and most wonderful. And if you want to see some insane art, look up the alexander mcqueen runway shows that's weird stuff but it's incredible but it's too much but that's not what I was going for, it was creativity, unbridled toe, a point that I was going to lose people and it also wasn't true to me so I wanted that perfect marriage between new and cutting edge and interesting and different and bright and vibrant and timeless and classic and tested and true and saying alexander queen alexander mcqueen meet chanel is not something that I just thought of one night that's something that took four years to get teo and then really took thirteen years to get two if we're looking at the evolution of the entire branding of my business so when we start from the baby baby early days in my sweet little font of my sweet little logo and then I went to this and then I went to this this is thirteen years of business identity progression so hopefully so you know, all of you are somewhere on this path either your brand new and you're making a logo for the first time or you're reinventing yourself or you've reinvented yourself and made a mistake that's kind of a hard one to own up to also is I misstepped I didn't do something right like I was in authentic but when you look when you distill right down to it and you look at that very first logo that my husband and I made in our bedroom apartment and then you look at the one that brock and dave refined for me almost two years ago they're not that different it's still very true to where I started it's true to my first initial instinct of where my business was going its true to the first aesthetic of how I wanted to present my name to the world but now it's more grown up now it's got an edge for the those of you who say it looks like snake tongues. Yeah, I know, I know that was yeah, we know. I know that we love it. It's a little chanel it's a little edgy it's a little different, but also kind of looks like ribbons if you'd like to go that way. But it's evolution of where I started all those years ago and it's still me it's just with years of experience, it's with years of figuring out where I wanted to go years of research looking at work and the evolution of my own photography work also, yes, may I please how widely rebranded from your website to maybe your promotional materials, your packaging all those things because I'm still in this phase where I'm upgrading gear and looking at what should I do next? That's gonna have the most impact? Yes, for my style. I mean, when I consider a rebrand it's a rebrand all the way across the board it was everything, so I made sure that when it was ready to go down, it went down all the way so it wasn't just like my sight went up the block changed my entire is in folio back end like the way that presented to my clients I changes that I had to change my whole shoot you back in so that all of the invoices and everything reflected that new business cards, new stationery, new facebook header like literally everything that had the old stuff on it it was all set to go down all at once so it took a little bit longer because we're putting all of it took four years because I had to get my brain to the place where I knew what I wanted to be giving and then I had to work with the designers I was on their waitlist for a long time I'm actually on their waitlist again for something that I'm working on for next year I am not rebranding that's not gonna happen for you please don't make me rebrand ever because it's finally where I want it to be but I'm working on a new website with them for next year I'm on the wait list right now I got time to sit around but what I'm doing in the meantime while I'm on the wait list and I'm waiting, I'm actually on interest which I don't like I'm pretty vocal about my dislike for pinteresque however there really is nothing better for gathering all your ideas together in one place and then instead of putting everything in a folder in putting the folder and drop box and sending it over I'll just put it in interest and when I was re branding this was the board I was working on every time I saw something anywhere and I wasn't trolling pinterest for this stuff because it it's a rabbit hole that you will never ever get out of any time I saw anything on the internet anytime I was in a store and I saw something any time that I saw a color that I thought that's how my sight wants to feel like that's how me as a business wants to feel I was pulling it and I was pinning it together it was and as you'll see none of this is wedding photography most of it is fashion it's dior there's some y es el most of it is mcqueen but this was my pinterest board that I had out there in the world and I added to it for years and so then when I finally went over to broken david we finally got started we did the logo concept first and then we worked on the site design and once we got the logo concept then I had my logo on it colors so then I could go start working on getting new printed stuff new business cards but this whole thing from beginning of designed to deployment of sight and logo and into the world to about six months. Once I said yes to the logo, which took a while and then it didn't take that long, it took maybe six weeks because I he nailed it on the first time, but I had to try a couple of other things first, but once that was done, then we started on the site. It took a while to get it done, just functionality wise. But in the meantime, I did have that logo so I could start prepping all of these other things so that the day that the site went live, every single thing else changed over my price list, everything all the ones so I know that a lot of people are in hurries to rebrand and when you get it done, when I got that logo, man, I wanted to put it on everything, but I had to time it out so that when it when it did hit that all deployed at the same time, they did the same thing with previous logo's as well, just not as a unified front as it did this time. Susan a couple questions from the internet right on this very topic they're they're pretty close these two questions, so please the first one from karen chang says I made a logo for just the sake of getting something out there and put together a website, a my giving myself more worked on the road if I changed my logo entirely later and just sixteen says, how do you plan for the future and you're branding when you are young and just starting out? There's no way to plan for the future of your branding when you're young and starting out, you're young, you have no idea what you're gonna want five years down the road or ten years down the road, if you try to keep thinking down the road, you're gonna drive yourself insane. I mean, what I had for thirteen years replace older sites, they were placeholder logos, it was all I didn't know I didn't know. And karen, hi, I know karen, she is awesome. If you make a logo now and six months later, you decide that you need a different logo. It could be difficult if you're changing your whole side around, like if you're gonna do completely new, but if you're just pulling out on dropping in a new logo, don't let fear of did your stop you from doing something right now, great, seriously, and if you're sitting here like, do I have a five year plan from here? I do and do I have a ten year plan in a twenty year plan? Do I have my exit strategy from the industry figured out when I just want to sit on the porch with my husband and scream at the kids and make them get off our yard? I have that plan I want to tell it to you you don't get to know what it is because that's my future right? I can tell you that I plan on, you know, evolving continuously until the day I stopped shooting weddings and I'm not going to stop shooting and educating and shooting and educating, but I'm not going to tell you my marketing strategy for next year I don't want you to use it against me come on now, but if you're so caught up in where you're going to go down the road, you're not gonna do anything right now it's like deciding to have a baby if you're sitting around waiting for the perfect time to have a baby, you're never gonna have a baby because there is no perfect time for anything. The perfect kind of do something is right now I'm not having a baby right now there's nowhere that was going like that was not that was not my call for all of you to go procreate, but no, I'm just saying if you're still worried about making a move that you're not making any moves you're never gonna get to that ten year plan down the road is not getting off the ground now, right? Good that's really good. Similarly, the food's dog says how did she find her style? And I feel like I would guess that your answer would be similar that it's just takes time and start shooting now and explain that's why thirty days of wedding photography thinking kind of sound like a misnomer because it sounds like I'm going to give you everything that you're going to need in thirty days am I gonna help you out a lot? Yes. Am I going to cut out years of heartache and second guessing and thinking and making some of the mistakes that I've made? Yes, but I'm going to teach you a style that's gonna last you for the rest of your career? No, it took me thirteen years to get here. Did I feel good about where I was six years ago? Yeah, seven years ago eight years ago, of course. And do I feel good about where I am now? Yes, but there will be a point where I get that that each under my skin to make it different to make it better and I don't know when that's gonna be I have so many irons in the fire right now about different things and I have a lot of clients to take care of at home too but somewhere down the road that little that little sultan will start saying, and then broken day we'll say, are you serious again? Yes, sir. You mentioned a folio. You still use that on the back end to display galleries? Yes, I do. Phenomenally enough. You're gonna learn an awful lot about that in the next thirty days. I don't know how I use it, how I should galleries to clients. What the functionality is the whole nine yards and they can tie in the front page of your website so that its that's on the back can I don't use that functionality. I really just use it for the gallery side of things, but it has far beyond what I use it for. Like you can use it for a blogger, you can use it for all kinds of things. My website and my blogger hosted independently they're not on any sort of platform, which makes it a nightmare. It's really fun but it's not like we're impressed or anything like that. It's just a custom it's all a custom design and he was sort of that on the two thousand eight verse. Yes, that weird blue website it sounds like you've changed everything that your yes, when I say I blew up my life, it's both the best and worst year of my entire life stuff happens? Yes, I went through this style evolution. Did you also evolve who your client is into that change in the type of photos you include in your portfolio? Because they give you these questions? You know, I like the perfect question, like whatever I'm going through that has I'm very focused on a specific style and I know who my client is, but I do shoe in second shoe, and I I am exposed other types of yes clients, but but I'm not including them in my portfolio's it's not showing a great volume of work, and and so sometimes I feel that can hurt me when I'm being compared amongst other understood photographers when someone's shopping for their wedding photographer, in my logic about putting my work on the internet is I'm putting it all out there. I facebook if you go to my facebook page, I think it's facebook, dot com slash stripling photography I will find it. Um, I put everything out there, the barn wedding, the wedding at the hotel, the wedding in the backyard, everything because, my fred, we're gonna talk about this very heavily only talk about target clients. The one thread that unites all of my clients is their love of photography, and they're willing to invest in that is a legacy for the future. And if I'm sitting here and I'm pigeonholing, I only want this type of client I only my ideal client is the client who shops at barney's and she eats here and she lunches there that is one subset of people, but the one thing that you can't put on top of that is I can't make those people care about photography, I just can't so the unifying factor is my target client is a client that values good photography and is willing to invest in it that's why I put everything on my website from the difficult weddings where the lighting was terrible and the bride chose the worst dress for her body type and got in a fight with her mom and you know when when all the bad stuff goes down that's still a beautiful wedding and I still put that out there because I want people to see that no matter where I am there's going to be beauty in the work that I'm doing and when I sinful galleries out for potential clients to look at, I'm giving them one of everything. Now I will say, you know you're you're getting married at this urban loft in manhattan here a couple of urban loft weddings that might be similar to yours, but let me show you what I can do in a variety of different situations let me show you what I can do in the dark in the rain outside inside so I give them a wedding that hits every single difficulty and I play off of my strength and I'll lift it on all of those things so if you're looking for a target client you're doing the right thing you're putting the work out that's going to attract them but what if somebody else comes along that really loves photography that might have really resonated with something else that you're doing somewhere else and I think the unifying you know, if I look at these images hanging on the wall backyard catering hall extremely fancy country club super high end synagogue therefore completely different places with four utterly different clients that do not in any way overlap in any sort of target market demographic so you're doing the right thing but also maybe putting some more of the work out there it's going to strengthen your portfolio maybe it'll pick up somebody along the way who goes oh my gosh you really see myself in that picture yes sir yeah I'm in my first year reading my prices air quite a bit lower than yours um what advice do you have for somebody in my position in terms of branding and getting a logo? I obviously can't afford tto higher senate design this year so what advice would you have been? My advice would be to just do the best you can do right now I mean the early days or the days you make your own logo and there the days that you ask around until you find a buddy who's, maybe in school for graphic design or you try one of those like pay ninety nine dollars and everybody out there, I don't even know the website, you kind of know what I'm talking about like where you pay a little amount and then it farms it out to designers, they literally just throw logo's at the wall until they stick in my early days, I mean, I did start those s is like and that carried the whole way through, but if I didn't have any idea of where I was going, I would have gone generic wouldn't just put my name in a nice font called it a day made a website that look pretty okay that focused on the work like one of your generic templates where the backgrounds white and the work is big and then put that out there and then you'll find where you want to go with the branding like you could it doesn't have to be anything crazy if you go online and you're like, listen, I just want somebody to typeset my name ninety nine bucks you're not looking for fifteen years of being in business, brandon, you just want something that puts you out there that gets people to look at your work so say stay simple on stay clean and don't try to overshoot it we'll be fine I've seen your work you could if you could yes sir, you had mentioned when you're talking about your website rebranding yes, you kept mentioning specific words one of them was timeless there was like five words that you've mentioned and I don't remember who was there was another creative life instructor and that was something that they shoot for is that something you those were the same? Are those the same words that you when you're shooting your thinking timeless, elegant or whatever your words are classic traditional, beautiful, timeless a legacy and different unique creative finding finding the way to take that simple, beautiful, timeless thing and spin it on it's here just a little bit and that's how I shoot too but I didn't figure that out overnight none of that it took a long time, so if you're new and if you're discouraged and you have no clue where you're going with your branding in any way, shape or form go simple and then just keep working on the work and that stuff's gonna come, you're going to feel it, I swear you saw that crap that I was putting out no too like this and I didn't get to, you know, gold, double snakes and do your chains overnight like I also grew up you know, I was a baby when I started my business, I didn't know what I liked, I thought high end was j crew and now I'm dangerous at neiman marcus like it's it's evolution of style it could have gone in another way maybe maybe life had just gone in a certain direction and I gone down the anthropology router, gone down a gap or out or gone out of the industry altogether. There's just no way of knowing life guides you right like that's the thing out of your control is you can work on your style all day long, but I got divorced, I had kids, I moved to new york, I met the most amazing man I've ever met in my entire life he's now my husband to think that those things didn't change me personally would be wrong and to think that those changes in my personal life didn't affect my work would also be wrong. So I mean, I hate to say that the best marketing advice that I can have for used to go out and live your life but it's kind of true internet does the internet like living their life? They should be feeling we're feeling good feeling yet you want one more, one more question I would love one more I love you asked me a custom this's from katie and wants to know about do you have or should you include your name in your logo and your business? Do you want to? I don't know, there is no should you what's really funny is that there was a big trend for a long time of what a lot of people in photography called first middle girls, where you started your business using your first name in your middle name, and now I guess I am a first middle girl could stripling is now my middle name. Since I've gotten married, I don't know am I still susan stripling photography? I am because it was what set me apart. It was because I couldn't think of anything more creative, and I'm not lying like I didn't want to be like glitter angel unicorn photography, but I couldn't think of anything that didn't sound cheesy don't laugh there's one out that someone on the internet is like, I hate you for mocking my business name. Um, I couldn't think of anything that would accurately sum up who I was as a business owner other than my name putting my name on it, but I've seen companies out there like apertura out of california that's a freaking fantastic business name, they don't have their names in it and that's. That's incredible. There are companies that do and that's great. But honestly, I think think that's a very personal decision. And you have to do what feels best for you with that there's no right or wrong at all. I like putting my name in it because it puts a little personal touch. But then that means that I am my business. So if I ever wanted to sell it, you can't sell susan stripling photography without susan's tripling right course. What? What would I sell this for, anyhow? Like, what do you sell a wedding photography business for? But no, I mean, I'm I'm my business. My business is me. So my name was the best thing to put on it. But if you have a really clever business name like apertura dude, use it that's all I must say, that creative guy says, susan, you are so awesome sharing all your personal along with your progress. It's like watching an interesting movie. Clearly you want that many interesting movies no good will it's better interesting movie than, like interesting reality show, because this would think this would wedding photography would in fact be a phenomenal reality show, but none of us would ever get hired ever again, ever if anyone saw what goes on in the back of things wedding photography so glamorous it's really just us at three in the morning and our pajamas on like our eighth cup of coffee editing away until our hands or whittled down stones so if your stock if you're not sure where to go with your branding if you kind of don't know what to dio or even if you have gotten to a good place and you just don't know where to go next, you're always brainstorming ideas you're always looking at what similar businesses air doing not to copy them but because I think watching the evolution of your competition is an important thing to do is well, where are they going? How can you stay one step ahead of them if you don't know where they're you don't know what they're up to be professional just be professional don't steal from other people seriously it's a huge problem in industry right now is people just taking pictures from other people and putting it on their sites web designer, stealing websites and just god's sakes be professional, be cool work off of ethics, you're going to be fine and then continually revisited looking at all of the logos that I've had over the entire time that I've been in business made me realize that I have actually been true to myself the entire time except from two thousand eight toothy two, two thousand twelve branding wise. But I was still true to the work, and I was enough true to it to know when I was making a mistake. So, looking back at the stuff that you've done in the past, looking back at your old work, looking back at your old sites, that's, pretty educational to do whether it was last year or ten years ago. And, oh, by the way, if you're one year into business, just back up everything online somewhere. Because if you have to do what, I didn't dig out that moldy old box of hard drives. That's gonna be a dark week of your life when you go revisit your work from a long time ago. So if you don't have some online backup, get it right now, because I'm actually going back and uploading every single wedding that I've ever shot online. So that from two thousand two on two now, it's all up there.