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Branding & Design Question: How Do I Brand For Multiple Services?

Astrid Mueller, one of our Sage Branding Specialists, and owner of Astrid Mueller Boutique Branding is here to answer some branding and design questions from one of our readers.

What’s the best way to brand multiple (semi-related) services? In my case, I am a photographer who provides wedding, corporate and pet photography. Is it better to create one brand and show all my work under one site, or create multiple brands for each niche? I currently work with a studio for weddings, so I have a wedding blog, a separate pet photography site/brand, and a blogsite where I try to incorporate everything.

I’ve heard that people looking for a corporate photographer might be turned off if they see weddings on a site. I think that is valid, but the flip side is that managing separate websites, blogs and social media accounts for each service can be overwhelming. I’d love to hear your advice on an issue that probably affects a lot of people in our industry (photographers, videographers, florists, planners, etc.)

Thanks,  Stephen

Thank you for your great question, Stephen, and thank you Michelle for inviting me to share my thoughts! I’ve encountered this important question during my own brand strategy before, and I’m sure many other business owners will benefit as we start this discussion here.

Before I start, please bear in mind that there are always different approaches and opinions, and every situation is different. I personally work by the principles of branding experts like Jack Trout (Differentiate or Die) and Karen Post (Creating Unique Brands that Stick in Your Customers’ Minds). I have successfully applied their strategies to my own business, as well as when working with my branding customers. My thoughts to your question will be based on the information I have from your email. Possibly a different solution may emerge as the best one for you, if we set up a call and discuss your situation in more detail.

I see the following 3 options for you:

1) Put 3 offerings under 1 umbrella: 1 website, 1 communication strategy. One fits all.

2) Separate each, have 3 separate brands and 3 separate communication strategies.

3) Separate each, but eliminate one or 2 of your other offerings and focus on one

Before I give my brand strategy recommendation to you, let’s ponder a few thoughts.

To have a successful brand, people need to be able to remember what you’re about. With the overflow of information that inundates us every day, this message needs to be as clear, simple and unique as possible.

If you’re catering to a well-paying customer group and seek to make a name for yourself, you should position yourself as the expert in an area, so that people will trust you. Customers who have a good budget (which I’ll assume you’re catering to) seek service providers who are worth the money (specialists). Be as unique as possible! This is where brand definition comes in  (feel free to use my complimentary brand questionnaire to help you find the uniqueness of your brand). The more varied your offering is, the less likely you are considered an expert in one thing (but a master in none). You’re already suspecting this, and I can confirm it.

For example, if I look for a great wedding photographer, and I’m ready to pay good money for him/her, I’ll seek out someone who specializes in exactly what I’m looking for. Someone I resonate with (this is where emotional branding comes in), someone who gets me. Someone who I think is a better fit for me than other photographers (his brand really appeals to me emotionally, and stands out). If I find a photographer who does weddings and pet photography and corporate he will not be my first choice. If I even notice him in my search, I will most likely dismiss him as generic. Generic is not the keyword to success. Be unique.

For example, Stella & Moscha specializes in Greek island weddings, and their brand is designed to appeal emotionally to high-end, value-oriented, international brides.

Let’s think of customer referrals for a moment. What sounds better and may be more effective: a recommendation like “the great photographer whom I hired for my wedding – he also does corporate photography, and he can shoot your pet too!” or, something like “there’s this guy who specializes in lifestyle pet photography. His work is amazing. He shoots from the viewpoint of your pet’s life, magazine-documentary style. He even does pet fashion show photography!”. Which one will be more remembered, unique and trust evoking? Which experience will be more likely to result in a referral? Note the second person may not have even booked you yet, but simply have noticed you because you stood out as special.

My recommendation: keep your brands separate.

As outlined above, it is usually not the best choice to bring different offerings together under one umbrella – not unless they somehow complement each other and this strategy adds value to your brand.

Now that we ruled out 1) (to put all your offerings under one umbrella) you’re left to decide between option 2) (keep all offerings) or 3) (specialize). Ask yourself these questions: Which of your current customer assignments make your heart beat highest? Weddings? Pet photography? Corporate? If anything was possible, what are you REALLY passionate about and most good at? Could you maybe get rid of one or 2? Or, since you’re thinking about this right now, is there maybe something entirely different that you’ve been dreaming about that you’d LOVE to do instead of all of the above, and just haven’t pursued yet? You’re a business owner. Live your dream.

Follow your passion, choose a specialty.

My recommendation is do what you’re REALLY passionate about. If you love all 3 of your offerings, do keep them – there are creative ways of limiting upkeep and communication efforts. But if there are any assignments that you love less than others, I recommend you ditch these and put all your efforts in the arena(s) you really care about. Passion is contagious – people connect with brands that have passion behind them. If you’re excited about doing photo art for customers, they’ll be much more inclined to book you (and trust you) then if you’re “just” doing a great job. Passion also brings energy – without passion in what you do it’s so hard to keep going, especially if you’re running your own business. Why do that do yourself? Choose your favorite field(s), specialize as much as possible, and make a name for yourself in a niche market.

YogiProducts.com is one of my favorite examples for a unique brand that specializes in a niche, catering to and connecting emotionally with a very specific female audience.

How to limit communication and website updating:

Think creatively, and from the viewpoint of your target audience. If you choose to keep corporate photography, maybe the communication strategy for these customers could be slimmed down to just a website portfolio and 1:1 networking with business cards, tailor-made to appeal to CEOs and company decision makers. Combine it with golf in your spare-time and you’ll cover both without extra effort.

For your pet photography maybe a unique direct-marketing approach with a dog cookie sent to a specific dog-lover neighborhood could to email newsletter sign-ups where you give dog lifestyle fashion tips every 2 months? Dare to be silly. You can always mellow down a list of silly ideas later. It’s much harder to make a list of boring things interesting.

How about your brides? Where are your ideal brides currently finding you? Blogs can be very time-intensive. Maybe you don’t need it? If your website is wordpress-based, google reads every website update like a blog update. Maybe this will be enough for you? Twitter has never brought me brides personally, it seems more of a wedding professionals connection plattform. Maybe you can save time there. Possibly building a strong network of referral partners in your area will be more effective in bringing you customers?

Hope this helps to inspire you! If you have more questions, feel welcome to email me any time. I’d love to hear which direction you’ll go. And if you like help to find your way, I’ll be here for you too.

Warmly,
Astrid
Astrid Mueller LLC
astrid@AstridMueller.com

AstridMuellerBoutiqueBranding.com

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