Marketing Communications Plan for a Photography Studio

Introduction

All types of companies require some sort of selling practice that will promote the company’s product or service and announce them to the potential group of customers. The Photography Studio business, which provides both products and services, is no exception. However, careful considerations must be made in order to successfully sell the product and all services provided to the right kind of customer.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is a business process in which a company, whether it is a for-profit company or a non-for-profit organization, handles its interactions with its customers and crafts those interactions into lucrative ones, both for the organization itself and for its customers. In this process the companies build worth for their customers, and develop sturdy interactions with them that create profits for the company in the end. Marketing involves attracting new customers, developing those sturdy interactions with the customers, keeping them, and growing them. Marketing is not limited only to actual products sold; it is also applied to services.

The Photography Studio

The Photography Studio is a business that provides both a product and services, thus making it a bit more complicated than most businesses out there. The Photography Studio will be a brand new locally owned and operated business that provides local customers with products such as photography prints and photography equipment. The Photography Studio will also provide customers with photographic services such as studio photography, on location photography, photography editing and so forth.

Photo Studios and the Marketing Environment Forces

In every business and every type of company there are different outside elements that affect that company’s marketing department’s power to attract prospect clients, keep them, grow them and maintain a good relationship with them. All these elements and forces make what is called the marketing environment. In order to successfully maintain those customers and relationships, marketers must identify the elements that most affect their type of business and adapt their activities in order to prevail over such outside elements and challenges. The photography studio business is no exception to this rule, and they too have a marketing environment forces that affect their companies.

Competitors. Type the words “photo studio” into any search engine on the web and you will find more than 70,000,000 results, and probably more than 5 in your immediate local area. Almost all companies have to deal with competitors. You may think that companies only compete with lower prices, but this is not true. Companies must provide customers with a valuable product or service that gives customer a higher satisfaction than the competition. Nowadays more and more photographers are opening their own private small businesses, so larger companies must also compete for talent. Photo studios not only compete against each other, but also against increasing high quality of photo software that places professional editing capabilities at customers’ fingertips, sometimes even for free, and who can beat that price? Nowadays, the creation of new digital cameras with more automatic options and easier to use than ever, anyone can become a self-proclaimed professional photographer by just reading a manual, making for dozens of photographers who compete for wedding and senior photography customers everyday. Which brings us to our next challenge and marketing environment factor: technology.

Technological Environment. As new technology develops each year, products become obsolete, but also new products give way to new opportunities, new products and services, and opens up new markets. A long time ago starting a photography business would cost you $20,000 for only the initial equipment you needed, now anyone who can afford a $600 camera can have a shot at the photography business. Moreover, new developments in technology, such as new software capabilities and digital imaging enables customers to edit their own photos, scan them, copy them and reproduce them using at-home software and hardware such as printers. Printers nowadays can be connected to your point-and-shoot cameras and print all your photos at the touch of a button. These new technologies act also as competitors for photo studios, because the more customers can do themselves at home, the less they need the photo studio’s services. Not to mention that with the widespread use of the Internet images are easily copied and more and more people are involved in copyright infringement.

Economic Environment. You might think that economic trends affect all types of businesses, but some may be more affected than others. If the economy is good in general, then the customers will have a stronger buying power and higher spending patterns, and the opposite will be true for a bad economy. For example, if businesses are doing well they will probably have enough money to spend in advertising, which includes photography services. However, during a bad economy, the costs of advertising are usually the first to be cut back.

Target Market and Positioning of the Photo Studio

Once the Photography Studio has identified the segments it whishes to serve, it can analyze each of those segments’ appeal and select one or more market segments to serve. The Photography Studio business will have a market segmentation based on the geographical location to where the business will operate. It will also have a market segmentation based on social class, serving those customers who belong to the middle class, all the way to the upper uppers class. It will also have a market segmentation based on family life cycle, including young seniors at local high schools, singles who are engaged and about to be married, and married couples with children on the way or who already have children. Also, considering these are all special occasions, we can establish a target for behavioral variables such as special occasions like graduations, engagements, weddings, maternity, birth, holidays, and so forth.

The company will be located in a part of town where higher income families live and work, therefore targeting a specific geographical location as well as social class, which can be considered micromarketing and local marketing. The company will use a differentiated or segmented marketing in which it will create different offers for each of the family life cycles it will target. This will be the most profitable option for the company, because it will target clients located in a good neighborhood or area, clients who can afford professional photography services and clients who need photographic services to capture the special moments in their family life cycle, or special occasions.

There are plenty of photography studios out there, how can the Photography Studio business differentiate itself from other competitors? The Studio would remain competitive in regards to pricing, but would offer additional or better services. The studio would offer additional services like in-house hair, makeup and wardrobe consultations for portrait shots; the ability to immediately select and view all the shots taken and decide which ones to print and purchase; on location photography, in different locations other than the studio; the ability to view and share your portraits and experience through the company’s website; the ability to schedule, view, edit, print, share and store all your photographs on your mobile device with a unique application provided by the company; and finally extra photographic services for all photographic needs such as photo shoots, editing, special effects, restoring, printing photos, greeting cards, canvas, framing, enlargements, photo books, calendars, mugs, mouse pads, photo DVDs and videos, passport photos, and much more.

The Photography Studio positioning strategy would be a “More for More” strategy. The Studio would offer much, much more services than any other competitor out there, but it would have to charge more also for all the extra services. The Studio would offer the best quality products and the largest range of products for extra, but the prices would not exceed the customer’s capability to afford them.

The Photography Studio’s position statement would be as follows: For your busy family planning for the most important events of your lives and when you need to capture these special moments to keep and share forever, our Photo Studio is a one-stop photography solution spot for all your photographic needs where you can look your best, pick the best shots, be captured everywhere and anywhere, share the shots with anyone and take them with you wherever you go.

Photography Studios: Shopping Product with Great Product Features

The photography studio business falls under the Shopping Products category. People usually purchase photographic services less frequently than other products, like convenience products. When people purchase photographic services, they will usually compare prices, quality, speed, and style. People who consider purchasing photographic services will usually investigate and compare all the characteristics of each business to select the best one for them.

The marketing considerations that need to be made for the Photography Studio, based on its classification under Shopping Products are very simple. If prospect clients are out there comparing and contrasting all the Photo Studios in the area to select the best one, then the Photo Studio must provide deals and offers that appeal to those customers comparing each business. Marketers of photography services have to provide strong offers and deals in selected outlets, not just everywhere, but where it matters.

The most important decisions to be made in developing a Photography Studio Business compared to other competitors will be in the areas of Product and Service Attributes. More specifically, the Photography Studio would concentrate in providing exceptional Product Features. The best way to compete with other businesses is to be the first of those businesses to offer a new feature. The Photography Studio in question will offer plenty of new, improved and added features to all photographic services that it will make them the first choice for prospect clients.

The Photo Studio and the Pricing Dilemma

There are three main areas that will affect the pricing strategy of the Photo Studio’s products and services. These main areas are the customer’s perception of the value, the product cost and other internal and external considerations. The customer’s perception of the value of the products and services that the Photo Studio offers is what will determine the highest prices that the Photo Studio could charge for such products and services. This means that whatever amount the customers perceives as too much for the product or service that they are receiving then that is the amount art the very top that the Photo Studio should charge below of, otherwise, the customers will not purchase the service.  The product cost is all the combined expenses that the Photo Studio needs to spend in order to provide a product or service. The Photo Studio should not charge below this amount. For example, if the photo studio hires a photographer to take pictures at a high school graduation, and then all the images are printed and provided to the class on a CD, then the Photo Studio must calculate the amount they are spending on the photographer’s services, the printing cost and the cost of the CD, and they should charge the high-school more than this amount.

But these are not the only areas that the Photo Studio should consider when setting prices. The Studio should also consider external factors like competitor’s prices for example. Because clients may chose the competition over the Photo Studio, if their prices are set too high, and the competition is offering the same service and quality. The Photo Studio should also consider their previously decided target market and positioning.  Since the target market for this Photo Studio was higher income families, then the prices could be higher than the competitor’s. Since the positioning for this Photo Studio was a “More for More” strategy, then the prices would definitely be higher than the competition.

This particular Photo Studio is targeted to higher income families; therefore it makes sense to use a pricing method that would be on the higher end of the pricing curves. This Photo Studio will use the value-base pricing method to set prices for the products and services that they offer. Price setting will begin by understanding the prospect customers’ needs and value perceptions, what are they paying and what are they receiving from competitors. A price then is set that matches the customer’s perceived value. Then costs that can be incurred must be determined and finally the products that will deliver the value at the target price must be designed.

More specifically the Photo Studio in question will use the value-added pricing method. Since the positioning is one of “More-for-More”, then the Photo Studio will create value-added features to the products and services it offers to differentiate it from the competitors and sustain the higher prices.

Distribution Channels

In a Photo Studio that offers a one-stop for all photographic needs, then the customer should feel no need for other intermediaries in the process of receiving their products and services from the Photo Studio. Therefore, this company will sell directly to the consumer.

Since the Photo Studio will implement a direct marketing channel, there will only be two members in the channel, the Photo Studio and the final consumer. This could be considered exclusive distribution, because only the Photo Studio, and perhaps any franchise owners and other locations of the store would have the right to distribute the company’s products and services. The Photo Studio will employ their own sales representatives, their own photographers in studio and on location, they will be prepared with all equipment necessary to manage, print and edit all images for the customers. Therefore, there will be no need for any other intermediary or member of the channel.

The channel organization of the direct marketing channel is pretty simple, because it only involves the Photo Studio and the final customer. However, the Photo Studio could engage in several other channel organizations. A good example would be to create a horizontal marketing system with companies that provide yearbook creations to local high schools. In such channel organization, the Photo Studio could join forces with a local printing company who provides such services and be the main photography studio to provide photography services to high schools that need to take pictures to include in their yearbooks.

Another option could be to partake in a multichannel distribution system in which the Photo Studio can create or develop more marketing channels to reach other customer segments. For example, the company could create on marketing channel for all high school potential customers, another marketing channel for all wedding customers, and yet another channel for maternity and birth customers. This will enable the company to further specify the different options, offers and services that they can provide for each customer segment.

The Marketing Communications Mix of the Photo Studio

After analyzing the marketing environment forces that impact the Photo Studio, positioning the company, selecting the target market, identifying the type of product and service that the company is providing, pricing those products and services, and selecting a proper distribution channel, the last step, and probably the most important one would be to select the proper marketing communications mix to persuade customers and inform them about the Photo Studio.

Overview. There are more than plenty promotion tools for the Photo Studio to take advantage of and use to persuade and inform customer about the products and services that it offers. These tools include advertising, sales promotions, personal selling, public relations and direct marketing. The Photo Studio will not engage in mass marketing, but rather develop a focused marketing program to better create a stronger relationship with its customers. But using so many tools to create a more customized marketing strategy can pose some difficulties and the Photo Studio should always keep a clear and consistent message throughout all the tools, in order to have a successful integrated marketing communications mix.

Promotion Mix Strategy. The Photo Studio will focus a large portion of its marketing efforts in advertising, even though it can be very expensive. The Photo Studio will also offer a large amount of sales promotions. However, the Photo Studio will focus less on direct marketing, personal selling and public relations. The Photo Studio will use a pull strategy, because it will focus mainly in advertising and consumer promotions to attract customers.

The Message. The message that will be informed to the Photo Studio’s target market across all the promotional tools chosen will be a clear and consistent message. This Photo Studio is for high-income customers that have busy lives and want to look their best; therefore the studio’s message should reflect this benefit. The message will be a clear and simple statement as follows:

“Busy? Let us take the picture. We’ll make you look good”.

Advertisement. Advertisement was chosen as the main promotional tool for the Photo Studio because it will allow the company to reach all potential customers in the local area by being exposed to them in many several ways. It will also help the Photo Studio to become locally known and the message widely spread. The Photo Studio will use advertising in the forms of local TV ads, to constantly inform the locals about the studio. Listings in local yellow pages would allow for potential customers looking for photographic services to find us. Flyers and brochures in local schools would serve for seniors to consider the company for their senior studio shots. Local events magazines that advertise wedding locations will also advertise the Photo Studio as the place to go for your wedding photography needs.

Sales Promotion. Sales promotions will be offers to potential customers so that they are enticed to book a photo shoot and buy prints from the Photo Studio as soon as possible in order to take advantage of the deals being offered. This promotional tool will be used because it will entice and attract customers. Deals such as referring a friend could be offered to seniors at the local high school so more customers from the same high school would choose our Photo Studio over the others because they can receive a discount by referring their friends. Discounts can also be offered to couples that are engaged and taking their engagement pictures and sign a contract to also book the Photo Studio for their wedding pictures. Discounts can also be offered to customers who print their photos at the Photo Studio and offering discounts with more quantities of prints provided.

Direct Marketing. The Photo Studio chose direct marketing, because once it has a database of all past and prospect customers, the company will be able to send customized and immediate messages to those clients. For example, the Photo Studio can choose only a portion of the database, those interested or who previously purchased engagement photo shots, and offer 10% discount on wedding photography. This will be conveniently done by the Photo Studio by using a computer based database that would classify customers by their different interest, age group and such, in order to send specific mass e-mails and newsletters to those customers who would most likely be interested in the offers the studio is presenting. The best part is that it would pose no major expenses by the company to create such marketing promotions.

Conclusion

If the Photo Studio is prepared, it creates and follows a good marketing communications plan, then most likely the studio will be successful in attracting, keeping and growing the customers and clients it provides services too. However, the Photo Studio should always pay attention to the changes in the environment forces affecting the marketing strategy in order to adapt it to those changes and continue to have a good marketing communications plan.

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Large Family Photo Shoot (Tips & Ideas)

One of the most difficult photo shoots are the ones where you have a large group of people, like a large family photo shoot.   As the photographer, not only do you have to be assertive and control everyone involved, but you also have to make sure everyone looks great in one single shot.   Unless you plan to spend hours in Photoshop and select everyone’s perfect shot and compile it into one.
The first time I had to take a large family photo shoot, I was a bit nervous at first, but I realized the best way to deal with that was to have fun.   Have fun with the family.   I had to take a photo shoot of a family of 6 adults and 3 kids, for a total of 9 people.   Adults are easy, but mixing in the children into the large family photos it’s a bit tricky.   You have to get them to look at you, all of them, at the same time.   The adults will try to help you when it comes to making the children look at the camera and smile, but by doing that THEY will end up being the ones not looking at the camera.  It is tougher with younger children, but if I could do it, so can you!

So here are a couple of tips and ideas for your own family photo shoot, whether you are the photographer or the family.

Color Coordinated Clothing

Color Coordinated Clothing

Clothing

The most important tip I always give my photography clients before I photograph them is to color coordinate their outfits.   The second tip, is don’t dress in white! Having a color-coordinated family looks cute, and also makes everyone in the photo look like they belong together, as a cohesive family unit.   But you don’t have to look boring or too similar.   You can create a cohesive look by deciding a color scheme first.   You can base your color scheme on the seasons, the location of the photo shoot, the family’s favorite sports team, fashion trends, or even a family inside joke.   Usually casual styles are better, and jeans are a favorite so everyone is comfortable.   However, you can always go more formal for some Holiday photos or studio shots that will probably end up on your Family Holiday Greeting Cards.   Just make sure you all follow the same style, whether it is casual or formal.   You don’t all have to wear jeans and a green shirt.   If your color scheme is green and blue, then girls can wear green skirts and a blue shirt, and guys can wear jeans and a green shirt.   Also play with layers, a sweater over a shirt, a scarf, etc.   Matching everyone’s outfit doesn’t mean the same shirt and pants for everyone, but the same colors over all, in different pieces of clothing.   Different shades of the same color are good too.   For these large groups it’s good to stay away from too much patterns.   It is best to select pieces that are solid colors and that don’t have distinctive words, like the brand’s logo on them.   Remember that your shoes will show in some pictures, so make sure they match your outfit!

Different Levels

Different Levels

Posing

Great family photos usually feel like everyone in the picture loves each other and are happy.   But we all know that is usually not the case in real life.   Setting up the family in a pose to create the “Perfect Family” photo might be difficult.   Different heights, age, hair color, couples, kids, and clothing can help you decide how to place each person in the picture.   The tallest people behind the shortest people, the kids in the middle, the oldest in the middle, each couple on a different area.   All of these are good possibilities, but a bit overdone.   Think outside the box, group people in two’s or three’s and compose the larger group with those smaller groups, and even separate each group in a different level, one group behind another, or on a step above or sitting down below.   However, make sure to “angle” everyone, meaning don’t line everyone up one next to another with their shoulders touching each other’s.   Make sure they stand at an angle so their shoulders overlap instead.   Also, make sure they don’t tilt their heads towards the person next to them; people tend to do that when taking pictures.   You can also split the group up and take a moment to take some shots of each individual section of the family, like only the kids, or only the grandparents, or only the couples.   Also remember to take Candid photos.   While the family is repositioning, moving to another location, taking a break, keep taking pictures and catch them when they are not looking.

Beware of Funny Faces :)

Beware of Funny Faces 🙂

Taking the photos

Make sure you adjust all your camera settings before you begin shooting.   If you are not sure about a certain pose, or background, test it with the adults first, and then include the kids when you are ready, so they don’t get restless while you are taking the shots.   Make sure all the subjects are lit in the same manner, so that you don’t have some people in the shade and others in the sun.   Focus on the person in the middle, or right next to it.   Make sure you continue shooting even if everyone is moving or changing places, you might miss out on something fun.   However, make sure you continue to check your photos after you move on to a different pose or location, and check to make sure no one blinked or made funny faces.

Keep Shooting, Even When No One Is Posing!

Keep Shooting, Even When No One Is Posing!

More Tips

Always check the weather!!!
– You might need some shade for the children while they wait, so bring an umbrella.
– Bring a toy or something that usually catches the kids’ attention, so you can get them to look at the camera.
– Ask your clients to think of different poses that they would like and to practice them. Also, if they have a sample of something they want, they should give it to you. Like if they want a particular pose they’ve seen somewhere else, or if they want a particular toy or thing in the picture.
– Let your clients know that if you keep shooting pics when they are not really posing, not to be caught off-guard, sometimes the best pics are the ones where they are not posing.

Unexpected Angles & Poses

Unexpected Angles & Poses

*Special thank you to the beautiful Hunt Family for allowing me to share their large family photo-shoot with the world 🙂

Market-teen

As good artists, graphic designers tend to focus on the aesthetic aspects of their design.  They study concepts like alignment, color, consistency, constancy, figure-ground relationships, legibility, and other important components of the Gestalt principles of perception.  However, graphic designers need to remember the usual main purpose of their artwork and designs.  This general purpose of graphic designer’s art is usually to advertise.  Advertising is defined as the act of persuading an audience to do something; something like purchasing a product or service, changing their beliefs or even perceiving someone or some company in a certain way.  Therefore, advertising is not just fun cool designs, but most importantly the ability to persuade an audience.  However, how far can advertising go?  Where does the line between caring about customers and caring about sales is drawn?  Is one more important than the other?  Is advertising purely focused on sales potentially harmful to customers?  This is what Frontline’s episode on “The Merchants of Cool” seems to explore.

Reaching Teens and Reaching Others

A company’s main purpose is clearly to have enough sales to support it.  The same seems true for small companies, as well as the top companies, like the media giants such as Viacom, Disney, Vivendi, News Corporation, Universal and AOL Time Warner.  Perhaps this is why these big companies target the most profitable market, which seems to be the teen market.  The fact that teenagers have excess money to spend, and they influence their parents’ spending decisions, make teenagers a very profitable market.  These and other companies have even been using different tactics and venues to reach teens that they don’t use to reach other target audiences.  These big companies go to great extent to reach their audiences.  They actively study teenagers, they question them through focus groups and they even go as far as spending one-on-one time with ordinary teenagers in their homes to gather information about them.  The value of the teenagers’ opinions and preferences is so high, that they even let those same teenagers control what they are fed through different media outlets.  No other target audience receives such undivided attention.

An early MTV station ID

Image via Wikipedia

MTV and Their Revolutionary Advertising Ideas

The name of the television network MTV, stand for Music Television, and it was first launched in 1981 for the main purpose of promoting music and music videos.  In reality, the network should have been called ATV, for Advertising Television.  Advertising was the main purpose of MTV.  Sure, they advertise music artists and music videos, but they secretly advertise a variety of other products 24/7.  They advertise sponsoring products like soft drinks, clothing, and movies mostly created by the MTV parent company, Viacom.  As a result, the company is using this network to advertise the company itself and all the products and services the company sells.  It is pure advertising genius.

Advertising and Audiences

Getting this close to audiences can be very profitable for these big companies, however it can be very harmful to the teenagers in America.  While the advertising companies get closer and closer to their target audiences, they gain valuable insight into their worlds.  They learn how to relate and how to attract and persuade the audience to do pretty much anything they want them to do.  This situation is obviously very lucrative for these businesses, but what about the audience?  The audience, such as teenagers, are left with no privacy, no sense of their own.  Teenagers become so persuadable that they do not even notice that they are being influenced and persuaded, and they do not notice how this is happening.  This can pose a serious problem when teenage girls are persuaded to act more mature than they are, to dress sexually and provocatively, and ultimately become targets of sexual harassment, abuse and molestation.  Teenage boys are influenced to act immaturely and engage in activities that are harmful to their physical well being by shows such as “Jackass”.

Conclusion

Personally, I think that advertisement, such as the one used by these big companies mentioned above, are sadly very effective.  I believe that if these same companies would use their influence on teenagers in a good way, we could educate teenagers about what is right and what is wrong, instead of poisoning their brains with these wrong ideas of what being “cool” means.  Advertisements such as those by “Above the Influence” still use trendy elements in their ads, but they are presenting an idea that is constructive to the society in trying to keep teenagers out of drugs (Abovetheinfluence.com).  In this case, all the research about teenagers and what they find “cool” or “trendy” can help influence teenagers to stay out of drugs.

The video of the Frontline episode regarding “The Merchants of Cool”, definitely expand on my belief of what is wrong with society today.  How can we expect the future leaders of the world to be good ones, if all we are teaching and feeding them is ideas that smoking is “cool”, having lots of sex is “cool”, and doing drugs is “cool”.  However, as hypocritical as it may sound, we are consumers, and even though I do not agree with the impact of these advertising techniques on teenagers and their development, I don’t think that it would impact what kind of products I chose to purchase.  I do believe however, that when the time comes I will teach my children not to fall for those advertisements and not to think that those things are “cool” just because the commercial or MTV said so.  They should form their own opinions of what is right and wrong through the teaching of their parents, school and religion, and not through the media.

Frontline: The Merchants of Cool [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/

Marketing & Stereotypes: The Abercrombie & Fitch Story

Nowadays it is human nature to attempt to classify people, products and brands into different stereotypes.  A stereotype is a standard classification that individuals commonly classify other people, products and brands.  People are stereotyped because of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and even the types of products they buy and clothes they wear.  Stereotyping is not something that should be practiced, because it is wrong to assume an individual’s personality or beliefs based on their looks, clothes or products they purchase.  Even though stereotyping is not something highly recommended by society, people still stereotype other people based on such shallow observations.  One example of stereotyping based on clothes is the stereotype or label of “Preppy”, “Preppie” or “Prep” given to individuals who wear clothes sold by stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and American Eagle.

The word “preppy” actually came about in the 1950’s, and it derived from “preparatory schools”.  The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or WASP term was highly associated with the term “preppy”.  The WASP community was mostly high-class individuals who attended such prestigious schools and dressed in a laid-back, yet luxurious clothing of brands such as Lacoste and Lilly Pulitzer.   This style was then re-launched by stores like Abercrombie & Fitch in a more affordable price for teenagers of modern days that belong to the middle and higher social classes.  The preppy kids back in the 1950’s where actually members of high-class societies, went to Ivy League colleges and universities and private preparatory schools, they owed yachts and boats, and could afford expensive taste such as Ralph Lauren.  The preppy kids nowadays do not form part of such high-class and do not own expensive boats or attend prestigious colleges and schools, but they can afford to look like they belong to the same high-class as the 1950’s preppy kids because of stores like Abercrombie & Fitch.

Abercrombie and fitch Paris summer 2011 advert...

Image by cattias.photos via Flickr

Abercrombie & Fitch Users and Stereotypes

I do believe that users and consumers of Abercrombie & Fitch clothing identify with the “preppy” stereotype.  The Abercrombie & Fitch crowds are labeled by others as “preppy”, and they do not consider this an insult, but instead a compliment.  “Preppy” kids are usually the popular kids in high schools who are concerned with looks, popularity and material possessions.  Even though some of them do not belong to high social class, they like thinking that they look that way.  The reality is that Abercrombie & Fitch is not actually a real “preppy” store, because they are not as expensive as the real “preppy” clothes like Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, etc.  However, the style does look like the more expensive stores.

Abercrombie and fitch Paris summer 2011 advert...

Image by cattias.photos via Flickr

Stereotypes and Sales

The “preppy” stereotype helps Abercrombie & Fitch sales.  Mainly because most middle-class teenagers who wish to belong in the popular group may not be able to afford the real expensive “preppy” brands like Lacoste.  Therefore, they will choose to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch because the clothing looks like the more expensive clothing and has the same “preppy” style, but it is much more affordable for teenage kids with a middle-class allowance.  The more they wish to fit in to the popular crowd the more clothing they will buy from stores like Abercrombie & Fitch.  The “preppy wannabe” crowd purchase clothing from Abercrombie & Fitch basically because of the way it makes them feel.  The clothing makes them feel like they belong in the “preppy” crowd.

The image of Abercrombie & Fitch today.

Image via Wikipedia

Stereotypes in the Advertising Campaigns

The Abercrombie & Fitch advertising campaigns most definitely intentionally designed to target the “preppy” and “preppy wannabe” crowds.  If we look at their advertisement and images placed throughout their stores we can appreciate the intent of the ads through their design, and specifically the scale of the photographs being displayed at each store.  Most of their advertisement feature clean-shaved, clean-cut, muscular, slim body, Caucasian, good-looking people.  These are the typical characteristics that fit the “preppy” individuals.  Another major effort from this company to keep the advertisement targeted at “preppy” teenagers is the fact that they hire people who fit into this stereotype to work in their stores.  There have even been lawsuits against the company because they would not hire a Muslim individual, according to her, because of her headscarf.  There was another case of another teenager who claimed they would not let her work outside of the back storage of an Abercrombie and Fitch store because of her prosthetic arm.

Branding and Re-Branding

As Graphic Designers, we should constantly be aware of our surroundings, paying attention to design styles, trends and branding.   Branding can be defined as the process a company uses to build awareness about their products and organization, as well as to extend customer loyalty.   The branding process involves several steps to ensure successful branding of the company and its products.   The steps involved include conducting research, clarifying strategy, designing identity, creating touchpoints and managing assets.   Many companies have modified their branding strategy in the last step in order to change their branding, diversify their branding or limit their branding.

A good example of a company that has managed its assets in order to change and diversify its branding is Federal Express.   Founded in 1993 as Federal express, the company later changed its name to FedEx Corporation.   Later, the company acquired different logistics and shipping companies to provide a wider list of services.   The company now has several different company services such as FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx Custom Critical and FedEx Trade Networks.   Each logotype for each service is the same; the difference is that the word “Ex” is color coded to each service.   For example, FedEx Corporation is grey, FedEx Express is orange, FedEx Ground is green, FedEx Freight is red, FedEx Custom Critical is blue, and FedEx Trade Networks is yellow.

Fedex truck

Image by Crystian Cruz via Flickr

The choice to diversify and expand the company branding was ultimately beneficial.   Because of their diversification and expansion, FedEx could now provide different types of services to their loyal customers under the same recognizable branding.   The identity risks of expanding the company’s branding to a number of different services is that the customer could be confused when identifying the company, a particular service or the parent company.   The visual branding considerations that a company must keep in mind when expanding its brand identity is, like in FedEx’s case, to not alter the original branding so much that the customers are unable to recognize the parent company.   Looking at FedEx’s decisions to expand and the branding that they chose, I think it was a good idea and it was executed perfectly and it ultimately was a success for the company.

What is the Design Brief? And Why Do I Need It?

As we embark on a new project for a new client, there are certain steps we must follow, before we even begin to create any designs for the project.   We can’t just simply jump on the computer and begin creating anything that we can think of for the project.   We must first complete those specific steps.   This is when the design brief comes in.

The Design Brief and its Importance

A design brief is the first step of a design project.   The brief is a thorough document that provides an overview of the entire project.   This document informs the client, as well as the designer and everyone else involved, about the steps to be completed before, during and after the development and production of the project.   The design brief is very important and should be revisited before, during and after the project is completed.   The design brief will also serve as a reference document to guarantee that the finished product fulfilled the design’s objectives, it will reach the specific target audience, and it is following the predetermined path.

Parts of a Design Brief

Design briefs can vary when it comes to content.   The design brief template or parts should be tailored to each individual type of project and client.   However, there are a couple of important sections that must always be present.   A design brief should be thorough, clean and organized so that all the parties involved have a clear understanding of the entire project.   Most design briefs usually include a cover/title page; a table of contents page; an executive summary or corporate profile of the client’s company; an overview of the current situation of the company; information about the target audience; the overall objective of the project; description of the components or deliverables; a timeline for the project’s completion; the budget allotted for the project; personnel requirements; and payment schedule.

Importance of Research

Conducting research about the target market and current competitors of a specific project is crucial.   In order to tailor a design and effectively communicate the message to the target audience and to persuade the consumer that the product is better than the competition, we must first understand who is going to read the message (target audience) and what are the competitors saying about their products.   If we launched an advertising campaign for an educational product for elementary school students and we used a scary monster as the image of the product and we had the same message as one of our competitors, we would be ignoring the target audience and the current messages by competitors.   In order for the campaign to be successful, extensive research should be conducted about the target audience and competitors.

Important Steps

I believe that the most important steps in a design brief are the project objectives, target audience and competitors.   The same goes for the creation of a new product.   In order to successfully create a product or a design package for a product, we must first know what is the message we are trying to convey, who is this message aimed at, and what are other companies saying about their similar products.   When we research and understand these three steps then we can tailor the message to the right audience.

Here is a downloadable example of a Design Brief prepared as an assignment for an Advanced Graphic Design I class, as a mock proposal for an existing company that specializes in educational software and gaming systems for elementary school children.

Design Brief Sample

Working with Clients

If you have already worked as a Graphic Designer, either as a freelancer or within a company, you already know the difficulties you may face with certain clients.   Like in any other career field, you have a client, and a product or service you provide.   Sometimes what the client expects or thinks about that product or service, is not actually what the company or freelancer offers.   The most important step is to know everything about a project from the very beginning.   Also, having constant communication with the client will help with the success of the final product, service or design.

Final Say

As graphic designers a client generally approaches us with a design problem, and we are required to find a solution.   The client is the person who ultimately has the final say on what the product should look like and how it should work, based on their own knowledge of the target audience they are trying to convey a message to.   As a graphic designer, you should approach the situation as if you where part of that target audience.   The reason is so that you can advise your client on what is the best way to reach their target audience in terms of a good design.

For example, if a client comes to you and asks for a flyer to advertise their online business like an online only shoe retailer, you may suggest that an e-mail advertisement would be best to reach their target audience (clients already using the internet, and on their client database).   However, your suggestion may be ignored and the client could still decide to go with the printed flyer.   Your job as a designer is to design the flyer and that’s it.   If they did not agree with your suggestion, then you should provide what they are requesting from you.

Freedoms

The freedoms you have, as a designer in the process, will depend on each project.   Some clients may have no idea what they want their design to look like, and they may tell you to come up with something on your own, and that you may choose colors and everything, so you have a lot of creative freedoms with those clients.   Some other clients know exactly what they want and what they want it to look like, and they would even do it themselves if they knew how to use the software, so you may have very limited freedoms with those types of clients.   Some clients know more or less what they want, but they need your design expertise to guide them when choosing design elements, typefaces and colors, so you have some limitations and some freedoms with those types of clients.   You are most definitely allowed to refuse providing services to certain clients, before beginning to work with them, if what they are trying to create is illegal, or against your beliefs, morals or religion.   But you must do so respectfully to their needs, or perhaps suggest a different designer that you know can help with their situation.

Steps to Follow

As a graphic designer, you must plan on taking several steps to assess the situation and the perceived tasks ahead to rectify the situation.   First and foremost, you should analyze each project individually to make sure that the project’s extent is within your technical capabilities.   Second, you should ensure that you have all the information from the client about the project.   Third, you should provide the client with the proper documentation about the project (design brief) and come to a written agreement about the course of action with the client, including the amount of “changes” allowed and charges that go along with those changes.   Finally, you should provide a summary after the work was completed to show the client how the design solution successfully solves the design problem.

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