How To Infuse Your True Personality Into Your Brand

March 16, 2016

By Oli Sansom

I wanna make you cry.
I wanna make your children cry.
I wanna make your children’s children cry.

If this reads like a creepy monologue from an early ‘90s horror flick, you’d be wrong; this was actually the formerly revised contents of my About page just a couple of years ago for my wedding site—you know, that page consisting of sunshine, happiness and good times, designed to entice your audience and tease them with the positivity to come.

I was about a year into the game, I’d raised my prices and several inquiries were rolling in each week. It seemed poignant and fitting to me that when the response we receive to delivering our work manifests itself in tears of gratitude and connection, my About page should communicate that emotional goal in some way. So I went ahead and typed this manifesto.

Unfortunately for me, the net response to it was a grand total of no inquiries for a couple of months. I had attempted to zero in further on my target audience using market polarization (I’ll explain this in a bit) as an experiment, and it nosedived. Quite spectacularly.

Why had it failed? It was less about being a dramatic misfire on the execution, and more about not considering my audience: I did not have a large enough audience on which to leverage such a dramatic move, which is one of the fundamental rules of polarization when you’ve already built an audience. I had changed my About page to something that made no sense to the broader number of couples simply looking for a creative wedding photographer, and they hadn’t bothered to go any further. And why would they? It was a little bit “out there.”

So what is market polarization exactly, and how do we go about it? It’s just another way of saying “market segmenting,” a technique that can be used to focus on your target market. To polarize is to bring in the unknown to your brand or your art, to have a stronger voice that resonates deeper with those who connect with it, and at the same time, divides others. It means taking a risk, and importantly, reaping greater rewards when it works out.

I want to be hired by creative, down-to-earth couples who are not too hung up on details but who also enjoy dramatic portraits and prioritize photography (this also lets me experiment with my work so I can take the imagery to new levels in post production). Naturally, we should show what we want to sell. Some potential clients might look at my landing page, think that my style is too moody, and not bother to inquire. And that’s fine by me—they were probably the wrong clients for me anyway.

A bride and groom pose for Sansom, who taps into his inner Wes Anderson, the king of modern cinematic quirk. All photos © Oli Sansom.

As A Person, Create A Communication Experience With Your Clients

If you want to dive deeper into the personalities of your clients to increase connection and trust, show them how far your own personality goes. Maybe you have strange hobbies. Maybe you swear like a pirate over email. Maybe you cut your sandwiches into rectangles instead of triangles. Celebrate it. People don’t need a stale safety net anymore. They also don’t need folks who cut their sandwiches into rectangles, but that just might work for you.

As an Artist, Consider The Product You Offer and The Extent to Which You Hone Your Craft

We could lay out blog posts from much of the industry as it stands currently, remove names, and you almost wouldn’t be able to tell whose is whose; linear editing with chronological storytelling is the current climate. This is the arena clients are peering into, and that’s perfectly okay, but some of those clients are waiting in earnest to have their breath taken away through something different. It’s up to us if we want to appeal to those people, or take the safe route.

Tell Clients Who You Really Are…Or Not

Don’t focus on being a “documenter” or a “storyteller.” Don’t give yourself a label. When we truly learn our craft, it becomes evident just how different we can be if we try. Switch up your storytelling, and bring the non-linear into it. The cinema world has been doing this for decades. Bring an emblem into your brand’s logo that isn’t a deer head (gasp). Draw your tonal inspiration from what truly speaks to you, not a Lightroom preset pack. The possibilities within our craft and wells of inspiration waiting to be tapped and applied to what we’re doing are literally limitless.

Embrace Your Inner Quirkiness

While advocacy for bizarre About page text might be pushing the envelope a little too far, there is a question worth asking: What part of myself do I suppress in my marketing that might instead be worth celebrating more in what I produce? You might just find that this filters out people you wanted to filter out anyway, and draws in those that you do want on a much deeper level. Change and lift the industry. But don’t talk about wanting to make children cry. That’s just weird, man.