06 October 2012

Brand Failure

This week I learned quite a bit about branding from the Creative Live workshop Photography Brand Makeover with Sarah Petty and Erin Verbeck. (They're re-airing it over the weekend for free if you'd like to check it out.)

So today when I went to a large art and craft fair I'd been to previous years, I was looking at the displays with a new filter added.

Beautiful artwork, high prices, price list printed on a standard 8.5"x11" piece of paper. Brand fail.

A woman with a director's chair at the front of her booth with her company's name on the chair's back in the same script font as her sign. Nice touch. Brand success. Also a a good sales move.

Though the vendors who sit at the backs of their booths don't stress you out if you just want to look at their stuff, they don't usually engage you. I feel like it's a better bet to sit at the entrance of your booth so you can greet people and answer questions.

At the very least, don't have your head down as you scroll through your phone with a don't-disturb-me look on your face. At least that's my feeling as a potential client and from what I've gleaned from many a Creative Live workshop when they talk about sales.

A lot of vendors were doing this right and there were more people at the event this year than I'd seen previously, so that was cool.

There was a lot of cool, interesting art work. I wasn't feeling chatty, but I tried to smile to let people know when I liked their stuff. Odd that, I could tell my default expression was serious and interested which has a tendency to not read favorably.

I walked around the edge of an aisle's corner booth. It was set up like a room, two full walls in the back corner with a smaller free-standing corner opposite with paintings and framed prints on them. The free-standing section had very cool framed names in different neat drawn scripts. Clearly it was the type of thing you could get customized. I pictured how my name would look for a moment and then walked around the outer side of the display. (I really like the #2 font in the center column.)

Inside the booth, there were large paintings which contained pairs of suns and moons. Not what I'd want on my wall, but they were cool. The artist was standing near the entrance of her booth, so I said, "I really like these."

"Thank you. Please come in and take a look."

I wasn't planning to, but because she greeted me so nicely, I did.

"Are you an artist?" she asked.

I have no idea why she asked, but it caught me so off-guard, I stammered and said, "Um.... well...sort of. I'm a photographer and I also make geometric designs."

"This'll be right up your alley then," she said brightly.

FYI, that was epic brand fail on my part. I knew I should've just said, "Yes" without choking on it, but it was later that it occurred to me that I should've said, "Yes, I'm a photographer and I also make geometric designs. Here's my card." The pitiful thing is I even had cards on me. No wonder I've handed so few out. It doesn't even occur to me when it would make sense.

I examined the details of her paintings as she continued.

"The ones on the walls are paintings, and then we also have giclee prints of them." She gestured to them as she spoke. "The lettering we can do custom. You can see more of what we have in the binders or by flipping through these matted prints."

Looking through binders was more of an investment than I was willing to make, but I stepped to the outer edge of her booth to flip through the matted images.

"Would you like a brochure?"


"There are two. This one's for the paintings and this one is for the lettering."

"OK, thanks," I said as I took the brochures.

When I was done flipping through images, I said, "Thank you," and started moving off.

"Thank you for stopping by," she said warmly with no trace of disappointment. Brand success.

Two years ago on TTaT: Translucent Trillium


  1. I've been trying to get Vahid to be more confident in his writing. In saying he's a writer and telling people he's been published, etc. It's a work in progress.

    But even though you forgot to hand out your card at least now you know for next time! It's such a hard thing, branding yourself, I think. Unless you are naturally full of yourself, which you arent. :)

    1. Your support of Vahid's writing is invaluable, keep it up! :) With any luck, it'll help the confidence sink in over time.

      I know what I was thinking in that moment: I'm not an artist like you are. Some part of my brain equates a certain amount of success with being able to use the title. Which is silly because I would never require that of other people. I would just take them at their word.

      Yes, ideally I know for next time, but this isn't the first time I've choked when asked what I do. I can't think of a time I didn't choke in recent years, maybe once at the dentist. Should probably practice in the mirror, right?