When I worked as an Imagineer at Disney my favorite ride was at Epcot – “Spaceship Earth”. I loved seeing the development of civilization. But to me, the ride was always about the development of communication. First through men carving symbols on their cave walls, to Greeks communicating through the written letters printed on papyrus, to communicating through the invention of Morse code – to now days communicating through computers. And then, at the end of the ride – there was the future – two kids living on opposite sides of the world communicating live through the computer.
Well, as I was working at Disney that future fast became a reality in the present – and we needed to update the ride accordingly.
We tend to forget there was a time before the World Wide Web. It has been nothing short of a miracles event in our lives. Being able to connect and communicate globally changed everything – from how we shop, to how we learn – to how we travel.
There is, though, one thing we lost in this transformation in communication – and that is the personal connection.
When I was a child shopping meant having to walk down the streets of the busy city I grew up in, and deciding which store to go into and spend my money. My decision was based on the window displays – visual form of communication. But there was also another secret factor that made me decide to shop in one store and not in another – that very secret factor that could sway my decision was – who was the store owner. There were people behind that window display. Real people. The nice man at that corner vegetable stand who always made sure I chose the best tomatoes. The elegant woman at the clothing store who I trusted to help me decide which skirt makes me look skinny. The sweet grandmother who always gifted me a cool light up pen something or another when I bought school supplies from her, while telling me stories about the old neighborhood.
These people all had a personality I connected with. They all made me feel comfortable, and made me want to keep coming back . Even though at the time I didn’t know what it was called – they made me want to do business with them.
The first time I realized that personal connection was lost through all the greatness of the World Wide Web was when I moved 5 years ago. I now lived in a new area, and had to find new places to do business with. I needed a new doctor, new dentist, new accountant – new everything! So I went looking online. Quickly I realized I am looking at the same photos over and over. At the time, the popular image bank photo used by small and medium size companies was the child with the painted hands. One version or another of it – but the dentists, the doctors, the accountants – they all had the same image! I could not find a photo of the business owner, or if I did it was a terrible photo, sometimes wearing dark sunglasses and/or a baseball cap. If there was a good photo I could tell it was about 20 years old by the style of the photograph. Is this who I will meet when I go in?
Being a professional photographer, it got me thinking about photography as a means of communication. I Googled photography communication and found very little, if anything at all, about the subject. And that is when I realized I am entering an uncharted territory.
I pulled out my college thesis “The Influence of Photography on Visual Merchandising”, and after dusting it off (who actually reads it after they write it?) I referred back to my research. The research did support the thesis that said relevant photographs implimited into marketing and sales materials raise the interest in the product sold more than if just using graphics. Not being able to find a definition for Photography Communication I decided to invent one. It took a few weeks, and the definition became a reality: My definition of Photography Communication is: “The sweet spot where the viewer meets the photograph, and that meeting creates a call to action.”
The photo of the child with the painted hands I kept coming across was supposed to create a call to action for me – cute child, beautiful colors. It was a perfect photograph. That was also its problem – it was a perfect photograph. Too perfect. The child was too perfect, and so when the viewer met that photograph – as I did – it was not in the sweet spot – and thus no call to action was created – I did not contact the business that used that photograph wanting to know more about their services.
That child was not the dentist. He was not the lawyer’s son. He was not the child that came to get his finances straightened out with the accountant (better start early, right?). He had nothing to do with the business he was advertising.
For the big brand names that does not matter as much – For one, we buy and use their products for other reasons. Secondly – they have the advertising budget to find a kid that for the right price will swear the lawyer, dentist and account are all his fathers (think of McDonald’s photo ads – we like the smiley happy kids portrayed in them).
But for the small business owner that approach doesn’t work. Their personal story gets lost – and with that the emotional connection (the “sweet spot”) that communicates to us we want to use their services and not the competition’s.
A photograph is a very powerful communication tool. The Personalized Image Bank came to life when I realized that is the solution to this visual communication breakdown. It is very simple concept actually – telling the small business’s story through professional photographs. Losing the unrealistic perfect photograph – finding the true story behind the people who created the business. People do business with other people they respect and like –not with a sterile image.
The Personalized Image Bank is my own innovative concept, and I provide these services exclusively to small and medium size companies, with understanding they have a small advertising and marketing budget. Especially companies who have a lot of competition (ok last time I swear) like lawyers, doctors and dentist, for example. I streamlined the creation of the Personalized Image Bank through a creative process which was based on what I learned as an Imagineer – that’s why I always say Walt taught me how to do this.
So far I had the opportunity to create a Personalized Image Bank for restaurants, spiritual teachers, law firms high tech companies and non profits – among others. I love figuring out how to translate that companies’ story into a photograph. One photograph. A capture in time. The photograph that makes a potential client browsing the World Wide Web STOP (the viewer meets the photo) – and say “I want to know more about this company (the sweet spot) – and call, or fill out the information request online form (the call to action). It is by far the most rewarding way I could utilize my 17 years photographic education, knowledge and experience. Hearing the positive feedback from my satisfied customers, the proud owners of a Personalized Image Bank – is the icing on the cake.
Last but not least – if you read this far I know you are asking yourself “What’s up with the dog?” Yes, I am referring to my logo. Anyone I ever spoke with about the Personalized Image Bank wanted to know at one point (and waited till the end of the presentation if they were polite enough) “What is up with the dog?”
I will be happy to tell you what is up with the dog. And yes, there is personal story behind it. My only stipulation for telling the story of my logo is – you have to meet with me to hear it.
To learn more about the Personalized I mage bank service and product, and how it can benefit your business, contact me for a complimentary no obligation consultation.