Print Portfolios as Objects of Desire

January 08 2015

A perennial topic of conversation amongst photographers, photo agents and buyers swirls around print books. Everyone wonders if the print portfolio is dead, in a deep slumber, or if it somehow still vital. I’m a big fan of print books – when built around a photographer’s brand and vision, they are seductive and immersive, a place where the viewer can enter and experience your brand in a tangible and tactile way.

These days, many more portfolios are perfect bound, highly designed and sophisticated presentations, and present more like photo art books. This trend in fabrication and presentation places the photo portfolio front and center as a book to explore, appreciate, and return to again and again – much like a great photo art book from a published artist.


Gabriella Imperatori-Penn's perfect bound brand book marries her structural still life photographs and fine art images

This is not news to many of you, yet it was interesting to have my point-of-view confirmed by the recent article in The Business of Fashion, the highly influential London-based fashion blog. The headline of their article is “In Age of Online Inspiration, Fashion Creatives Still Love Beautiful Books.” The article is about coffee table books, and talks about the inspiration and references that Art and Creative Directors find in visually based photo books, whether they are contemporary, retro, or historical. Many Creatives travel with book collections, and many are avid photo, fashion, and art book collectors, using their collections for inspiration and creative juice.


Sarah Silver's portfolio incorporated distinctive design elements in conjunction with her glorious photographs

A great, well designed, thought through print portfolio elevates your brand to the context of a printed photo book, as an object of desire to be explored, and remembered, and to be inspired by. While the days of having eight copies of your portfolio are over, fabricating two or three copies of your “object of desire portfolio” can help to clinch the deal with your highly visual, selective target market.

Artists and agents -- think about this and take it on as you go forth with your branding, design, and marketing activities in 2015.

Go Forth! Mercurylab in London (Part Three) | The Conran Factor

August 05 2014

Sir Terence Conran’s influence on the way the British live has been immeasurable. It wouldn’t be possible for me to list all of his contributions to the design and comfort of British life, but he has been at it since the 1950s, and The Conran Group continues to be a vital force in British culture.


Signage at the new Design Museum

For those of you who haven’t been there, try visiting the original Design Museum in Shad Thames before it moves to the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington in 2016. This famous building is considered to be one of the major post-war buildings in London, and as such is a fitting home for the expanded and continuing conversation and influence of design in all aspects of our lives. Conran has donated £17.5 million to fund the new museum. Meanwhile, the new Design Museum is already showing its influence, creating brand awareness through their presence in the current windows at the John Lewis and Peter Jones department stores, where many Londoners go to get their housewares, drapes, clothes, and of course, to visit the “foodie” Waitrose food hall in the Oxford Street John Lewis.


Design Museum curatorial expertise at John Lewis

In any event, the Design Museum curators have given their imprint from a historical or contemporary design perspective to items sold at John Lewis, a heritage brand that is currently 150 years young. It’s a great way of creating high street awareness and appreciation for good design. Conran furniture and objects are also sold as part of the Conran collection for Marks & Spencer, and the upscale Conran Shop is still a destination for excellent mid-century classics as well as modern and contemporary design. And now in another venture that shows he still has his finger on the pulse, Conran has conceived of the Albion Cafes.


The Albion Café's delicious offerings

Ahhhhh, Albion. There was an hour wait at the café in Shoreditch, but we luckily stumbled in the door at the café behind the Tate Modern. The market itself is a perfectly curated (but not twee) and surprisingly affordable mixture of goodies from the Albion kitchen (massive jars of homemade raspberry preserves; tomato chutney; homemade baked goods); vegetable, cheese, smoked fish, and a good selection of specialty teas, biscuits, Guernsey yogurts et al. And to make it even better, there’s a 15% discount if you have expanded your mind at the Tate in preparation for expanding your stomach at The Albion. I’m gushing, but dinner was delicious. Conran’s idea worked as usual – feeling that upscale pretention was not the way to go, he conceived of something homey (it is), and relaxed, where you could eat and do a bit of shopping for things you really need, and those you simply want. Now that’s the mind of a visionary trend-reader and trendsetter at work. I’m going to appreciate him yet again today when I have some of that delicious chutney with my fish for my lunch!

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Tyrells: Chips (or Crisps), Depending Upon Where You Live

March 14 2014

The other day I went to the grocery store in search of a delicious salty snack. A photo of a group of little old ladies caught my eye, and I knew I had found what I was looking for: Tyrrells English Chips (or Crisps for you Brits). The chips were absolutely delicious. In this case, the packaging was witty and effective in differentiating the product, and definitely pulled me in.


via

The company was running a promotion that was featured on the bag that I decided to enter (more on that later), and after a quick google search, I found that they had two different websites, one for their US customers (tyrrellschips.com), and one for their UK consumers (tyrrellscrisps.co.uk). While the sites have the same look and feel, I could see a slight difference in the language, which makes sense given that the UK and the US are two countries separated by a common and similar language! The UK product offerings are far more extensive, offering a wider variety of flavors like Sunday Best Roast Chicken and Naked. The brand’s witty, playful voice comes across in the flavor naming and design, which is very effective (note that I bought the first time I encountered the chip = 100% success for the brand). Having a more extensive product line in the UK makes sense considering that Tyrells is well-known in Britain, and the UK is their main market.


left & right

The US and UK sites do share a few promotions, such as a Facebook potato sack race game and caption contest, but the “big-ticket” promos differ vastly. In the US, you can enter to win a Cambridge Satchel. This style of bag has been very popular this past year in the fashion industry in the US (and still is). It is a slice of traditional English design that is still very much in vogue with the younger crowd. The bag design is a play between modern and vintage, and it works well with the Tyrrells brand voice and aesthetic.

The UK promo is quite different, and very quirky. You can win prizes like “A Monkey’s Uncle”, “A Pack of Lies” or “Inappropriate Trousers”—the actual prize being £25,000, but of course, if you’d prefer an awkward head massage, they’d be happy to oblige. The UK promo really emphasizes Tyrell’s humorous voice to a degree that a caption contest cannot capture, and as an established brand in the UK they can run an almost snarky promotion. This type of oddball promo might not fly yet America because their audience here does not know them well enough. I’m going to track them to see how they promote in the US in the future.

The takeaway? When marketing and communicating your brand in different markets, like Tyrrells, it’s likely that you will want to shade your marketing and communications to target and engage your specific audiences based on the culture and country. Your approach to marketing your brand is unlikely to be monolithic, whether you are selling a service, product, or company.

EOS & Their Smooth Moves

March 05 2014

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the popularity of a colorful egg-shaped Lip Balm amongst twenty-something women wherever I go. This runaway success is from eos, which stands for the “evolution of smooth” and whose tagline “Having a delightful twist on Lip Balm” seems to be working out well for them. The packaging is unique, and compelling, so the allure and differentiation of the product begins on the outside, before you even get to the flavor or color of the balm itself.

I first saw the eos lip balm a few years ago at a charity event I participated in on behalf of MTV’s Save the Music Foundation. The brand is fully committed to their demographic, as evidenced by its product placement in Miley Cyrus’ fun, but highly controversial music video of her summer hit, We Can’t Stop. Lots of celebrity product placement followed, with Kim Kardashian, Kristin Cavallari, and Nicole Scherzinger seen using the “egg”. With the power of celebrity influencers, many young women are using eos daily. At an inexpensive $3.99, eos even rang up sales as a popular stocking stuffer this past Christmas in their target demographic.


via

Now, all of you know how much I love mythology, and eos is also the name of the Goddess of the Dawn, who rose each morning at her home at the edge of the ocean. She is usually depicted as a beautiful woman whose robe is woven in flowers, and has wings like a bird. She is considered to be the genesis of all of the stars and planets, and her tears form the morning dew. A name like eos is filled with high aspirations, and the brand would like to imbue this sense of power and authorship into the confident young women who buy their products. Interestingly enough, the brand is marketed only to women – there are no unisex colors, or flavors, so they have clearly marked out their brand strategy to consolidate their market preeminence with their chosen demographic.

It turns out that the company makes other products too, such as hand and body lotion, and shaving cream. Who knew? I wonder how they are doing with these brand extensions, as I’ve only seen that popular egg. My intern carries around her Blueberry Acai egg every day, and my old assistant pulled out her yellow pastel egg at the slightest provocation. Would this brand be as popular without its unique shape? It seems possible, as it is also organic, with fun flavors, which is also totally on-trend, and popular with its target audience. Smart brand, smart design, smart packaging, all very focused, resulting in deep market share.

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Pinning for Money and Fun in the USA and abroad

February 21 2013

How many of you are on Pinterest these days? It has become a vital tool for those of us who are highly visual, or in a visual profession, and who want a fluid and easy place to park their online image “scrapbook” for easy reference. Personally, I’m obsessed with it! In a funny way, I find that how I approach collecting images on specific topics and areas on Pinterest has much in common with the way that I edit photography for portfolios, books, websites, etc. I like to begin with a huge pull of images, frequently in the many hundreds, and then I am able to tunnel down into the core visual through-line in a photographer’s work. Now I'm doing the same for myself, and it’s a pleasurable exercise in collecting and editing.

Many American brands and retailers are also very much on board with Pinterest. In interviews, they state again and again that Pinterest is driving sales in a quantifiable way that they don’t necessarily see in other social media. It allows consumers to paste and share products in an appealing way, and to go back to their scrapbook, have a holistic view of the things that they love, and then to easily purchase the products they’ve pinned. Sometimes it’s not so easily quantifiable, as consumers frequently use Pinterest as a research tool which might then indirectly drive a purchase through looking at their own, or other pinners, collection of aspirational fashion or home décor or design images. Pinners are also repinning other images they find on Pinterest, or pinning from all over the online universe. Magazines have a strong roll to play in this environment, as they provide a great source of many aspirational images that then drive a more down-to-earth purchase.

Interestingly enough, in the course of my own time spent in pursuing images for my Pinterest board, I’ve found that it’s really difficult to pin from European home décor magazines. Whereas most American magazines have made a major push into providing ancillary and original content on their websites, most of the European magazines I visited online are far behind. They seem to see the online environment as one in which they should hold back content and force (or frustrate) the consumer into buying the print magazine. I’m curious to know how that’s working for them. Is World of Interiors more successful at retaining their print subscribers with their opaque website than a comparable magazine like Architectural Digest, which is making at least some content of value available? I don’t know, but I can say that in the new Pinterest world, I find myself more interested in interacting with brands that make my pinning most inspirational and easiest. 

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The Foodie's Delight

January 29 2013

The Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco just wrapped up it’s annual three day food wholesale extravaganza, where 1,300 new and established food producers show off their latest and greatest for buyers, and where the food world gets a jump on the 2013 market trends. Some of the projected trendy foods for the upcoming year include smoke-preserving, gourmet popcorn (although we've been eating this one for years), and barrel-aged hot sauces. Products like these are often produced in small batches and made with high-end and specialty ingredients. Americans are spending more on food, and there is a growing market for locally-made, "handmade" products. In NY, this trend has been ably represented by the almost twee, fetishized Brooklyn artisan food movement. 

How does one roll out a small-batch, personal food idea in the gourmet food market? Venues that provide exposure to reach the consumer willing to cough up the dough for specialty items include farmer’s markets, food festivals, independent gourmet groceries, and—if you’ve really hit it really big—Whole Foods, who try out artisan foods on a local and regional trial basis. There are also small-scale distributors that base their business around getting these specialty products out of their respective cities and beyond their local cult-following. Mantry.com, for example, sends a monthly curated selection of specialty food items from all over the country in one small, fancy wooden crate. Sending a nicely presented container or unique, beautifully packaged foods is a wonderful gift idea. And they’re all pretty. Aesthetics and packaging play a large role in this new food movement—if we’re paying top dollar for a jar of lavender honey, we want it to look like we did so.  

So what's the take-away? While locally-made food is on trend, actually getting it out into the marketplace and onto consumer's tables is a long road. The brand story has to be completely aligned: taste, presentation, the name of the product or line of products, identity design, language and more. That is the front end piece, and many artisan food producers have a neat handle on this part of their business. The harder part, as always, is delivering the product for a price that consumers can stomach, and rolling out the brand into enough markets where one can sell a sufficient amount of units to break even, and ultimately, make a profit. The practicalities of margins and making money are always the issue when you are operating outside the mass market, no matter what arena you are in. 

USDA data showed that in 2010, Italians spent 14.4% of their income on food, whereas Americans only spent 5.5%. It seems that this number is rising, so there is clearly room in the market for new tastes and new trends. Pass the smoked pickles, please!

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The Sporting Life

November 23 2011

                                                                                                                    Joseph Altuzarra. Spring 2012     

One thing that really interests me is how effective magazine publicity can be in building brand notoriety, and I mean this in a truly positive way. Take the case of this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner, Joseph Altuzarra. Championed by Vogue editor Lauren Santo-Domingo (who we worked with on a big branding project for her full-price, couture flash sale site, Moda Operandi), Altuzarra has received serious coverage, support and love notes in the pages of the magazine.

No doubt, his forward-thinking, comfortable design sensibility is in tune with today’s busy gal. But there are also plenty of other worthy young designers (for example, the struggling ones on the FashionStake site) who are not getting the same level of free publicity, celebrity attention, income or awards.

Altuzarra walked away from the evening with $300,000 to put towards his business, as well as CFDA brand and business mentoring. So think about this when you are thinking about how you are building your career. Historically, shooting editorial was a surefire way to garner free publicity and buzz about your pictures. Today, maybe less so, as editorial jobs are not always so adventurous. But many of my agency clients are firmly committed to using strong editorial as a way of moving their photographers towards lucrative ad jobs.

Ponder that, young-uns.

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The Divine Miss M, Part Deux

August 11 2011

Our trend-watching nose was twitching when we last wrote about Miss Moss. She is just so darned influential — you want to be her, dress like her, hang out like her, be a muse like her!

Then, yesterday brought a press release from James Danziger, at Danziger Projects, a man who always has his finger on the pop culture photo zeitgeist:

Courtesy of Danziger Projects

The Kate Moss Portfolio & Other Stories
Opening May 12, 6-8pm
The portfolio (produced by Danziger Projects in collaboration with Kate Moss) contains eleven 30 x 24 inch prints by eleven of the world's leading photographers (including Bruce Weber, Chuck Close, Juergen Teller, and Annie Leibowitz) all of who have played a key role in picturing Ms. Moss.

Unlike any model in the history of fashion photography, Kate Moss has proved to be a unique subject blurring the boundaries between fashion photography and contemporary art. In a career that has lasted 23 years to date, it can be said that Moss's particular beauty and singular figure have made her more of a muse than a supermodel. No matter what she is wearing (or not wearing) Moss invariably becomes the subject of the photograph, supercharging the image and inspiring photographers to create some of their most imaginative work. Unselfconscious and unapologetic, Moss's persona and sensuality have not only changed our notions of beauty but also influenced the culture at large.

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Need we say more? All hail!

April 29 2011

Courtesy of those fabulous Brits at AgencyRush

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The Divine Miss M

April 08 2011
Courtesy of Blavish

Lately I’ve been thinking about Kate Moss. Her boyfriend, Jamie Hince, part of the indie duo The Kills, has just released a new album and is getting lots of press coverage.  Miss Moss is always mentioned in these articles, particuarly as the press is inevitably more interested in Kate than they are in Jamie, despite his cult-like status. What particularly interests me about her is that her own brand supercedes everything else that she touches, and that her brand, despite the trouble she’s seen, always remains super cool and kind of unshakeable. Think back to the time after she was busted for cocaine use, and lost a number of her lucrative and most visible brand relationships. Twelve months later, she was bigger than ever, winning contracts for major advertisers like Rimmel, Agent Provocateur, Virgin Mobile, Calvin Klein Jeans, Longchamp, and Burberry. According to Forbes, Moss has earned more money since her cocaine scandal than ever before: her 2004–2005 earnings were $5 million, 2005–2006 earnings were $8 million, and in 2007, with  earnings of $9 million, she was the second highest paid model in the world.

Courtesy of London Evening Standard

Kate is also legendary as an influential fashion individualist, someone whose personal style and ability to mix fashion trends with vintage and personal pieces is constantly reported on in the fashion press. So here is where another part of the brand piece comes in. She designs the Kate Moss collection for TopShop, the major British high street retailer. It’s not upmarket, folks, but smack in the middle so that it is accessible and aspirational at the same time. Her next fashion designs were for Longchamp, where she designed a line of bags with prices that were a bit higher on the food chain, but not stratospherically priced like other couture bags.

So it’s once again the perfect brand of high/low that we saw in the Olson’s work as well. Women want to dress like Kate so they can be cool, too! They want to buy into HER brand — not something perceived as being fabricated by a designer, but emanating from Kate herself.

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