branding

Building Your Brand as a Filmmaker

Building a Brand as a Filmmaker

Scorsese. Tarantino. Sometimes a name alone can signify a brand. We can instantly identify signature styles, techniques, work ethic, personality traits, and many other unique qualities or images associated with those names because of the brand they’ve built as filmmakers.

Building a brand is creating your own identity among the many millions of other filmmakers out there trying to do the same thing. It’s about differentiating yourself from everyone else and giving people a story about you and what you offer – otherwise known as your reputation.

Laptop Filmmaking

Terms like “personal branding” can repel artists like the plague. but the reality is business can be just as much a part of filmmaking as the art – particularly in our current digital landscape where information is ubiquitous, and every man and his dog has a platform to vie for your attention.

Seeing as filmmaking is synonymous with storytelling, building your brand isn’t as daunting a task as you may think — in a way, it’s telling the story of yourself. With that in mind, the most important things to portray through your brand are:

      Who you are

      What it is you do

      How you go about it, and

      Where you’d like to go

Once you’ve worked out the answers, think about the audience you want to target — one that will best respond to your own style and sensibilities. Establishing a niche is important so as to reflect what qualities you want people to associate with you – your filmmaking identity (FI) – and to manifest that through:

      Your products and services – films, talent etc.

      Your relationships – with crew members, agents, other filmmakers, basically anyone you interact with really

      Your communications – your social networking, business cards, website etc.

Social Media

Although the current digital landscape has exponentially increased the number of accessible filmmaking voices to compete with, it’s also simultaneously broadened your reach.

As mentioned above, social networking platforms are one of the most basic yet critical components to marketing your FI. If you have a production company, establish a logo and other design elements that correspond with the adjectives you want your audience to associate you with, and be sure to feature this on all of your digital mediums (and non-digital, like your business card). When it comes to branding, consistency is key. So make sure things like the color concept, font, showreel, ‘about me’ sections etc. throughout Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or any other platform you choose to market yourself on stay relatively similar. And don’t forget to engage!

Creator of Instagram filmmaking community @filmmakersworld, Emanuele Giannini, thinks of the platform as today’s digital portfolio for filmmakers and claims it’s a great way to “build an audience, attract new business, and collaborate online.” Platforms like it are also a great way to build relationships and learn from the best. Because your brand is tied to the emotions or impressions people have of you, your relationships and the way you communicate and engage with others will always play a big part.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be authentic. In fact, always be sure to showcase your individuality and uniqueness. But remember:  Filmmaking is rarely a solitary job, so presenting a positive brand through social media can multiply the chances of networking with industry people who’ve never met you to reach out with opportunities.

When all is said and done, a brand won’t garner much positive attention if you’re not putting great care and effort into your work. So be sure to always be working on your filmmaking skills first and foremost, continually honing and evolving your voice. Then go forth and build that filmmaking identity – tell your story and make it great!

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How Graphic Design for Women’s Brands Has Changed — and Why it Needs to KEEP Changing

In its early history, graphic design — and indeed marketing in general — was a male-dominated profession. The ethos for branding a female-centric product generally ended at “use a pink color palette and soft lines, then call it a day.”

Thankfully, we’re long past those days — or are we? There is still plenty of room for improvement…

Good graphic design — particularly within the sphere of branding — should speak to your target demographic. One thing to bear in mind is that “female” isn’t a demographic, much less a character trait: it’s simply one physiological aspect of an individual.

Here are some ideas on how to keep your graphic design work progressive, positive, and pertinent when working on elements for women’s brands.

Gender Isn’t a Personality Trait

Gender may be a driving force behind the sale of certain individual products and services (such as leg razors and moisturizer, but even then not necessarily). However, the graphic design and branding behind such products needs to reflect the actual nature and benefit of said product (i.e.: a super-close shave or a superior skin care routine for instance) and not just that it’s a “girl’s product.”

It’s an age-old tenet of good marketing, but for some reason it frequently gets lost here: focus on why product X will make their life better. Don’t try to assume what their life is.

A superb example of this can be seen in the branding behind the Feminist Times magazine (soon to relauch). As noted in this in-depth dissection, the design choices were carefully made to clearly express what kind of content readers could expect, while at the same time not pigeon-holing who their readers were: “While primarily aimed at women, [art director Lucy Newman] says the site aims to appeal to ‘nonconformists of all ages, genders and backgrounds’ and bring feminism to a wider audience. It’s a sparse design: strong deep colours are coupled with greys and black, sans type and a grid layout. Embellishment is kept to a minimum, presumably to let the controversial editorial do the talking.”

Newman goes on to elaborate that: “The overall concepts that needed to be embodied in the design and imagery were: daring, radical empathy, warmth, inclusive (not aspirational), home made (around the kitchen table), iconoclastic, irreverent fun, punk, political. A movement that you can join and join in. It meant designing a look and feel which is anti-lifestyle and in some way anti-taste, if that is the right word, which is an interesting challenge in itself.”

And, as noted previously, it was a conscious design choice to forego the stereotypical curved lines and pink/purple hues that are often deemed the “feminine” hallmarks of graphic design.

The Rise of Femvertising

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a big push towards “female-empowerment” advertising, and you’re no doubt already thinking of Dove even before this sentence ends.

At the height of parent company Unilever’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” the company was estimated to be earning $30 for every $1 it spent on the drive, which is an unprecedented feat in marketing and one that was hailed as a game-changer when it came to marketing towards women.

Eventually, however, the campaign drew criticism from those who began to suspect that the Dove campaign was becoming both manipulative and patronizing.

For consumers, the sense that a company is genuine is key, and when it comes to graphic design this extends to how much photoshopping and airbrushing is done. No matter how skilled the designer, manipulations will be scrutinized … and doubly so if you’re working on a campaign called “Real Beauty” and then extensively photoshopping the “real women” featured (the reason that is in quotes is that there is some debate as to whether Dove may have used undeclared actresses).

What does this mean for the rest of us? It highlights that consumers can spot disingenuous pandering from a mile away, and both graphic designers and the wider marketing industry need to be more conscious of this going forward. This is especially true now that the idea of “femvertising” is now approached with slight apprehension on the consumer’s side.

Hope for the Future

As the medium of graphic design continues to evolve, we have no doubt that the diversification issue will improve too, simply by proxy; the number of women getting into graphic design as a career choice is growing. At the prestigious CSM university in London, 70 percent of the graphic design students are now female (compared to 50 percent during the ‘90s), and we’re seeing a similar pattern in our own graphic design program.

And long may it continue.

Because if corporations want graphic designers who can intuitively and genuinely speak to consumers who happen to be women, they’d do well to hire more graphic designers who happen to be women.

Graphic Design 101: What Makes for Strong Branding, and Why You Need It

Look at the shade of red below, and think of a beverage.

If you were thinking of Coca-Cola, you’ve just experienced the power of branding.

Today, we’ll be addressing three core questions: what is branding, what goes into good branding, and why is it important in the first place?

Let’s begin with:

What Exactly Is Branding?

To the uninitiated, it’s a buzzword thrown around by men in grey suits in marketing board meetings.

In reality, the concept of “branding” is as old as the hills — and can make or break a business. when done well. (Think of the case of corporate rebrands.)

The German city of Cottbus selected this as their logo from a nationwide design contest, then paid 8,000 Euros for the privilege.

Even a single knitwear seller on Etsy can get a tangible benefit from solid branding.

So what is branding?

Firstly, it’s a topic on which thousands of books have been written and about which hundreds of seminars have been held. Branding is, essentially, the subjective nature of design combined with the hard-line science of business, so it’s a very peculiar concept and one that isn’t easy to sum up in a nutshell.

We’ll start with this definition from Entrepreneur.com: “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”

What this means is that all imagery and aesthetics should be translatable across the board. If the company logo is totally different from the look and feel of the website, which is different again from all the avatars and headers used on social media, then that isn’t branding: it’s a mess.

From a graphic design point of view, this is what separates “branding” from simply “making a logo.”

While the logo is nearly always the core asset (and the first place to start), it should be designed with wider use in mind:

  • Does it work in black and white (in case it gets used by a newspaper)?
  • Can a horizontal version of the logo be made for promotional items like pens?
  • Does it sit nicely on a letterhead?
  • Will it work on the various social media platforms the company may operate?
  • Does it work when rendered extra small (such as on business cards)?
  • Is the main font used in the logo (if any) legible enough that it can be applied to other promotional copy?

These are just a few of the things that should be going through a graphic designer’s mind when crafting a logo and thinking about the overarching design.

The key here is that even if the layout or image specs change, the look and feel of the branding should be consistent across all of the company’s output (both internally and publicly).

But this raises an even bigger question:

What Makes for Good Branding?

Alongside consistency, there are a number of factors that are seen as hallmarks of good branding.

Memorable. Not only should it be easy to draw the company logo from memory (see the above Cottbus logo for an example of how it isn’t done), but it should stick in the mind of the public in such a way that they instantly recognize it the next time.

Key Colors. A corporate color palette should be adopted across all branding to help boost cohesion. This is generally only one or two complementary colors, but it isn’t unheard of to have more.

Strong Typeface. While the logo itself may not contain text, a feature of strong brand identity is a typeface (or perhaps two) that is used across all promotional copy. This should be clear, legible, and compatible across both PC, Mac and mobile.

Consistent Image Style. Outside of the logo vectors, you might be using other images throughout the website and on social media (especially if the company is product-centric). Whether you use line art, illustration, or modeled photography, it should possess the same look and feel across the board.

Uniqueness. All of the above is well and good, but if someone beat you to the punch with something very similar you’re always going to be stuck in their shadow. It’s important to do your research and create something original.

There are infinite ways to achieve the above, and we see exceptionally innovative examples of this in the marketing world frequently (as well as some terrible examples of branding that are so bad they gain their own publicity).

But all of this boils down to our final, and possibly most crucial, question:

Why is Good Branding Important?

Simply put, good branding increases sales. If it didn’t, companies wouldn’t pay design agencies thousands (if not millions) of dollars to overhaul their branding every decade or so.

For a small company just starting out, good branding can help them get noticed. For a giant multinational corporation, it can help build brand trust and retain dominance in an increasingly competitive market.

In short: branding is for everyone, and you can’t afford to forego it.

Marketing Your Podcast: 7 Newbie Mistakes

Marketing Your Podcast: 7 Newbie Mistakes 

How do you attract new listeners to your podcast and increase downloads? There’s a myriad ways to do this and their effectiveness depends hugely on the type of podcast content you’re producing, but there are some surefire pitfalls that’ll likely see you never move out of single digit listener figures…

… today, we’re looking at some of the most common mistakes both amateur and pro podcasters frequently make.

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For the purpose of this post, we’re going to go ahead and assume that you’ve already begun posting episodes and have a dedicated podcast website to promote (if not, the most popular free podcast hosting sites to check out are Podbean, Libsyn, Podomatic and Buzzsprout.)

1. Not Putting Your Podcast On iTunes

Apple has long had the monopoly on podcasting — and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. While there are plenty of other services to tap into that listeners favor over iTunes, you’re hamstringing yourself if you don’t play ball with the big daddy.

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The main reason podcasters don’t upload to iTunes is that they’re daunted by the complexity of it all. In reality, it’s surprisingly easy to get listed; most hosting services automate this process, but even if you’re doing it manually, Apple has released a step-by-step guide that doesn’t take long to follow.

Once you’re on iTunes, don’t forget to urge your listeners to leave reviews. Common consensus is that this is the main metric Apple consider when it comes to placing your podcast prominently on the store.

2. Not Putting Your Podcast Anywhere Else

Because iTunes is only the first step.

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Having your own podcast website as a one-stop shop for all the episodes is fantastic. But the problem with relying on your website alone is that unless you do extensive SEO work, your website won’t do much to put itself in front of the eyeballs of anyone who isn’t already looking for it.

Sites like YouTube and Soundcloud, on the other hand, do much more. Although an element of luck is involved, reproducing the podcast there at least creates the chance that the sites’ algorithms will auto-suggest your content to new people. If you’re looking at other sharing platforms, you’re missing a trick. Try to hit as many platforms as possible.

It might seem counterintuitive to diffuse the podcast across numerous places, but a listener is still a listener — and a decent portion of people will follow the description links back to the original source, i.e. your main website.

This point leads us neatly onto…

3. Depriving Your Listeners of Follow Options

We’ll be the first to admit that it can feel like a bit of a chore maintaining increasingly numerous social channels and making sure a podcast works for all devices, but in this day and age it’s extremely important to cater to all potential listeners.

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Just expecting people to revisit the website to see if there’s any new content won’t work. People want notifications.

A working RSS feed is essential, and you’ll hopefully already be on iTunes. But don’t neglect Android users, and bear in mind that some people still prefer to get their notifications via old-fashioned email.

A quick way of doing this? Simply use the following code courtesy of Blubrry.com – just remember to add your own podcast url:

Android:

<a href=”http://subscribeonandroid.com/YOURPODCASTURL/” title=”Subscribe on Android”><img src=”https://assets.blubrry.com/soa/BadgeLarge.png” alt=”Subscribe on Android” style=”border:0;” /></a>

Email:

<a href=”http://subscribebyemail.com/YOURPODCASTURL/feed/” title=”Subscribe by Email”><img src=”https://assets.blubrry.com/sbe/EmailBadgeLarge.png” alt=”Subscribe by Email” style=”border:0;” /></a>

Both of those will generate a little button that listeners can click on and get instant notifications via their method of choice. Add these to the website’s sidebar (along with your RSS and iTunes links) and they’ll have plenty of options to keep up-to-date with new episodes.

4. Making Your Podcast’s Concept Convoluted

Very few people want to hear someone monologuing for an hour without any structure (and one-person podcasts are rare, as we cover further down). So it’s especially important to have a strong hook if you want to snag a listener’s interest and stand out from the crowd.

This hook doesn’t need to be a “gimmick,” per se; it could be a niche topic that few other podcasters are addressing, or a novel concept for the format.

Whatever you do, make sure you can explain it in one sentence — much like a good book or film. “Two women review classic film noir movies” is strong; “two women watch old movies while drinking beer and talking about the news that happened last week” isn’t.

5. Not Investing in Your Podcast’s Audio Quality

Given that podcasting is an audio-only medium, it’s surprising how many podcasts currently active feature extremely low-quality audio. Needless to say, very few (read: none) of them ever make it into charting positions.

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Don’t be one of them. A good mic is obviously important, but don’t skimp on quality headphones either. If you’re listening back to the podcast on your laptop or phone speakers while editing the episode, you’ll never get a good handle on the levels without great headphones.

To go above and beyond in the quest for audio quality, you may want to also invest in an above-standard hosting package that offers more than the standard free packages available through most services. You’d get more control, a dedicated .com address, and greater analytics insight. But if your production value isn’t up to scratch to begin with, a fancy hosting package would be putting the cart before the horse.

6. Failing to Capitalize on Collaborations

There’s no quicker way of growing a new podcast from scratch than to collaborate with other podcasters. Once you’ve got a few stellar episodes under your belt, many low-level podcasters will be delighted at being invited onto your show, and hopefully the offer will be reciprocated.

As you grow, you’ll be able to set your sights higher and hook up with podcasters that have bigger listener-ships. Just don’t spam, for heaven’s sake. Aim to form meaningful connections with podcasters operating within the same niche. And you’ll probably want to invite guests to your podcast at least once every episode to add a little spice and keep your content engaging.

7. Dropping off Schedule

Not posting episodes of what is supposed to be a weekly podcast for weeks on end is anathema to growing your audience, and it’s hard to regain momentum again after a hiatus.

Sounds obvious, but it comes as a result of something that isn’t obvious: podcasting is time-intensive.

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Many newbies go in thinking it’s as simple as turning on a mic, hitting record and uploading the results online. The truth is that coordinating recording windows with guests or co-hosts, detailed editing, writing show notes, and maintaining the infrastructure of the podcast takes time.

So don’t promise too much going in. You can always ramp up the frequency of episodes further down the line, but it’s detrimental to drop back from what your listeners expect.

But don’t be disheartened. There’s never been a better time to get into podcasting, and when it goes well it’s hugely rewarding.

Best of luck, and don’t forget to let us know what you’re working on in the comments below!