When you hear the words "comfort food," what comes to mind? If you're like most people, you probably picture an array of diet-sabotaging foods tied to happy memories, things like chicken and dumplings, biscuits and gravy, chocolate and peanut butter, cookies and milk.
But for our clients, the words "comfort" and "food" have a slightly different meaning. As a Cincinnati-based food photographer with more than 20 years of experience, food is literally my life. At Teri Studios, we eat, drink, breathe (and photograph) food for a wide variety of high-profile national brands, including Bob Evans Restaurants, Duncan Hines, Kellogg's, Supervalu, Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee, and Cargill.
And just as food is the center of our photography, comfort is at the center of our approach to business and client service. Indeed, with a tagline that simply states "Eat. Shoot. Be Happy.", I guess you could say that both "comfort" and "food" are an integral part of the Teri Studios brand.
We recognize that communicating that brand is what has helped us be successful. The brand is alive not just in our marketing plan (more on that soon) but in our studio space as well. We developed our space to have all the comforts of a home away from home--wireless internet, state-of-the-art kitchen facilities, a theater room, gym, billiards table, and, of course, everything and anything you could need for a food shoot. Our goal was to create a space that was creative and comfortable, but that also allows clients to enjoy the work. It should be fun.
But we realize the brand doesn't stop there. Working with our web design team, we redesigned our website to reflect this image as well, creating a new site (www.terishootsfood.com) that is dynamic and clever while still providing the information and testimonials that many clients and potential clients seek. Then we carried those qualities into our direct-mail pieces and other communications--all of which reflect the fun, wit, and beautiful photography that we're known for.
Our direct-mail campaign illustrates our fun-loving nature by warning clients and potential clients, "Don't let your food be a victim," noting that some food can fall victim to bad food photography. From "Never, ever shake a baby squash" to "Stop egg poaching now!" the campaign has been extremely effective in communicating our style and attitude while reflecting our professionalism, experience, and food expertise.
We've also considered how our holiday promotions communicate our brand. Three years ago, we evolved our client/vendor holiday gift into something a bit more, well, tempting. We sent holiday gift packages to clients and vendors promoting an imagery contest. Each package contained an actual piece of fruitcake, Starbucks gift card, prize list, and entry/contest guidelines. The catch? Each entry had to include the piece of fruitcake as the subject somehow: manipulated, non-manipulated, molded, dressed up, dressed down, disguised, or in the buff, but it had to be there. With a $1,000 incentive for winning Best of Show, the entries began rolling in, and the contest grew each year, with winning entries proudly displayed on our website.
But even a brand strategy needs tweaking from time to time. Despite the popularity and growth of the contest over the years, we recognized that it might seem a bit wasteful in 2008, given the economic climate. We opted instead to donate the funds this year to Second Harvest, a national food charity. To us, that seemed like the right thing to do, but we hope to bring the contest back when the time is right.
We also have looked for ways to use our talents for charitable causes. One of the best examples of this is the Small Fries cookbook for kids that we created. It started out as a way to allow us to explore our creativity--let's create a cookbook by kids, for kids, to help kids. Proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The project has been extremely rewarding, from both a charitable and a creative perspective.
For us, we've learned that it's important to apply many of the same techniques that we employ for our clients to our own brand. We've turned the lens on us, so to speak, to show clients not only what to expect in terms of a finished product, but also what we're like to work with. Through our brand, we hope to communicate who we truly are--a great group of creatives who want to make the entire photo-shoot experience one to savor.
Teri campbell, original sandwich artist and owner of Teri Studios (www.terishootsfood.com) has been photographing food for 20 years. When not in the studio, he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events.