A peek behind the curtain at Sprout Studio and why strategic marketing is the most effective marketing
A lot about marketing has changed, yet at the same time, a lot hasn’t. At it’s core, marketing has always been the process of communicating what you do to a specific group of people.
I recently wrote an article about how a bit of planning can make your marketing efforts much more targeted and effective. With this article, I want to give you a bit more inspiration, and some more ideas as to how you can get creative with your marketing.
I want to encourage you to think outside the box, and to go where no one else is going. Don’t settle for mediocrity and certainly don’t accept the status quo in anything you do.
What do other photographers do for their marketing? Do the opposite of that. What is the expected path for you to market yourself? Go in the other direction. If you do the “same old” stuff, you’ll get the “same old” results.
Albert Einstein has been famously quoted in defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. What are you doing to avoid insanity?
A sneak peek behind the “Sprout” curtain
Our software, Sprout Studio, is an all-in-one business success software for wedding and portrait photographers. We’ve built a solution for a problem every photographer faces – the struggle between business and creativity. Sprout Studio helps with the business functions of running a photography business by making it easier, keeping it more organized, helping you automate more and ultimately letting you get back to doing what you love – taking pictures!
The biggest challenge our industry faces isn’t necessarily the balance of business and creativity, but instead, it’s the awareness of that balance.
Most photographers who get into photography don’t realize how much business is involved in being successful, and are therefore faced with an uphill battle that they didn’t expect to face. Our goal with Sprout (both with our software and in our education) is to make photographers aware of this, help them climb that hill and fight that battle.
This is one of our core marketing messages (to tie this back to my recent marketing article). The actual marketing medium that we ended up coming up with was a fun, simple, narrative animation that you may have seen on the homepage of GetSproutStudio.com.
But this all didn’t just happen overnight, it was a work-in-progress for over 9 months.
Let me share that story with you.
Coming up with the idea
We knew the message we wanted to communicate. We wanted to create awareness of the business/creative struggle for photographers, but we also wanted to explain that it didn’t have to be this way. We wanted to show that if you want success, you must mirror success and that there are proven systems that can help you get there.
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And of course … Sprout Studio is one of those proven systems.
We also knew we didn’t want the marketing piece to be necessarily obviously about photography. We wanted to be a little more strategic about it and draw a parallel to something else that everyone could relate to.
After a number of ideas, we came up with the idea of having “farming” be the parallel to use. After-all, everyone could relate, and it was common knowledge that having a passion for gardening, planting a single seed and hoping for rain isn’t the best way to start a farm. Plus, it has a fun tie-in to our name, Sprout.
Finessing the medium
The idea of creating an animation was thrown around. We hum’d and ha’d over it for a little while, and we always came back to the fact that we didn’t want it to be “cutesy” or “childish”; we wanted it to have a professional and grown-up look to it.
I then remembered that I photographed the wedding of Adam and Ruth back in 2009, who are both professional animators; they are living the dream. Their portfolio includes work on programs and shows such as Cat in the Hat, various Nickelodeon shows, Scaredy Squirrel, Iggy Arbuckle, Sidekick, and so on. They’re incredible at what they do.
We reached out to Adam and pitched him our ideas. Him and Ruth were on-board, and were excited to work with us on this project.
Step 1: Concept & Vision
There were a few main steps we went through to create the animation with Adam and Ruth.
First was concept, where we brainstormed as a team with Ruth and Adam to communicate our vision. This was an overview of the idea, how we envisioned the animation, the basics of the characters and so on.
I dug up a few of the point-form discussion notes that we went over with Ruth and Adam:
- Not too detailed with the intricacies
- Light, pastel colours
- White background
- Big obvious eyes
- Lots of expression
- Not overly realistic
Step 2: Character Development
After visioning, we went into character development, where we went into further detail for both Andy (our farmer) and Sprout (our dog). Here are a few of the initial point-form notes that we had for each.
Andy the Farmer
- Nostalgic and warm feeling
- Likeable and identifiable with the “everyday guy”
- Clean shaven, neat and tidy hair
- Average height and build
- He should have something identifiable – perhaps glasses
- We don’t have him to look stereotypically farmer-ish
Sprout the Dog
- Primary character
- Energetic and full of expression
- Ears and tails should always “mimic” the mood of the scene (excited, happy anxious, curious, worried, etc)
- More expression than Andy
- Sprout is the “hero” in our story – he saves the day
- Most of the attention should go to Sprout
- Sprout logo or “S” as his dog collar tag
We went through many “versions” of Andy and Sprout with Adam, but here is the progression of the finalized characters
Step 3: Storyboarding
Next was storyboarding the animation with more detail. We had to think about what each scene would look like, what actions would happen, where the characters would come from, what movement we wanted, and so on.
Adam asked me to do a quick sketch so they could get a feeling for what we wanted. Below is my version – obviously I should stick to photography.
From there, Ruth and Adam worked together to finesse this, add in their expertise and come up with their version of a storyboard. You can see it all coming together now, and you can see how detail-oriented this is.
Step 4: Animation
Next was getting this storyboard into video format so we could get a better feel for timing, layout, and so on, which was the first time we could really start to see the finished piece come together. Once we made some tweaks to this, we let Adam and Ruth “do their thing” and move forward with animating. This was the longest part, because Adam had to do the animation scene-by-scene, which took him almost 100 hours.
What we were left with was nothing short of amazing. To see our idea come to life was incredible, and it was a rewarding moment for the whole team.
Bonus Step: Music
This wasn’t the end, though. With a high-end, custom-created animation, we knew that we had to marry it with a musical element that was equally as custom and unique. I reached out to a local songwriter and musician, Drew Williams, who owns a recording studio, W Sound Inc, here in Niagara. Drew has years of experience doing sound in the television industry, specifically on Degrassi: the Next Generation, Instant Star & Rookie Blue.
I discussed our vision with Drew, showed him the animation, and let him go crazy with his creativity. The music you hear behind the cartoon now is the finished piece from Drew, one that went through countless revisions, lots of feedback and a ton of nit-picking. We’re thrilled with it.
(Sidenote: we also had Drew make a similar musical element for our podcast intro/outro, so we could have consistency across our Sprout brand.)
Success isn’t an easy process
If you haven’t seen the finished animation yet, here it is:
And there you have it, a peek behind-the-scenes of one of our marketing pieces here for Sprout Studio. We are beyond thrilled with how everything turned out. The reason I wanted to explain this and walk you through the process is because often we take for granted what we see in front of us. We assume things happen easily, that people get “lucky” and that everything is a quick process. But that’s never the case for success in any pursuit.
Success doesn't happen on accident. Success is designed. Success is intentional. And success takes hard work.
As my friend and NY Times Best-Selling Author Rory Vaden says: “Success is never owned; it is only rented. And the rent is due every day”.
At Sprout, we’re constantly pushing the boundaries, re-imaging ideas and doing everything we can to change our industry. We’re paying the rent every day. How about you?