The Paramount Role of Photography In Brand Storytelling :Q&A With Coucla Refaat
BB: Amongst all other communication tools, great photography has the power to inform and transform. Where carefully crafted copywriting can tell the story, photography can immediately engage and excite your consumers. Why photography has become a pivotal storyteller for brands of today ?
CR: Let’s start off by saying that the evolution of photography has changed very quickly over time. Everybody is taking photographs but not all photographs tell rich stories. Big brands now are focusing on working with photographers to attract consumers by creating original content for their brand. With the growth of social platforms and fast-paced technology, brands are concentrating on attractive, relevant content instead of heavy text; which is an approach that leads to big sales, wider engagement and traffic.
For example: Instagram consumers tend to scroll very fast because they are exposed to similar image content every day, This is where brands need to create images that make you “Stop for a minute” and have a look. This is when you grab attention.
BB:Creative concepts is an overarching big idea that captures audience interest,influences their emotions and inspires their call-to-actions across all campaign messages. How can photography help brands in the of creative concept building and development ?
CR: Photographers who come up with creative strategy and implement them themselves always have a straight vision of how things will look like instead of getting a brief and implementing it as is. My favorites are the clients and their agencies who are searching for photographers who will effectively grasp the objectives of the brand and help them come up with new creative ideas to be able to reach distracted audience in interesting ways. In the development phase it is very important for the photographer to understand what is the brand trying to communicate and show the edge of each brand.
BB: One of your latest flagship projects in the Egyptian market was the launch of Flo water brand. Can you elaborate on how incorporating your photography into the campaign’s creative strategy has helped the brand go beyond commoditization and create a meaning ?
CR: One of the best parts of my job is that i get to do travel and documentary photography besides the advertising & commercial side of the industry. I travel to different parts of the world to shoot indigenous tribes, rituals and culture. Part of my job is also to discover new places for my future teaching expeditions that I plan ahead for enthusiastic photographers.
In the summer of 2017, I noticed FLO water brand with their strong marketing taking over the north coast in Egypt. The branding and the quality caught my attention so I decided to pitch the idea of having them on board with me in my next solo, self-exploration adventurous photography trip to Peru and have the water bottle as my “Travel Buddy”.
I believe that authentic storytelling is the best brand marketing and this is exactly what I want to incorporate. I made sure to collaborate with a brand that is relevant to what I do in terms of the product, the branding and their objective; “Unique by Nature”. As this Unique adventure took place, I was able to come up with a creative strategy to entertain the audience through the storytelling of my day-to-day adventure. I took them through a journey for one week, posting 2 posts per day aligned with instagram stories showing the accomplishments and the challenges of my trip.
In order to showcase the product itself I made sure to incorporate FLO water bottle in my photographs as my travel buddy in the best landscape locations; with hashtags : #Coucla_FLOs_ToPeru #UniquebyNature.
BB: One of the notable challenges every photographer is anticipated to experience is brand relevancy. A photographer might be hired by a brand for a campaign that collides with his photography style or inspiration. Can you shed some lights on how should photographers manage this photographer-brand relevancy quarrel ?
CR: Photography is a very important visual tool to give you the feel of the brand experience therefore there wont be a quarrel really when its actually genuine, real and well played. Every photographer should be able to accept the challenge to create & implement new work with his own style that will fit the brand.
I usually prefer clients who have clear briefings with the photographer and leave the photographer to come up with original creative concepts, while involving the client it gives more room for fresh ideas and fresh concepts that is still relevant to the brand.
Forcing a style of photography to a brand wont work until there is complete trust from both sides and from there “Magic Happens”
BB: In 2010, Instagram has been introduced to the online sphere. Since then, brands are changing the way they look at photography. Brands have started to realize the benefit of moving from the over-staged and over-edited photography for their campaigns and favoring organic photos that look real and inspiring. What’s your take on this ?
CR: Never underestimate how people perceive things. People need to see real stories and real content to be able to engage and relate. Social media can be very tricky but real authentic content definitely grabs attention.
To have strong foundation for a brand you need to know the genuine qualities of each product to rise above the noise and to create a recognizable brand that speaks creativity, credibility and a professional visual representation to make it memorable.
BB: From your point of view, what does the photography scene in the Middle east lack that’s hindering it from going global ? Is it the creative excellence or the scarcity of choices ?
CR: The photography scene in the Middle East doesn’t lack anything, it’s a wide pool of diverse photographers, talented ones as well. I wish I could see more collaboration projects between global brands and photographers in the MENA region on an artistic level.
BB: If you’d provide some ins and outs for beginner photographers on how to use photography to leverage brand storytelling. What would you list ?
CR: 1. Go as creative as you want but always think how you can make their brand stand out and remain relevant.
2. If your brand is fun and hip, the brand storytelling tone should be fun. If your brand is reliable and safe , then your brand voice should communicate those qualities respectively.
3. Keep your stories authentic.
4. Make your people care what your brand has to offer, be consistent.
5. Reach people emotionally and make them feel inspired to share your content then you have created a connection that traditional marketing with its forced messages will never manage to achieve.
6. Choose the right images and make your audience remember connecting with your brand in an enjoyable experience and they will return to engage