About 25 years ago, I was given my first camera by my grandfather Orville. Little did I know that it was also a metaphor for what separates a good brand from a great one.
It was a Minolta 35mm Srt-202 with a 50mm 1.7 lens. Being the kind of person I am, I fell in love with the experience of choosing between variables to make the perfect exposure. The type of film, the time of day, the lens selection, and all those beautiful buttons and clicking parts. Oh, and the composition. I’m still trying to figure that one out.
There was also a bit of luck and magic that would happen when you sent out a roll of film to be developed. Photos might not turn out, but you had to wait to find out.
Tech started to influence photography with its mission to make all of our lives better, faster, cheaper and easier. First, film was replaced with a sensor. This removed the wait time for processing and gave you immediate gratification. Then the clicky dials turned to smooth wheels. Eventually, the camera could fit in your pocket. Most recently, the camera was reduced to just another feature on your smartphone.
Sure, this all made it easier to take photos, but did it “improve” the experience of capturing them? According to the next generation of shooters, not really. They’re opting for the real thing versus faking it in Photoshop.
It all reminds me of another moment from my childhood and one of my favorite quotes.
This trend of "streamlining" the experience extends beyond photography to brands too. The most successful are careful not to oversimplify the experience. Instead, they create ways for consumers to remain active participants versus just passive users. One example? Stitch Fix. They’ve given the shopper the feeling of a personal tailor and stylist to counter the cold feel of algorithm-based shopping on Amazon.
Another example is Airbnb. Their success comes from providing what most hotels removed in favor of predictable consistency: hyper-localized experiences that encourage people to get involved in creating a memorable stay.
So when it comes to evolving your brand, don’t forget to hang on to the things that make your brand unique and magical and always remember: Experience wins.