There is such a crazy uproar right now over David Jay's newest promotion, "The Photo System" - ten tips to help you become successful in wedding photography. It has created a ton of ridicule and divided people greatly. Yet it is really clever marketing.
If you've seen DJ speak before, he explains that getting people to talk is great for business. During the short time he was shooting weddings, he would do a slide show at the reception of the photographs he did earlier in the day, and that was great for buzz. Guests would clamor for his card, and it was amazing advertising at a really prime target market: the friends and families of the couple you are photographing.
I myself never did the slide show thing because I was too busy focusing on trying to catch as many memorable moments as possible, and the wedding flies by so fast I didn't want to miss a beat. I also knew that referrals would come for years and years from a satisfied couple, not just right after the reception.
If you run a business like a businessperson, you rely on numbers as your leading indicators. Like a captain of a ship, you read the gauges to monitor the status and trends of things that you can control. And in this new world of viral marketing - we watch page views and time spent on your page as a hugely important metric. It's the best advertising you can get is to get people to visit your site and talk about you.
On DJ's Facebook page, he quotes remarkable statistics in a short amount of time to his new website. Hundreds of thousands of views with people spending a long amount of "sticky" time viewing the page. In-between the seemingly outrageous advice he gives are cleverly placed ads for his business. This has tangible monetary value that you otherwise would have to pay a fortune for. For example, if you email blast 100,000 people, you're doing pretty freaking great if 20% open it. If there's a link inside the email campaign, congrats if 10% click through. You are down to maybe 200 people seeing your message. And marketing services like Campaigner would charge you about $500 to manage that mailing. So 200 people can see your announcement.
Now think of the return of putting something controversial on your site. At first a few hundred people see it maybe in the first hour. If it's boring, they move their attention to something else. But if you put something really bold then it goes viral. And that's the goal. If you put up a video on YouTube of your son scoring a goal at the soccer game, you'd have a number of page views from yourself and maybe other family members who see your email about it. But if you cut your penis off with a steak knife and eat it on a YouTube video, you'd have millions of people in a remarkable instant seeing it.
How does this phenomenon work? Say 100 people see your controversial ad in the first hour. If they're super pissed about it, or think it's the most ridiculous thing they'd ever seen, then they tweet about it. Say that each of those 100 people have 500 twitter followers. Boom. Now you have 50,000 people hating it or praising it. Those 50,000 people have 100 twitter followers? Now you're at 5 MILLION people seeing your content.
Do you get it? This is business and it works! All chatter is better than no chatter, and it goes viral and viral and viral.
This is where "Spray and Pray" come in. It's bold - and it directly edifies the new crowd of novice photographers who are all whipped up with inspirational messages that the "yes - you can do it... go for it.." presenters are selling. You can have the "Fast Track" success that is now eluding all of the established professional photographers who are "grumpy". ("grumpy" is a term introduced by Dane Sanders to describe established photographers who rightfully are critical of the new crowd who are big on SEO and social networking, but do not have the skills to maintain a standard in the business of photography, as is the case with Dane himself).
I had just heard this story about a new photographer who got a cherry job of flying to a location to meet an international client for his surprise engagement to his girl. He hired this photographer to document the surprise. Since this was such a huge commission, the photographer went to a friend of mine's workshop in Vegas and heard over and over again the phrase, "I shoot in Manual Mode with the lens wide open". Hearing what she wanted to hear, she flew to the assignment, clicked the big, gnurled rubber knob to the left two clicks from "P" to "M" and shot the assignment... ignoring the completely white rectangles in her LCD screen as camera malfunction. When she got to her computer to review the files, they were more than five stops overexposed and the entire shoot was ruined. Of course the girl panicked, and of course she would have been better off sticking to "Program" mode, a mode that she had relied on for years. She was unfamiliar with M requiring you to monitor the shutter speed and aperture at the same time, all she knew was "M" had better results. Amazingly, I can understand how she would think this.
If you gave me a sophisticated professional video camera, I would never think to shoot it on Manual unless it was something slow motion where I wanted to capture more than 30fps. In fact, I have this little camcorder and I've never thought about the possibility of shooting it in M mode. So I can see how this new photographer would have no concept of what "M" really means. Maybe that's why DJ put in his thing to put the camera on "P" and "Spray and Pray". But I think it's more clever than that.
I think it's about getting traffic. And if this is the strategy, then you know what? It works. I knew DJ from the start. Now he has a fancy house in Santa Barbara with a panoramic ocean view. He built this himself. He's a self-made guy. He, through his skill in social networking actually got himself named as one of the top ten photographers IN THE WORLD by PDN Magazine back around 2006, when he shot the following wedding of Stacey B. Shy:
Stacey was furious by the photography DJ did of her wedding back in 2006, but she was hesitant to say much about it because her maid of honor worked for DJ at the time. Stacey became a professional photographer herself, and pretty much kept silent until she saw, what she perceived, as an attack at the credibility of her hard-earned professional skills by the "Spray and Pray" promotion. So she posted her wedding images, shot by DJ, by then one of the most revered, famous photographers in the world, lecturing internationally as a high-end, published photographer who charged this couple $6,000 and gave them a few DVD's. Here's some of the images below, and at all 350 of them can be seen on her Picasa Gallery:
There is an old saying, "if you form a line, people will come and stand in it". The wedding photography industry at the time WANTED DJ to be a great photographer. They called him great, and he was one of the first that I can recall that used Jesus in his marketing and communication campaigns and tied Christianity with the prosperity of his business and life. So you had this Christian crowd wanting to rally behind a new leader, and they made DJ a leader, and he benefited financially from this - getting the titles and the accolades that would turn him into a high-end shooter. DJ knew at the time that he wasn't really a photographer, but a line formed in front of his door and just like the example that I discussed in detail yesterday - when the spotlight shines on you, why not monetize it if you are a businessperson? Well, there are a zillion reasons why (like credibility, avoiding embarassment, etc) but ok - how can one resist not cashing in on the spotlight? Look at Sarah Palin, and you'll see why DJ also became a leader/authority on professional photography. If it wasn't DJ, it would've been Dane (but no that didn't work out very well at all) so then it would be Jasmine, and DJ discovered Jasmine to his great profitability.
DJ is a businessman. This is where this is. You can see by the promo that his ads are smack embedded right there in the "free" advice. It's like he was able to instantly cut himself a check for - say - $50,000 in free advertising. If you could get $50,000 just by clicking a "publish" button on your website, could you really say no?
Professional Photographers, I don't know if I'd freak out about this. He makes it clear that his tips for "not bringing a lot of fancy equipment" to your first wedding is really meant for couples who weren't going to hire a professional anyway. So will this impact your market? I don't know. I don't know if those people would've come to you anyway. Not sure yet, but we'll find out pretty soon if your bookings start to drop.
DJ has a ton of power in this industry. He understands how to form a crowd, how to get the crowd (the community he formed) to go nuts in following and praising him and Jesus at the same time, and to my knowledge, he's the first to be able to do that. Not my style, but he lives in a nicer house than all of his followers who are giving him their credit card numbers so he can charge them every month. It's really - brilliant!