We had the pleasure of sitting down with Austin Texas based Brand Developer and Photographer Eric Coleman, for a candid interview on the facets of remarkable branding, life and business in the digital age. This trailblazer is helping brands find their unique voice and has worked with top companies like Toyota, Honda, The March of Dimes and Orange Theory Fitness.
T&T: How are you doing this evening:
EC: Great, it’s been a long day, thank you for taking this interview with me.
T&T: We’re so happy to feature you here with Tenth&Talent! Thank you for interviewing with us. So, tell us what attracted you to photography and branding?
EC: I’ve always been into art since I was a kid. I saw a picture that my oldest brother drew and I was so impressed by it *laughs* in retrospect he probably traced it. My mother is an artist and hobbyist, when I was in the sixth or seventh grade she turned our toy room into a dark room. She had gotten into photography and I came across this book of photos by Carl Posey, I was captivated and hooked. I was always into the arts, I went to junior college, took a photography class, put it down for a long time. When my son was born I picked up my old camera.
The branding portion was by happenstance. I was doing virtual tours and commercial photography; I was taking a ton of pictures of merchandise and food. I’d give the pictures to my customers after a shoot and ask, “how are you going to use these images?” The overwhelming response was “I don’t know”.
I realized that a lot of business owners didn’t have any idea or tangible understanding of how to us images in their branding. A photograph is so much more than a photograph. The first question a business owner should ask is how do I want these images to make my clients feel. The next thing I usually hear is “I have a logo” *laughs*. It was then that I understood that I could really help businesses develop great brands, not just take great photos.
T&T: I’d say that you’re in a really good place in history for the kind of tailored branding services that you offer. As we’re bearing whitness to the dissolution of the industrial age and corporatism as we know it, I’m elated to see so many people going out on their own.
EC: Absolutely, when I’m working with my clients what I aim to do is get a core understanding of who your are, what your personal and businesses core values are, and how you want best serve and converse with your customers. Everything flows from that space of truth. If you have a core understanding of who, why and how, everything can be measured against that. People can make choices faster and easier. I help my customers get clarity, it’s already inside of them, I help them uncover it. Clarity in both business and personal endeavors is invaluable.
I help my customers get clarity, it’s already inside of them, I help them uncover it. Clarity in both business and personal endeavors is invaluable.
T&T: How important is branding and brand identity for a new business?
EC: Extremely important! Your brand is your introduction and courtship with your customer. It’s your “Hello my name is” without saying a word.
I have found that many African Americans are afraid to show that they are black business owners. I don’t apologize for having black images on my website, it wasn’t even on purpose. I looked at it, I had a thought for a moment, but then thought why should I change it. This is the new norm. I do great work and its good no matter who I’m working with, so I have no intent on changing it.
If you eradicate all traces of your blackness you are devaluing yourself and you’re devaluing the way that people in general think about black people in business.
You have to brand yourself for who your company is. You’ll become schizophrenic trying to appeal to EVERYBODY. Go for the people who LOVE and can’t get enough of what you do, in the manner that only you can do it. People think that branding is just the pictures that you show. You have to be consistent.
T&T: I totally get that, I really struggled with whether or not I should brand exclusively to the African American Community when I started my first business. When I look at this for the macro level, it’s unbelievable the way that we have been functioning as a collective in business, trying to appease any and everybody except ourselves.
You stated before that you have a son, so tell me, if you passed away and couldn’t leave your son anything but advice for building a successful brand and business, what are the top three tips that you would leave him?
EC: They’d be;
- Be decisive, try to make a decision, stick with that decision, see where it goes and course correct if it doesn’t work. I say that in business and in life, one of the problems in my early life was that I was not decisive enough. If it works out great, if not then you can always change direction. You can’t change anything that you don’t start or commit to.
- Be able to take criticism, but not from every person. I don’t listen to everybody. If I’m a mathematician I can’t have a real conversation with someone who doesn’t understand algebra. Can you take a picture? If you can’t then don’t call yourself a photographer, you’re a camera owner.
- Be always learning, expanding, trying and discovering new things. Stay on top of, but don’t follow new trends, create them, stay open to new information, be constantly learning new things. An artist’s job is to make social commentary, in order to do that you have to understand what is going on in society, in your craft, you have to be able to take information in and pull it back out in your vision from your unique and important perspective.
If I could only leave my son business advice and nothing else I’d say – Be always learning, expanding, trying and discovering new things. Stay on top of, but don’t follow new trends, create them, stay open to new information, and be constantly learning new things.
T&T: That’s great advice for entrepreneurs in every facet of their journey. What is the gift that you give to the world?
EC: I feel like my job sometimes is to…. I don’t know, how can I say this?
I feel like my job is to expose this truth about life. It’s a hard thing for me to do personally. I’ve had to go through that a lot lately. Not having the distraction of friends around me and being in Texas on my own, sometimes alone…. sometimes the things I find about myself are shameful and sometimes they’re enlightening. Interpersonal growth translates directly to the inner-workings and functionality of both your life and your business. I embrace it.
T&T: That’s so true! We’re personal development junkies around here. I have invested heavily in personal development in the last 5 years and its paid dividends, I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the really hard parts. I have found that interpersonal wealth is FAR more valuable that monetary wealth. You can build over and over again with one, and be completely at the mercy of another. I think we’re constantly evolving, whether we want to or not *laughs*
This has been an incredibly rich interview, thank you so much, we greatly appreciate and value your time, so how can people contact you?