A dramatic ‘before’ and ‘after’ with BloodLines Art

About two weeks ago I worked with Scott Schaefer as we set up a mini photo studio in our basement and shot more than 80 of my paintings. Scott has his own company where he markets classic Winchester hunting artwork, selling vintage posters online. It’s a thriving business and he has found a definite market niche.

I’ve been hoping to find a market niche of my own with my artwork. Currently, I have two different websites – https://bloodlinesart.com/ and https://tom-blood.pixels.com/

My bloodlinesart website seems to only be visited by other artists. And not that often. I haven’t really done any full-fledged marketing efforts to promote it and when renewal time comes around, I’m probably going to cancel it. There are lots of other places where I can showcase my art that I haven’t fully taken advantage of to date.

The pixels website, which is also called Fine Art America, has done a lot better as far as visitation. About two weeks ago, I was nearing my 10,000th visitor. They come from around the world. I’ve had views from China, Russia, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, India – and that’s just to name a few as well as people from all over the U.S.

The fun thing about the pixels website is that you can order items featuring my artwork on pillows, tote bags, iPhone cases, shower curtains and a variety of other items. Unfortunately, sales have been less than lucrative.

So I decided to try and become a bit more professional with the presentation of my art and Scott got me going with the hi-res digital images he took. But that’s just for starters as he showed me a number of photoshop treatments all designed to make your photography sharper than ever.

Here’s a pic of one of my paintings before:

A true, 'before' picture.

A true, ‘before’ picture.

And here is the same painting that was digitally photographed and saved in a much higher resolution format. (The image is a higher resolution than the download of this site allows.)

https://tom-blood.pixels.com/featured/white-thomas-blood.html

I’ve tried saving my ‘WHITE’ painting image in smaller sizes but with no luck. So please click the link to see the vibrant color and sharp detail that will now be present with virtually all of the images that I have featured on my pixels site. (While you’re there, I encourage you to see many of the other paintings I’ve done!)

To date, I’ve uploaded about 14 of them – so I have a long way to go. But already, the number of visitors has skyrocketed as I’ve had more than 1,000 new views since I began re-uploading my images. I wish I could say that the sales have skyrocketed, too. Not yet.

But I’m hopeful. I plan on launching a new e-commerce site sometime before the holiday season officially kicks off where people will be able to order prints of my work direct from me. Scott will handle the printing and shipping and together we’ll both profit.

I have a lot of fun creating my art. I hope to soon begin having more fun (and success) in my efforts to sell it.

 

 

Drunk on America

When I first heard that A-B InBev was renaming its flagship brand, Budweiser to America for the summer and right on through to the election in November, I thought it was a joke.

I honestly can’t believe that here I am blogging again about Budweiser. Just a few posts ago, I was writing about how angry their ads had gotten, taking an in-your-face attitude to new extremes.

Now, this Belgian-owned company is doing the ultimate act of American commercialism, jumping on the patriotic bandwagon in their effort to sell more beer.

America beer.

Talk about a brand that has lost its way.

You can’t say that the folks at A-B-InBev are doing this to get us all to rally ’round the flag. Putting the Star Spangled banner on a can isn’t exactly a fitting tribute to Francis Scott Key. Sadly, in this day and age, I’ll bet the majority of Americans don’t even know what “E Pluribus Unum” even means or where it originated. Perhaps a few bar conversations might elicit the answer but I’m betting it doesn’t begin a new age of enlightenment about American history.

It’s all about selling beer and Budweiser, or, starting May 23rd, America, is fighting a losing battle. According to Market Watch, “In 1988, Budweiser sold 50 million barrels on its own, making up 25% of all beer sold in the U.S. It has lost more than 70% of its sales since that time and, back in 2011, was knocked into third place among beer brands by Coors Light. It now accounts for just 7% of the U.S. market.”

Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again – but this brand of America is on the decline, getting kicked around by the same craft beers that Budweiser has bashed in recent commercials.

I don’t think the in-your-face attitude is going to fly in their efforts to sell America. Instead, I’m expecting some syrupy, idyllic slice-of-life showing the great times had by all consuming America at backyard bar-b-ques, 4th of July celebrations and sporting events from baseball games to the Olympics. All in an effort to sell more beer.

Maybe they’re hoping that everyone will buy a six pack of America just so we can sit it on the shelf as a collector’s item and shake our heads at the audacity that Carlos Brito is now allowing to be launched from sea to shining sea.

First he does a hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch. Then he comes in, cuts costs, jobs and puts pressure on suppliers – from rice grain to beechwood to the printing and packaging industry, forcing companies to accept 90-day and in some cases 120-day payments for services rendered. Ah, that’s the American way.

No, it’s not.

I know a lot of people who still work for the brewery. I know a lot of other people who have lost a lot of business ever since the Belgian takeover took place.

Maybe America will be a marketing success.

I’m sure it’s been focus group tested and when quizzed, people still respond that they love America.

I just find it wrong for a company that is now foreign-owned to try and sell beer by putting our country’s name, founding thoughts, and heritage onto a label.

When Chevrolet did it with their, “America loves baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” it was kind of cute and iconic. When other brands salute the Olympics and play on Americana, it’s to be expected – particularly since many of those companies are helping through sponsorships. But no company (especially a foreign-owned one) has ever done anything quite as blatant as this.

America. I’m not buying it.

 

 

 

 

 

New York city in a day

Tom Blood, Karen Lamerick and Brian Schultz, all decked out in our Ikigai wear (including the Rival backpack).

Tom Blood, Karen Lamerick and Brian Schultz, all decked out in our Ikigai wear (including the Rival backpack).

 

Any visit to New York city in a day is always a whirlwind. It was even more so on my recent visit to attend the Photo Plus Expo, the largest photography event in North America on behalf of Ikigai, the new line of professional photographer camera bags that just hit the market at the beginning of October.

We didn’t have a booth at the show – Ikigai officially launched the first week in October and currently, the only product offering they have is their Rival backpacks featuring a removable, configurable camera cell on the inside. So we didn’t exactly have a full line to be touting though that will be coming soon.

So instead, we went as observers and thanks to Karen Lamerick, our new PR person, three members of our team managed to get in on a tweet-out event that took place Wednesday night where members of the media could see what’s new and check out the merchandise. Through that little affair, we managed to get a fair amount of both press and tweets and the reviews continue to be extremely favorable about the Strength from Within of Ikigai.

I needed to call on my own Strength from Within to roust myself out of bed and be at the airport by 4:50 in the morning, knowing that when you fly Southwest, any time can be a busy time to get through security. By the time I made it through the scanner, the plane was boarding and long before the sun came up, Brian Schultz and I were heading east, arriving just in time to catch the tail end of rush hour as we had a nice 90-minute cab ride to the Javitts Center. Brian’s represented the design arm of our Ikigai marketing team and we’ve paired up on quite a few projects now in the print and online world.

Upon arrival, we immediately had a quick meeting with a new distributor for Ikigai. That in itself was a good start. Then it was time to hit the floor. I’ve been to a number of trade shows featuring mammoth booth displays and Photo Plus certainly held their own.

Nikon and Canon had huge areas featuring demonstrations, speakers and some of the most absolutely gorgeous photographs of just about anything, enlarged to about 4′ x 6′ formats. Special note was made of the super soft carpet in the Nikon area – after walking the floor for several hours, your feet became very happy when they made acquaintance with this deep plush carpet.

All the major camera brands were there as well as a wide assortment of accessory items and of course, our reason for being there – backpacks, sling bags, messenger bags and a variety of other carrying solutions all catering to the needs of the professional or at least the quite serious photographer.

We checked out our main competition – there were three primary brands that we paid special interest to – LowePro, Manfrotto and Think Tank. Each had a wide assortment of bags, each had their own positioning. But none of them had quite what Ikigai has – a removable, configurable camera cell that provides an added layer of protection to a photographer’s most valued possessions; an easy carrying solution for when you’re out on shoots; and thanks to the removable liners and adjustable Velcro pads, a customizable packing solution that keeps all the gear safe and secure.

We took notes. Took a few marketing brochures. Took pictures. And our net takeaway is that Ikigai is ready to grab its share of this market.

Once people get to know and understand the brand, there is a strong likability factor. And once Ikigai hits the market with a few more product offerings so that a photographer can begin to employ an actual system for packing their bags, this brand is going to take off.

For now, we were content with a one-day up and back.

It was all a blur. It was last Thursday which actually seems like it was already last month.

We have a lot of work to do. And as for next year’s show?

We’ll be back.

The Strength from Within of Ikigai

This is the second of at least four posts about the total teamwork that went into the launching of the new line of Ikigai professional photographer camera bags.

Developing theme lines for companies that can stand the test of time has always been one of my favorite parts of branding. Through the years, I have had the opportunity to help position companies or products with just a few select words. Though I can’t claim anything as resoundingly successful as “Just do it” or, “Good to the last drop”, I’m proud to have helped all sorts of companies position themselves or their products to their respective target audiences with lines that were memorable, focused and that ultimately, helped sell a lot of product or generated a lot of interest.

So I was thrilled to be given this opportunity when I became part of an international team that was helping launch a new line of professional photographer camera bags called Ikigai.

I had heard a lot about Ikigai from Jeff Pickett, president of St. Louis-based Pickett Productions, a graphics animation company. Jeff was going to be creating some new videos on Ikigai’s behalf and said he might need a little copywriting help. I was definitely interested but wanted to learn more.

At first, we  had a conference call with one of the founding members who filled us in about where they were with product development and told us a little about the Ikigai name. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that essentially means your reason for being – what wakes you up in the morning. It seemed like a cool name but I wasn’t quite getting the correlation between Ikigai and a line of camera bags.

So we asked to have a meeting where we could actually see the product. We met at Jeff’s office. Brian Schultz, owner of Brian Schultz Design also attended as Brian and his team had developed the logo and an initial themeline that they were moving forward with. Upon seeing one of the new backpack prototype models featuring a removable, configurable camera cell, I was intrigued.

It was kind of a bag within a bag. The camera cell fit snugly inside the backpack and it was inside the camera cell where precious items like cameras and lens packages would go. Since the interior of the camera cell featured removable velcro linings, you could adapt the insides to include other key gear like flashes, battery packs or miscellaneous essential items for any shoot away from the studio.

“Does the competition have anything like this?” I asked. No was the answer.

“Does the bag within a bag give an extra layer of protection for the cameras and gear?” I asked. Yes was the answer.

The backpacks were very cool looking. They were made of this honeycomb ripcord nylon material that is tough, weather-resistant and gives the bag a distinctive look. There were all sorts of other features and benefits to the bag as well – from ergonomic zippers to a detachable waist belt and tripod carrying system. But the unique selling point?

That was on the inside of the bag.

I took all of this info and put together an overall creative strategy document that we all mutually agreed upon.

Then I went to work, trying to create a theme line that played off of the Ikigai name but also dealt with the key selling feature as well.

I discarded the obvious and tossed out the obtuse. When I hit on three simple words, something clicked with me.

Strength from Within.

The whole concept behind Ikigai is that there’s a strength within all of us that is a unique guiding force. Check.

The unique selling point of the Ikigai line just so happens to be the removable, configurable camera cells that can be switched out from one backpack to another – though there is only one model on the market right now, more are on the way and the larger versions will all feature these camera cells that make packing for shoots easier, add an added layer of protection and you don’t have to lug the entire backpack around when you’re out on a shoot. That’s truly strength from within.

Finally, there’s the whole inner resolve that any photographer who’s committed to getting that awesome shot has to have – photographers need their own strength from within to endure harsh environments or put themselves in precarious positions or wait for just the right moment to come along to turn ordinary into extraordinary.

It was a trifecta – a theme line that worked for the product name, the product itself and the target audience.

The old theme line was retired, replaced by ‘Strength from Within’.

With that as our base, it was time to begin to build the brand messaging.

And we had just the team to do it.

 

Total teamwork on building a brand

I have been given an opportunity unlike any other in my more than 30 years of creating advertising and marketing communications.

I’m part of an international team that is helping to launch Ikigai, a new line of professional photographer camera bags that are officially available for purchase online on October 1st. http://us.ikigaibags.com

Literally, we have been working as one on both sides of the Atlantic, building a brand from the ground up. I was invited a bit late to the party as the product name, logo and color palette had already been decided upon and an e-commerce website was already in the works. Still, there was a lot more to be done and I was thrilled at the opportunity to be able to help.

What we’ve done over the past few months has been fun to see it all evolve. There is still a lot of work to do. And this is a long, interesting story to tell.

So rather than condense it all into one blog post, I’m going to spread it out a bit.

I’ll begin with the product name – Ikigai.

It’s a Japanese term that essentially means your reason for being – what gets you up in the morning.

Google the term and you’ll find this diagram:

So how did a new line of camera bags decide to call themselves Ikigai?

One of the founding members new of the expression and thought it would be a great name for a company that featured three entrepreneurs who were all looking to follow their own passion of creating a company from scratch and doing it a bit differently than the competition.

Turns out, the name Ikigai was even more appropriate than they initially imagined.

But that’s another story.