Success in selling selfies to businesses

PHOTO: Success in selling selfies to businesses

Taking a picture in the past was solely to capture or document special and rare moments.

It was a novelty and perhaps exciting to pose or assume that perfect position, have the film developed at the photo shop and wait to see the finished product after a few days.

These days, thanks to technology, social media and online applications, picture taking has become an instantaneous activity where anything can be captured, processed and published for the world to see in a matter of seconds.

While taking shots of major events will always be in the picture (literally), many users of social media are now snapping what they had for dinner, things they see in front of them (even if it's just the mundane) and the common "selfie" - random shots of themselves.

It could be a mix of vanity, self expression or a desire to pique the interest of other viewers, but photos still tell a story more than words alone can say.

Various brands have recognised this and merged the love of picture taking with their brand identity to serve their target markets who are mainly teenagers and young adults.

Now the expensive processes involved in polishing up a fantastic advertisement is only one of the many options for effective brand marketing.

Getting snap happy

Companies providing photo-related services through the use photo booths are gaining popularity around the world, particularly in the US and the UK. In Malaysia, there is one such business called Fotobox Sdn Bhd- a name that's easy to remember and aptly describes what it essentially does: set up a customised photo booths for its clients from various industries to let people having fun taking miscellaneous pictures of themselves. The pictures are adorned with the client's branding icons, borders and products as well as taglines and other emblems.

In 2011, the company was founded by 23-year-old Jason Ang who was inspired by the Blue Ocean strategy to use and old and existing idea of a photo booths to transform it into an modern solution for branding events.

"The idea quickly became a popular crowd engagement tool for events with AirAsia, Coach, Toyota, Unilever, Moet Hennessy Diageo, just to name a few of our 50 clients. We've slowly expanded our operations to Sydney, Australia where Top Shop is one of our clients. Singapore is also a new market that we're looking at in the near future," said Ang, now 25.

While the external part of the booth is customised to suit any event, its software like the interface and digital and printed images are creatively designed for the event as well.

"We're not the first to do this - taking photos together and getting creative with posing is always a fun activity for people to engage with one another. But our clients' events sometimes have up to 200 or more people and the photo-taking process requires speed and accuracy," noted Ang.

As such, Fotobox's photo booths are equipped with a printing system that processes information and spits out prints as quickly as eight seconds per photo.

And it's not just about the physical pictures, the digital results can be sent instantly to social media websites thanks to cellular connectivity.

"It provides great engagement for the guests at events, while the pictures can be posted online. Guests can enjoy instant uploading to social media platforms and also 'like' the brand's page in an instant. For the brand, it gives them immediate exposure and that sense of being modern and in-sync with the technology of the young generation. This can rapidly increase their popularity because online media is a very powerful branding tool," explained Ang.

Fotobox's services for its clients also includes collecting data and feedback, allowing them to see how they're perceived online by their customers while increasing their fan base on social media.

"So we aren't just a photo booth or box. We want to be seen as social-media experts by providing a whole product that does creative design, photography and collects consumer data," said Ang.

On average, clients pay RM3,000 to RM7,000 per photo booth, depending on the duration of their event.

The cost includes more than just hiring a Fotobox as Ang explains: "We look at the whole scheme of things in terms of the events and work with our clients so that they need not worry about anything. The team will design the whole experience for clients leading up to the day. Our people will man the Fotobox booth during the event - it's a complete package with the product and services included," said Ang.

Enterprising youth

Ang is soft spoken and appears to be constantly brewing ideas in his head for his next major project for a big client. He says every event is unique and each one presents a learning experience for him and his small team of six, two of whom concentrate solely on research and development.

"I started this business with RM200,000 and although it's been two years, the company has yet to break even. That's ok, because we are on the right track as the response has been good, so we're aiming to see the fruits of our labour in a year from now," said the hospitality graduate from Kolej Damansara Utama, in Petaling Jaya.

Ang had always been exposed to and fascinated by branding concepts as a child and yearned to be in a profession that was brand-related.

"My back ground in F&B is very strong since I studied it and my parents own and operate their restaurant, Betty's, in Wisma Cosway in KL. It was kind of expected that I continue my parents' business, but that itch in me to start a branding services business was too great to ignore.

Although I didn't' study marketing or branding, I had the opportunity to work for a branding company that served international and well-known clients so that's where I learned the ropes," said Ang.

Nevertheless, he says his folks are quite happy with his entrepreneurship and he has their full support, adding that his mother taught him the value of hard work, perseverance how one needs to invest every part of themselves in a business to see its success. "If it means working up to 20 hours a day and doing it smartly every day for the first few months, the outcome will be worth it," he said.

Inevitably, Ang experienced a few rough patches when the business started, but through trial and error, he and his teammates constantly improved the product.

His project for the Hennessy Artistry event in June marked a significant milestone as it was attended by an estimated 5,000 people and he still remains amazed that a simple idea of a photo booth made the event a success.

Besides corporate events and parties, the company also provides its photo booths for weddings.

"We're now working on more people-engagement that's related to the photos. There's a new Fotobox Light, which is a Fotobox system that increases the aesthetic qualities of the photos. We're launching a new product next year that's steered towards the use for various mobile applications instead of just using Facebook as one of the main social media engines," he said.