Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the world’s largest non profit association for professional photographers. PPA is spread out in 54 countries with more than 20,000 professional members. Its headquarters is in Atlanta.
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Formerly PPA was known as PAA Photographers Association of America. PAA was formed in 1880 by joining two associations, namely Chicago Photographic Association and National Photographers Association. In 1958, the name of Photographers Associations of America (PAA) was changed into Professional Photographers of America (PPA). PPA offers its members and employees a variety of membership benefits such as publications, career development, public relation support, resource information, and other business services. In addition, they provide services such as education, insurance, copyright protection, networking, and face market competition. Every year PPA honors talented photographers for their innovation and contribution to the field. PPA is conducting several competitions to boost up talented members.
Overall marketing philosophy
The mission of PPA is defined as “To be the leader in the dissemination of knowledge in the areas of professional business practices and creative image-making, and to define and maintain the industry’s standards of excellence.” The basic aim hence is to provide invaluable services and products to professional photographers worldwide. The organization may not aim at being a for-profit organization. But it is a fact that the membership fees and other charges levied by them are aimed at providing the best of services. In other words, there is a concept of marketing behind their mission, and it does not include philanthropy or charity to professional photographers. In this context, it is inevitable that the organization accepts membership fees and also the charges for the various services provided by it. (About PPA, 2008).
PPA is an association that aims to increase the creativity of members and improving business. PPA assists the members in achieving success in their careers. They are conducting several measures to increase the creativity of photographers. There are several associations affiliated with PPA and associated professional groups to support PPA’s activities. “The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has created a new association aimed at aspiring student photographers–the Student Photographic Society (SPS).” (The Professional photographers of America: PPA Student Photographic Society SPS brief article, 2001).
The marketing mix (products and services)
The main service of the PPA is to support its members in many ways, and they implemented several flexible solutions for their members. The supporting systems are as follows:
Studio Management Services (SMS)
SMS is developed for providing consulting services and solve issues relating to finance or business and is specially developed for providing business advice for increasing the profitability of photographers. They undertake bookkeeping services, conducting business workshops and online business seminars. Besides, SMS act as the researcher and publisher of PPA’s Financial Benchmark Survey. This service will be available only to its members.
Protection of copyrights and business
PPA members are getting information regarding how to protect their images and ensuring that the pictures they share with the public are protected by copyrights or trademarks. PPA works closely with government agencies and other associations to protect from the violation of copyright laws. Members of PPA need to protect their images. Otherwise, they may lose their business. They also cover risks, “such protection includes an All-Risk Equipment Insurance Policy and the unique Indemnification Trust, which helps members facing malpractice situations.” (Professional photographers of America: Business protection, 2008).
Education and certification
PPA conducts several educational programs on photography and related topics. They provide professional certificates. They provide the best educational events, credentials, and best networking. “PPA members have access to a year-round continuing education program through the Winona International School of Professional Photography. This program helps photographers stay abreast of new techniques and technology.” (Preserving special moments, 2007).
Besides, PPA members can earn professional degrees and designation. Professional degrees include Maser of photography, Master artist, Master of Electronic Imaging, and Photographic Craftsman.PPA member’s certification is going through the Professional Photographic Certification Commission, which is a leading certifying body for a photographic professional in the world. The designation indicates that a photographer has met strict requirements by proving their artistic abilities, technical expertise, and business skills. PPA-certified photographers need to remain active in a continuing education program to maintain this designation.
Exhibition and tradeshow
PPA is yearly conducting conventions and trade shows for Professional Photographers of America. These shows will be very helpful in getting new technologies and products available for professional photographers. It provides for the best network and learning opportunities from the best photographers in the world.
Online forum and publications
PPA has its own forum and galleries for the professional community, which shares ideas of professional photographers all over the world. PPA also publishes its own magazine-Professional Photographer. It is available to members of PPA and as well as nonmembers.
Marketing perspectives and strategy
The overall marketing strategy of PPA is their initiate for bringing new ideas and their steps towards increasing sales by creating demand for their existing products.
PPA developed comprehensive market strategies which involve proper segmentation, positioning, and trend analysis.
PPA is well versed in all aspects of marketing, including the protection of copyright and trademarks. PPA is an expert in promotional activities by way of traditional and modern marketing activities. They are very effective in using the internet and other communication devices. PPA is actively taking responsibility for the creation and development of their member’s skills which meets the demands of customers around the world.
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It is important that members of PPA must have their own skills in marketing too. PPA is supporting marketing in many ways. PPA members will save a lot of their time as they no need to run behind the prospective as clients will approach them. And only one thing that members should be careful about is the response they are providing to their clients when they approach. Good photographers often will be a failure in business promotion due to a lack of skills in marketing and promotional activities. PPA is assisting its members in increasing their skills in promotional activities.
PPA has a targeted market and aims at increasing its market share mainly through wedding photography, Portrait photography, and commercial photography. These are their prime market areas.
PPA is an established brand and is now not in a tough product life cycle stage. It is a fact that establishing a brand and building image takes more time. However, there is much more scope for innovation and development.
PPA uses a combination of six marketing channels for communication media. Their media includes magazines, newspaper supplements, television, radio, and websites. The three main established media for advertisements are newspapers, television, and magazines. Newspapers, magazines, and supplements are preferred by customers for getting more information about the service and ideas.
Magazines and websites
The magazine is a good medium for Photographers and is very helpful in getting more details about the service than any other media. Magazines can create interest in the topic and can move them towards photography. Magazines can provide detailed information and ideas about brands. The new trend of the magazine is to encourage participation and bridge the gap by effective interaction. Magazines with their own website are very useful for getting referrals. Magazines and the internet will go well together, and a brief description in the magazine may prompt the customer to gather more information from the internet. Internet advertising can be done by way of mailing, recommendations, and company websites. Thus, the internet acts as both communicating and informative channels. PPA is using advantages of both printed magazines and through internet advertisements. PPA has its own website and is proved and is very effective in providing information and guidelines to the members as well as non-members. It is proved as good media for advertising. An increased distribution activity of magazines is an effective method for the best coverage of advertisement.
Besides this, PPA is using the advantage of mixed media advertising by combing magazines and television. For getting maximum benefits out of advertisement is that both television and magazine advertisements should go together rather than keeping a gap.
“Magazines are an effective and versatile advertising medium not only when employed on their own but also when used in conjunction with television.” ((n.d.), Magazines and TV).
PPA is taking advantage of several media for business promotion. Other advertising media of PPA includes newspaper advertisement; outdoor events; radio; video CD’s; logos; copywriting; business cards; brochures; printed bags, t-shirts, caps, etc.;
PPA is effectively making communication effective by making interaction with its members and prospective clients through email, online, community social networking, and through printed media. Marketing tools of PPA involve interactive CDs, image catalogs, and website advertisements. Other marketing activities involve providing awards and conducting competitions. Issuing a press release with an image to the local newspaper and photographic magazines is an effective way to communicate to the existing clients and new clients.
PPA is regularly rating their growth, and their awareness regarding growth and success is informed to the members and prospective clients. PPA has introduced a number of initiatives designed to drive revenue and profit for its members. PPA has a marketing team that provides research and data for helping clients and agencies. PPA offers referrals to professional photographers and promotes growth in the organization’s quality and performance.
PPA had adopted some changes in channel or media planning. In addition to the traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, television, etc., they adopted more communication media. Modern communicative devices are also widely used for business communication. Modern communication methods involve the internet, radio channels, emails, text messages, and digital television so on.
It is quite obvious that the target market is restricted to the field of photography only. Hence the broad target market can be described in a single word, namely, photographers. So every member has to be a photographer in order to be eligible for membership in the organization. This is understandable because this is the case in the case of membership of any specialized organization. An association for dentists will, as a rule, only accept members of that profession only. An exception to the rule in this case of associate members is that a person can register if he is an employee of a professional studio. He need not be a photographer. But they have four classifications of members, which will be evaluated in the next section. It is to be noted that no, there does not seem to be any requirement as to certification whether an aspiring member is a professional. In other words, the association does not require members a particular qualification or to get a certification from a professional body that he or she is a professional photographer.
Classification and target market segmentation bases
There are four classifications of membership in the association. They are the Professional Active/Aspiring Memberships, the Additional Associate Memberships, the International/Canadian Memberships, and the Corporate Memberships. The first category, as the name suggests, is for professional and aspiring photographers in the United States. Only individuals can request membership. As expected, the fees for the two categories are different. Professional photographers have to pay $323 per year with malpractice protection and $273 without malpractice protection. Aspiring photographers have to pay $194 or $154 depending on whether they require malpractice protection or not. Malpractice protection is a type of insurance in case of negligence or mistakes during assignments. The fees mentioned here are for one year. Members have the option to pay the amount in monthly installments, in which case the membership fee will be slightly higher. There is no requirement to state the nationality of the aspiring member. The only condition seems to be that the person should be staying in the United States. The additional or associate membership category is for photographers and non-photographers alike who are employed by a professional studio in the country. Primary membership is compulsory to get membership in this category. The membership fee is $246, which includes malpractice protection (no choice), and is for one year. Monthly payment will entail a $1 bank processing charge per month in addition to the monthly wise dues. The next category is the international and Canadian membership category. The main difference is that Canadian photographers can avail the malpractice protection program for which they have to pay $220. In this case, a protection fee is compulsory for those classified under wedding and portrait photography. Those who do not take this option will have to pay $170, which is the same as the fee for other international members. Corporate membership, as the name suggests, is for other organizations like studios that can be members. As members, they receive a lot of benefits like unlimited discounted associate membership for their staff, discount on booth rent during events, location priority of stall or booths for exhibitions, etc. The benefits are too numerous to be listed here. There are four types of memberships, namely platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. Obviously, the benefits received by members will decrease depending on the type of membership. The membership fees are $5000, $2500, $1000, and $500 for each class in the same order as given above (i.e., platinum first and bronze last).
Benefits common to all types of members include discounted rates on quality books, software, and resources, searchable listing (as a professional) on their website, free credit cards, and discounts and benefits in other businesses and companies. News and information on photographic products are also available. A magazine is also published by the association, the cost of which is included in their membership fees. Others can subscribe to the magazine by paying $19.95 for a one-year subscription. The amount is the same for online and print subscriptions. US members can only get print subscriptions, while international members can only get online copies. Canadian members have a choice of either print or online subscriptions. Their website also includes a blog and a FAQ section. They also actively do charity work.
Specialty classification or bases
Photography is classified into as many as twenty categories, which include such diverse fields as aerial Photography, architectural photography, general commercial photography, industrial photography, digital imaging, freelance photography, nature photography, wedding photography, and video, etc. Photographers also have to classify themselves into their specialty based on the above classifications at the time of application for membership.
Stages in the product cycle
Any product or service, irrespective of type, has something known as a product life cycle. There are four stages in this, namely introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. (Marketing: The product life cycle, 2007).
The products and services of the association have definitely gone past the introduction stage, except in the case where new ideas or concepts are introduced. It can be said that all its services and products (analyzed earlier) are in the growth stage. It appears that none of them have reached the mature or decline stages since the organization, as well as its membership, products, and services, are growing.
Branding, Packaging, and Customer Service
PPA is also taking effective measures for keeping their brand name by way of continuous trade shows, good public relations, advertising, and trend analysis. The brand is the only thing customer recognize as color, image, name or logo, etc. Keeping brand identity throughout the marketing activities is important to get noticed by customers.PPA always understands the developments taking place in the market and is always taking innovation and initiative in their activities. The brand name is advertised widely through different places where influence can be made. That is through sponsorship like a sports event, TV programs, selling points such as showrooms, supermarkets, etc. Word of mouth is also considered an effective method for building brand image. PPA is widely using its magazine as its brand image.
Evaluation of place of distribution
The organization was formed in the United States for the professional development of individual photographers and the industry in general. The advent of the internet and also the optimal use of this technology by the association has made its market global. Any aspiring and professional photographer from any place where the internet is accessible (taking into consideration local government and banking policies) is a potential customer of the organization. The only constraint is the need and the ability to pay the membership dues.
PPA adopts mass marketing as well as niche marketing. Magazines, internet, and television advertisements will reach a different variety of customers as well as a targeted audience. PP is also involved in pure niche marketing by way of sending e-mails to the targeted market. “PPA outsourced the implementation of the nationwide ad campaign to Napolitano & Co., which placed Storytellers ads in target market publications including Martha Stewart’s Living, Modern Bride, Parent, Child, Baby Talk, Ad Age Graphic Design USA.” ((n.d.), Professional Photographers of America, inc. (PPA): Branding).
The organization has a well-designed and newly revamped website that is comprehensive and informative. Almost all marketing functions can be availed of by members through the website. It includes an online application, payment, and approval of membership, online subscription, and receipt of its publications and products, etc.
Utilizing market research
A review of the literature does not indicate whether the association uses professional market research companies to gather relevant information and data for policy-making purposes or for the benefit of its members. But the PPA has associated itself with other organizations from whom useful and relevant information is available for its own use. This is beneficial for the association members as well. An example would be the association with Commercial Photographers International. The PPA website states that “this association has put together information, resources and materials for photographers in this rapidly changing industry.” (Commercial Photographers International, One powerful network, PPA – Professional Photographers of America). In that sense, market research and information from other professional bodies are available for the association as well as its members.
An analysis of the Professional Photographers of America has been done here with reference to its marketing activities. Even though it is a not-for-profit organization, it can be seen that the association is a very professionally managed one. It has well-designed products and services with the means to promote and sustain the aims and objectives of the organization. The organization is still in its growth stage and has the potential to be one of the premier organizations in the world to promote the growth of professional photography in the world.
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