How to Take Personal Branding Photos as Awesome as SNL Bumper Shots

How to Take Personal Branding Photos as Awesome as SNL Bumper Shots

There’s a lot to love about Saturday Night Live. The show has been going on for decades and always makes us laugh. We get to see a different side of the celebrities we love, poke fun at the media, and play back the skits countless times on YouTube.

But there’s something else that always catches my eye beyond the sketches, monologues, and live performances: the SNL bumper photos.

I didn’t know about these photos even had a name until I did my research, but SNL bumper photos are shown in between commercial breaks and feature the host or musical guest. And they are works of art. 

The photographer, Mary Ellen Matthews, clearly has an eye for creativity. But beyond that, you can tell she does her best to capture the personality of her subject. She doesn’t just pose them in front of a backdrop. She puts effort into the details to make sure each celebrity’s bumper photo tells their story. 

 
 

For example, to poke fun at Ariana Grande’s iconic ponytail, Mary Ellen playfully posed her with scissors.

 

 

Here is a round-up of some of my other favorite shots:

How to Take Better Personal Branding Photos

SNL bumper photos are a sharp contrast from the boring yearbook photos we took in grade school. Thankfully, we no longer have to pose in front of tacky, watercolor backgrounds like we did then. 

Yet, most professional headshots these days don’t embrace the boundless creative potential. This is what came up when I Googled ‘professional headshots’. We’ve got a bunch of suits and corporate squares who all look the same. 

 
 
 

Where is the personality?!?!

As kids, yearbook photos were a chance to be awkward. But as adults, professional headshots are a chance to be awesome.

Your photos are part of what make you memorable online, and you won’t dread taking photos if you make them uniquely you.

It starts with abandoning your idea of a “professional” headshot. Instead, think of them as *personal* headshots that are true to you. This doesn’t mean your photos will lack polish

 

Here are some things to think through to when taking personal branding photos:

Wardrobe – Ditch the boring black blazer. Choose bold colors or patterns that reflect your personality. Don’t be afraid to incorporate statement earrings, colorful glasses, or a vintage tee.

Location – You can do so much better than a white backdrop. Go outside, find a cool mural, or look for a venue that makes sense for your niche.

For example, if you work in sports, take some fun shots on a basketball court. Music lover? Hit up a record store.

Poses – This is another chance to get creative. Put on your favorite playlist and let loose a little. Test different expressions and do a variety of candid vs. posed shots. And smile!

Props – My favorite tip! Props are small elements that make a huge difference. They help tell your story! For my ’90s-inspired shoot, I brought a fluffy Clueless pen, a Central Perk mug, and a throwback laptop.

 
 
If you’re able to splurge, hire a professional photographer. Consider your photos an investment in yourself and your brand. They’ll make such a statement on your website and social profiles!
 
But you can also do SO much with your phone and a few editing apps, especially when you add your personal style with everything mentioned above.
 
Let me know if you plan to put take personality branding photos! I’d love to see your creativity and personality come to life!
 
Brands: How to Jump in on Trending Topics without Getting Canceled

Brands: How to Jump in on Trending Topics without Getting Canceled

If you knew all of your potential customers were going to a party, wouldn’t you try to make an appearance? Real-time trending topics are like parties on social media. It’s where your audience hangs out, and where your brand should, too. From the latest news in music, TV, sports, or movies, chiming in on pop culture trends demonstrates your brand’s personality. They are your chance to become the life of the party! 
 
The tricky part is that these content opportunities are unexpected. Despite our best efforts to plan a content calendar and get ahead, we can’t predict what becomes popular. That’s why content creation requires us to be agile, well-informed, and quick-witted. 
 
But there’s a right way and a wrong way to insert your brand into trending topics. Here are some considerations to help you avoid a social media party foul. 
 
 

 

Know your audience. 

We spend a lot of time understanding our audience’s demographics like age, location, or income level, but the magic happens when you know their interests. Research what your target customer likes to watch, listen to, or read. 
 
The beauty brand, Tarte Cosmetics, connects with their followers by live tweeting during The Bachelor. 

 

 

Listen.

Create a routine that helps you catch up on the latest trends, current events, or headlines. This can be as simple as listening to a morning radio show while sipping your morning coffee, subscribing to a daily newsletter, or browsing trending hashtags on Twitter. Google Trends is also a helpful tool for monitoring popular search queries. 
 
When the ESPN documentary #TheLastDance became a national trending topic, DiGiorno knew their followers would get kick out of this live tweet. 
 

 

Do your research.

Sometimes, a topic may be trending for complicated reasons, or to highlight a sensitive subject. Before you jump into the conversation, make sure you understand its sentiment and context. You don’t want to associate the brand with a subject that can hurt your reputation. 
 
In light of Britney Spears conservatorship battle, the hashtag #FreeBritney has been trending in recent months. The Framing Britney Spears documentary also brought it to life and started conversations about mental health, misogyny, and abuse. Frontier Airlines saw this as an opportunity to develop a self-serving and tone-deaf promotion. 
 
Frontier Airlines developed a tone-deaf promotion where anyone named Britney flies free

 

Use your judgment.

Unfortunately, marketing decisions aren’t always black and white. Don’t contribute to a pop culture topic if it feels forced. Also, if there’s a chance your content can seem offensive, insulting, or insensitive, sit this one out. 
 
Burger King should have thought twice before inciting the wrath of Taylor Swift fans with this tweet. Many accused the brand of being sexist. They responded with a promo offer to “shake it off”. 
 
Burger King tweeting a sexist comment about Taylor Swift
 
 

Have a team in place.

When the perfect opportunity arises, speed and efficiency matter. You don’t want to be late to the party. Be proactive by assembling a team and assigning roles in design, copywriting, and community management. 
 
Joe Biden’s campaign team could never have predicted a fly would land on Vice President Pence’s head during the vice presidential debate. The team quickly swooped in and saw this viral moment as a unique fundraising opportunity. They shared this tweet with the perfect photo and a link to donate. 
 

 

Think bigger.

Without a doubt, great content can make a splash. Your post may garner thousands of likes, comments, or retweets, but ask yourself if you can do something more. Pop culture doesn’t only happen within the walls of social media. Can do you something bolder by stepping offline? 
 

A perfect example is when Nathan Apodaca went viral on TikTok for his skateboarding video, featuring Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac’s song, “Dreams”. The brand surprised (and delighted!) him with a brand new truck in cranberry red. That’s a way more powerful response than a tweet.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Ocean Spray (@oceansprayinc)

 
 
Although participating in pop culture and trending topics can help you build a bond with your audience, it can also induce pressure to be “always on.” This is your reminder that sometimes the timing won’t be right. Evaluate each opportunity to see if it’s worth shifting your priorities. Trends come and go, and it’s okay to pass. Join the party only when it makes sense.  
 
What the Spice Girls Teach Us About Brand Purpose

What the Spice Girls Teach Us About Brand Purpose

If you were a young girl growing up in the ’90s, you pretty much had no choice but to love the Spice Girls. They were absolutely EVERYWHERE. If it weren’t for them, I certainly would have had a much harder time making friends on the playground.
 
I owned the CDs, saw Spice World in theaters, and had school supplies with their faces on them. My only regret is never having seen them in concert. 
 
But as an adult fan looking back on the Spice Girls’ legacy, I think about what I learned from them. For one, they taught me how to be a good friend because your girls always come first. But secondly, they were the first to teach me about brand purpose… I just didn’t know it yet.
 

What is a Brand Purpose?

It goes back to what Simon Sinek says in his popular TED Talk and best selling book, Start With Why.  
 
Your brand purpose should directly answer “Why does this brand exist?”
 
Sometimes, brands go wrong when drafting their purpose and they make it about them. They think it’s about selling lots of products, boosting their bottom line, or filling the pockets of their C-suite executives. But a brand purpose is never selfish.
 
It’s not about the things you sell, but about what those things can do for people or the planet. It’s how your brand can make the world a better place. 
 
 

 

Here are some examples of brand purpose: 

  • Crayola: to unleash the originality in every child
  • Southwest: to connect people to what’s important in their lives
  • Dove: to help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look
  • Nike: to bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world
  • Google: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful
 
You’ll notice a pattern here. When writing a brand purpose, it should always have a powerful verb, because it’s what you do for others. There is an action. In the examples above, we saw verbs like unleash, connect, and help. Simply following this format will strengthen your own brand purpose. 
 

 ‘Girl Power’ as a Brand Purpose

In their quest for fame and superstardom, the Spice Girls knew they wanted their music and careers to be meaningful. They didn’t approach their work with the goal to sell millions of albums or concert tickets. That may have been part of what they wanted to do, but it wasn’t their WHY. 
 
Instead, the Spice Girls existed to unify young girls and inspire them with the confidence to do anything. It all started with their well-known mantra, ‘Girl Power’.
 
 
Its meaning may seem implied, but when asked about ‘Girl Power’ in 1997, Scary Spice said:
 
“It’s about spreading a positive vibe, kicking it for the girls… It’s not about picking up guys. We don’t need men to control our life. We control our lives anyway.”
 
This purpose was consistent in everything they did, including the lyrics to their songs, like Wannabe. Also, in the Spice Girls movie, Ginger Spice scares off a suitor by mentioning the word feminism.
 
The ethos of ‘Girl Power’ clearly resonated with the Spice Girls’ millions of fans. They sold over 100 million records and topped every major albums chart around the world. It gave their music and work a deeper meaning, which created a deeper connection with their fans. 
 
Not to mention, the Spice Girls embraced individuality, with each member having their own style and unique personality. This gave their young fans someone to look up to and identify with as they established their own social circles. For what it’s worth, I always loved Ginger Spice.
 
Their strong brand purpose led to even more Spice mania, with the group being named ‘the most merchandised band in history,’ according to Wikipedia. The article went on to cite a quote from John Mckie of BBC stating that while other stars had used brand endorsements in the past, “the Spice brand was the first to propel the success of the band”.  
 
The Guardian‘s Sylvia Patterson also wrote of what she called the Spice Girls’ true legacy: “[T]hey were the original pioneers of the band as brand, of pop as a ruthless marketing ruse, of the merchandising and sponsorship deals that have dominated commercial pop ever since.”
 
Fun fact: The Spice Girls dolls are the best-selling celebrity dolls of all time. 
 
spice girls dolls in boxes
 

‘Girl Power’ – From Lyrics to Copywriting

If it weren’t for an ad for an “all female pop act” published on March 4, 1994 in the British newspaper, The Stage, we may not have the Spice Girls. The want-ad called for women ages 18 to 23 with the ability to sing and dance. Over 600 girls responded, 400 auditioned, and only five were selected. 
 
And then, the Spice Girls’ very own feminist movement began. They started living out their purpose. 
 
Although your brand may not have lyrics like the Spice Girls do, you still create messaging. You don’t sing to your audience, but you communicate. You are empowered to share a brand purpose.   
 
The takeaway: make sure your message is rooted in something more meaningful than your brand itself.
 
 
 
#PopChat — December 18

#PopChat — December 18

Our #PopChat discussion this week talked about Perez Hilton, tabloid culture, brand rivalries, fan criticism, tattoos, and reboots.

All questions were based on these pop culture highlights:

 

#PopChat Questions

Everyone who participates in #PopChat is just brilliant! Below, I’ve compiled a few answers to each question. To view the full chat, check out this Twitter moment!

Q1: Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton was banned from TikTok after posting negative comments on videos from Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae, etc. Many young users petitioned to remove him. Are we becoming less tolerant of toxicity on social media? Why or why not?

 

 

 


 

Q2: How has social media changed tabloid culture and celebrity gossip?

 

 

 


 

Q3: Christina Aguilera turns 40 today! Yet she is still often compared to Britney Spears. How can people or brands overcome constant comparison and build their own loyal audiences?

 

 

 

 


 

Q4: After music artist Lizzo posted videos about a juice cleanse, fans accused her of buying into diet culture and no longer promoting body positivity. When does a fan or customer’s feedback cross a line?

 

 

 


 

Q5: A new movie trailer for ‘Palmer’ starring Justin Timberlake was just released. Who is another celebrity who successfully pivoted to acting? What makes or breaks this transition?

 

 

 


 

Q6: Comedian Pete Davidson is supposedly having all of his tattoos removed. Do you consider tattoos part of someone’s personal brand? Why or why not?

 

 

 

 


 

Q7: After much anticipation, disappointed Lizzie McGuire fans learned a reboot isn’t happening after all. How should brands handle it when they overpromise and underdeliver?

 

 

 

 

Did you miss out on #PopChat this week? Join us every Friday at 1 p.m. ET! Follow me on Twitter at @brianne2k.

 

#PopChat — December 11

#PopChat — December 11

Our #PopChat discussion this week talked about Taylor Swift’s evermore, KFC + Lifetime, Crocs + Post Malone, Selena, TikTok, Tiffany Haddish, and more!

All questions were based on these pop culture highlights:

 

#PopChat Questions

Everyone who participates in #PopChat is just brilliant! Below, I’ve compiled a few answers to each question. To view the full chat, check out this Twitter moment!

Q1: Taylor Swift surprised her fans with the release of her second album, evermore, last night. It’s her second album in 5 months. When it comes to content creation, what is the difference between consistency vs. volume?

 

 

 

 

 


 

Q2: “Evermore” is considered the sister-album to Taylor Swift’s folklore album. The branding and cover art are similar. How do you determine when to continue a brand story or start a whole new campaign?

 

 

 

 


 

Q3: Crocs partnered with rapper Post Malone on their fifth special edition shoe, which sold out. When do you know if a partnership makes sense?

 

 

 

 


 

Q4: Lifetime announced an original mini-movie, ‘A Recipe for Seduction’. One of the characters is KFC’s Colonel Sanders, played by Mario Lopez. What should brands keep in mind when playing jokes on their audiences?

 

 

 

 


 

Q5: The producer of the 1997 biopic, Selena, is suing Selena’s family over their involvement in the new Netflix bioseries about her life. He claims he “owns the rights to her life story.” As content creators, do you understand his side?

 

 

 

 


 

Q6: Musical theater fans on TikTok started a viral trend about the Disney/Pixar film, Ratatouille. Broadway’s production company noticed and is now turning it into a real musical. What is a lesson from this?

 

 

 

 


 

Q7: Actress Tiffany Haddish was offered the opportunity to host a GRAMMYs pre-show, but without compensation. She turned it down.

Is working for exposure ever reasonable?

 

 

 

 

 

Did you miss out on #PopChat this week? Join us every Friday at 1 p.m. ET! Follow me on Twitter at @brianne2k.