The IPPA Blog | The Blog of The Irish Professional Photographers Association

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Food (actually coffee!) for thought.

What do you think coffee is worth?


I decided to conduct an experiment for the sake of making a comparison to photography branding and this blog. On Monday, after I dropped my two kids to school and with some money in my pocket, I headed to the city centre to run some errands.


Photography Branding

I decided I needed a coffee and I proceeded to park my car in the metered spot outside the door of the Starbucks on Mespil Road. I paid fifty cents for parking and I walked into the Starbucks, waited in line for about 10 minutes while I listened to “pick of the week” music playing out of the overhead speakers. The cashier took my order, and I paid €2.40 for a Grande coffee, plus a €0.60 tip.

Then, I walked over to the pick-up counter and waited another five minutes while the barista wrapped up the drinks he was making for the customers ahead of me. He handed my tall coffee to me, and apologized for the wait.

Total cost for a tall coffee at Starbucks: €3.00 (plus parking@ 50 cents!)

Total time at Starbucks, including parking: 20 minutes



Then, on my way out of town, I went ‘Drive Thru’ at my local McDonald’s in Nutgrove. There was one vehicle ahead of me, so within a mere 60 seconds of waiting, I was at the call box talking to the order-taker. She couldn’t hear me, so I had to place my order three times. Finally, the sound worked, and she captured my request for a medium coffee.

I drove around the corner of the building and paid under €2 for my coffee. At the next window, I picked up my medium coffee (it should be noted that a large is also the same price as a small and medium coffee at McDonald’s).

I spent about 3 minutes in the entire McDonald’s drive-thru and then headed home.

Total cost for my medium McDonald’s coffee: under €2

Total time at McDonald’s drive-thru: 3 minutes



On my drive home, I reflected on my experience. I waited significantly longer at Starbucks and had to hassle with parking my car. The people in Starbucks were nicer, the ambience was pleasant in the store, and the white paper cup the barista handed me felt good in my hand. By paying almost twice as much for a smaller cup of coffee, it got me an experience that “felt” better to all senses despite the hassle of parking the car and waiting longer. The wait was made pleasant via the music and kind employees.

My experience at my McDonald’s wasn’t horrific, but it wasn’t good either. By paying about half as much for a few more ounces in my cup, it came at the expense of not-so-nice employees, the smell of the car exhaust from the vehicle ahead of me, a cup that felt shiny, and just a general bad feeling (McDonald’s is just not a food establishment that “feels” good to me).



Why I bought two cups of coffee, really

I’ve been doing some research about pricing and branding strategies for my other business , recently. At a higher level, I’m interested in working with and helping photographers “take back” the photography industry. I wanted to have something to reflect on as a litmus test for some of my thinking.

Because customers expect stuff from “cheaper”. They associate an experience worth tolerating in exchange for “cheap”.

On the flip side, customers tend to feel good about an experience that is “worth more”. By paying more, they are sitting back and enjoying the tiny elements of delight the company or business owner took the time to architect.



How this relates to photography branding

My exercise resulted in a microcosm of proof that photography branding and evaluating the value of your photography can be done in the same way as the value of a commodity like coffee. Cheap can work fine for you, if your customer is expecting a “cheap-like” experience. And being worth more can work fine for you, if you are interested in crafting a delightful experience for your customers who are patient and willing to spend more time with you, because they value you more.

There is no definitively right answer, only a more right answer for you.

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