How to Evolve Your Brand: IHNY's Smart Business Model
by Jack Crager
April 28, 2014 —
Ever since graphic designer Milton Glaser created the “I Heart New York” logo in 1977, it has resonated with residents and visitors alike, an eye-catching pledge of fondness for the nation’s biggest and most diverse city. Created as part of a tourism campaign, the slogan took on a life of its own—and in the hands of native New Yorker Jason Groupp, it became a hot photographic brand.
As for Groupp’s take on all of it, he says, “I am so proud of what Karen and Tim have done with my most treasured concept since I’ve been in business. IHNY is years in the making, and creating the perfect experience for our clients has been a labor of love. These guys have taken my idea into new directions that I never dreamed possible.” Adds Seifert: “Jason has been incredible in supporting and trusting us to run the brand. He’s the right kind of mentoring coach for us in this sort of situation—giving us power and freedom to make everything work, but also offering advice and guidance.”
It helps that the partners share a similar esthetic. “I think the style of IHNY is a clean, fashion-forward, fresh look with a sense of fun,” says Seifert. “I learned a lot from Jason during the first couple of years working with him, when I served as his studio manager. One of the key things was the effective use of off-camera lighting, which he’s really good at. IHNY continues to try to keep the look of our images modern and classic at the same time.”
To that end, the city itself is an able prop. “A huge part of what attracted me to Jason’s work is that it epitomizes the ‘New York City photographer,’ ” says Seifert, who hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia. “One of the appealing perks is that we can turn any part of the city into our photo-shoot set. We travel all over the five boroughs, and it’s been a great education.” For Seifert, these explorations lead to new discoveries of her favorite things: local historical facts, coffee shops, meals featuring avocados and polka-dot fashions. For Co., they enhance his quest to find “every cool place to eat in the Big Apple.”
While IHNY’s resident-to-tourist ratio is “about 50-50,” Seifert says, the firm’s clients tend to vary with the seasons. “In the winter, most of our customers are out-of-towners,” says Co., who moved to New York from Orlando, Florida. “But it’s a fun challenge to be visually creative in the wintertime.”
Looking ahead, IHNY hopes to recruit additional shooters who fit in stylistically. “As we grow, we definitely want to bring in other photographers who share the same esthetic we do,” says Seifert. “That is, nice clean, uncluttered, but fun and creative portraits. And we’re looking for people who know how to reflect the energy and dynamism of New York City.”
The partners also hope to expand their horizons globally, regarding New York as a state of mind. In fact, at press time, Seifert and Co. were packing bags for a wedding shoot in Thailand and other parts of the Far East. “As we build our brand, I think it will be iconic New York City weddings—and really awesome destination weddings,” Co. says. “New York is the center of the world, so it gives us easy access to pretty much anywhere.”
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