IN THIS VIDEO: Matthew Sweetwood, President of Unique Photo, shares his thoughts on photography for marketing, innovations on the photography frontier, how he got his start in photography and a background on Unique Photo, Unique University, and what they bring to our community.
Photography changed my marketing mindset and how we can control the visual content that comes out of our cameras to present to our prospective clients. And Matthew is one of heck of a knowledgeable and really nice guy!
The entire interview is available on YouTube at http://youtu.be/SbLlGVZaOhc.
The interview will be broken up into bite-sized tasty morsels, as they well deserve, and so do you – I know your time is valuable.
Please post your comments and questions for us both, we are listening to you and appreciate you tuning in!
Matthew: Good morning. Good afternoon.
Vickie: Good morning, Matthew Sweetwood. How are you today?
Matthew: I’m doing great.
Vickie: I’m super-
Matthew: Hopefully spring is starting, but I don’t know, it’s pretty cold out there.
Vickie: That would be so nice. I know. I’m hearing about all those global warming and I think this might be an aftereffect. I don’t know.
Matthew: It feels like global cooling to me.
Vickie: A little bit. I’m very, very excited here to bring you today Matthew Sweetwood of Unique Photo. I just want to give you a little background about this super enormous personality that we have here today on our show. Okay. Matthew began his full time career at Unique Photo while he was attending Penn State. He was an early-
Matthew: Wait. It’s University of Pennsylvania. We use to wear T-shirts that say Penn, not Penn State, so I’m the University of Pennsylvania. We can’t let that go.
Vickie: Is that so?
Matthew: Yeah. Penn state, they have a little bit of problem with men and children, they’re out in the middle of the state. We’re ivy league and we’re in Philadelphia. Keep going.
Vickie: Got you. I appreciate that you fix that on me. I do. Okay. Matthew has been become nationally known as a marketing innovator, a risk taker, and an extremely quick and creative thinker. He’s personally been involved in the acquisition of over 50 US and international trade marks, for both language and design at Unique Photo and he founded and run the Ozzie Award winning publication Photo Insider.
Most recently, he’s been credited with the reinvention of the successful modern camera store Unique Photo which is the country’s largest in store education program Unique University, right? He’s been a regular photography contributor on Fox News and I’ve been up at 5am watching that, NBC Today Show, News 12 New Jersey, and all their high filed programs. Also spoken publicly for organizations like UPS, FedEx, NJ Devils Hockey and BMW.
He’s a devoted father of five, all of whom still live here in New Jersey. He’s an avid New Jersey Devils fan, and he’s also running their largest fan forum. He’s also an advance auto racer with the BMW club, and of course he’s a photography expert. That’s why we’re here today, so, Matthew-
Matthew: I feel like we’re on a dating site or something like that. I should use that.
Vickie: She get a little high chairs like having a dating game.
Matthew: Exactly right. I think I got to take out the Devils stuff. We’re kind of lousy this year so I don’t know.
Vickie: Is that so?
Matthew: I’m a [inaudible 02:47] fan, per se.
Vickie: That’s no fault of your own though. You do what you can.
Matthew: I don’t know. I brought them bad karma or something. I don’t know. They’re not very good.
Vickie: Not sure if it’s you. I haven’t said.
Matthew: Maybe not.
Vickie: You’ve been nothing but good luck for me.
Matthew: That’s so sweet.
Vickie: Matthew, I want to ask you a question.
Vickie: That I think is of interest to our audience here. How did you get your start in photography?
Matthew: Okay. For me, I entered photography really in a reverse manner. I entered photography not really having any formal training. Not really knowing much of anything, but running a business that sells photography supplies. You learn by osmosis. I lack for a better, other word. I mean, you’re around photographers all the time. When we reinvented this camera store, one of the components that I wanted to add was an education program.
I believe that if you want to run a successful company, you have to believe in your product and you have to be an expert in your product. You can’t just run it from a distance and not really understand. I always use to joke in corporate America that the corporate CEO is in many cases didn’t even understand the product that their own company sell. They can be a CEO in any position. They open spreadsheets and they sort of move numbers around and look at return on investment. Without understanding the essence of whatever it is that you sell. Sort of its DNA.
I don’t really think you can be successful in business. When we transitioned our business, let’s say 5, 6 years ago really from a wholesale business. Where we sold photographers, we have a mail order business. Our store is open 6 years in June. When we transitioned that business I really felt like I had to really gain expertise myself. Even as the company’s chief executive, I still had to gain insight myself into photography. When I built the education program I said, “Okay. I’m going to learn it, I’m going to start taking pictures.” I can’t say that I regret doing that. I love photography. It’s my hobby.
Vickie: Absolutely, and Unique University is you baby in fact?
Matthew: That’s right. It is. Absolutely. The way that came about, because we sort of talk about a couple of times about reinventing the camera store, the old camera store model was a film based model. Some of us are old enough to remember film. You are like only in your early 20’s so you probably don’t remember film. I’ll sort of refresh for our viewers what film is about. The concept in film in a camera store is that a customer would come in and buy film. That would be one trip to the store.
Matthew: Then they would come back and bring back the film to be developed. That would be two trips to the store. Then they’d come to pick up their prints and that’d be three trips to the store. Every single picture was three trips to the store. In addition to that, you couldn’t buy film on the internet. There was no internet. Cameras were not as ubiquitous as they are today. You really only bought a camera in a camera store. Now you can buy a camera in a Staples, wherever you are, online, everywhere.
The camera’s ubiquitous, they lost the film model that generated customers coming in to the store. Even single use cameras were popular at one time. They brought traffic in and out for the same reason. The camera, once to bring it in for process, so on. That model went away, all the camera stores went away. You add in the internet, you add in all those other things. Digital photography basically took away the thing. The camera store.
What I did was I took a look at the modern cameras and said they’re very, very complicated. People don’t really know how to take pictures with them. They’re computers. Let’s create an education based model which draws people back into the store.
Matthew: That’s what happened. When you run an education program, people will continue to come back to you over and over again. In addition to that, you really change your relationship with the customer. Look at the relationship that we started – that you started with my company. Not just us personally, but you started with my company you don’t see us as a retail store necessarily. You see us as a resource. That is just your attitude towards the store. Many cases, a retail store is an adversarial relationship with you, right?
Matthew: You go into the store, you want to get as much as you can for as little as you can. They want to get as much money from you, and get you to buy as much as possible. We sort of transcended that relationship here by creating an education based model. You view us as a teacher more than a seller.
Vickie: Absolutely, and I agree with you with that, that you’re a resource more than just a seller of photography products.