Case Study: Website Rebranding Images for Axonify

Written by Megan Lowdon

Megan is the Director of Operations at Robert Lowdon Photography. Megan has 10 years of experience in project management and logistics planning, having worked in the event and hospitality industry for large companies for many years.

Published April 28, 2023

Website rebranding images for Axonify in retail setting.

The following is a case study about a photography project we completed for Axonify, a global tech company that provides workplaces with frontline training solutions. The client was working with an agency, The Starr Conspiracy, who was spearheading their brand refresh with a specific focus on their website design. Within the website strategy was the requirement for authentic photos to replace the need to utilize stock imagery. With the website rebranding images, they wanted to control the environment, look, and feel of the photos to better fit the new design.

Our Client:

Who is Axonify?

Axonify is a frontline enablement solution that provides employees with tools that support their daily roles. Serving big industries such as, retail, grocery, finance & hospitality, Axonify’s services help massive companies create and execute cohesive training plans & communications. Their core solutions include: onboarding, employee engagement, training measurement, content, mobile learning, knowledge retention, compliance, communications & skills development. Whether companies require help in all areas or just a few, Axonify will tailor a plan that works best and is most effective for their clients.

Axonify is a Canadian company, founded in 2011. Their global reach is impressive, serving over 250 companies in 160+ countries. Some of their notable clients include Lowe’s, Walmart, Foot Locker and Royal Bank of Canada.

What makes Axonify different?

Axonify really focuses on the importance of knowledge retention. Though brain science and AI, they have developed a product that delivers small bits of information, aptly known as microlearning, to engage employees without overwhelming them with information.

The company’s specialty lies in being able to deliver frontline training solutions for their multi-location clients. Meaning, the Walmarts of the world receive the same training across all of their markets, ensuring that the customer experience is the same no matter which location is visited. This assists with building customer trust and loyalty, which affects the bottom line. It’s this technology that influences higher sales, improved workplace safety, and lower turnover. All very important success measures for businesses.

Grocery store cashier.
Grocery store cashier.
Grocery store aisle stocker with customer shopping in background.
Grocery store aisle stocker with customer shopping in background.
Grocery store supervisor training new team members.
Grocery store supervisor training new team members.
Grocery store employee using technology to complete training modules.
Grocery store employee using technology to complete training modules.
Grocery store manager training employees with technology.
Grocery store manager training employees with technology.

Objective:

Project scope

The client was looking for an image library to replace their need to utilize stock images. They wanted the images to better represent the markets they serve and fit within a colour scheme that worked well for the website. With stock images, users run the risk of the images they select being used by other companies and the client wanted original content that reflects their brand.

The client required images of employees & customers in a grocery store setting, a retail store setting, and a green screen setting (for customization). We took on the complete planning & management of this project through sourcing locations, talent, wardrobe & props. The project occurred over 3 days after 6 weeks of planning and making the arrangements.

Purpose of the brand refresh

Axonify has evolved over the last 12 years, growing and developing new capabilities and services to better support their customers. With this growth in mind, it was time for Axonify to refresh their branding and marketing to support all of these new initiatives. Working with The Starr Conspiracy, they discovered that the theme of being bold kept arising. Thus, the visual focus of the rebrand zoned in on creating motion, connection and energy which dictated the theme of the photoshoot.

Why were website rebranding images important for Axonify?

Authenticity was a huge driver in this project. The client and the agency didn’t feel like the stock images were telling the story of the business effectively. For example, many images they used for grocery took place in a small market that leaned more European than North American. It is really difficult to find grocery images in a large supermarket chain store, as they are heavily branded and usually have corporate policies about not being photographed for purposes other than their own marketing. Axonify, being the industry leaders they are, wanted to push the boundaries and commission images that showed the scale of who their target market is. They didn’t want to settle.

They also required images that blended technology and teamwork with the environment. With stock images, they weren’t always able to find what they needed and had to compromise. With commissioning a custom shoot, they can be more in charge of what they receive via creative direction and a shotlist. Axonify also required images that were within a certain colour palate. For example, Blue & Red are common colours of competing businesses within the same industry and it’s important that Axonify remain neutral when presenting their product to potential clients.

Diversity & inclusion was also an important factor in the client’s wishes for creating custom images, moving further than just gender and race. The client wanted to include individuals with disabilities in the workplace, which isn’t represented well in stock images.

Green screen photography was also an important aspect for the client. They create custom proposals for each client and the green screen images provide them with the ability to swap our different backgrounds for different settings, to achieve flexibility and versatility in the future.

Grocery store worker stocking deli department.
Grocery store worker stocking deli department.
Grocery store customer shopping in produce aisle.
Grocery store customer shopping in produce aisle.
Two grocery store employees chatting at work.
Two grocery store employees chatting at work.
Grocery store cashier
Grocery store cashier
Grocery store employee completing training modules while working
Grocery store employee completing training modules while working

The Process:

Project Management

As mentioned earlier, we took on the complete project management for this assignment. The agency is based out of the United States, so they really needed some local experts to put all of the pieces together. The planning took place over a 6 week period and we had a short turnaround time to meet their website launch date deadline. The creative director from the agency was coming out for the photoshoot, so we needed to find available locations within a specific timeframe.

To assist us with communication and expectations, we put together a schedule of deadlines. The schedule was a timeline for us to gather & present information, for the client and agency to make decisions, and allow us to move through to the next steps. When planning a complicated shoot like this, it is very important that the steps occur in order. First the location(s) need to be determined & dates confirmed, next the talent recruited & selected, then the wardrobe & props selected and ordered. Once all of these steps are settled, we know we have prepared for a smooth photoshoot.

We also worked with the agency on shared documents to be able to update them live and make changes when necessary. With the short turnaround time to plan and execute this shoot, we needed to have a central place to update when talent confirmed or if new selections needed to be made, as well as updates about orders and delivery times. This greatly aided in the success of the shoot, as it made decision making and plan pivoting much easier & timely.

Location Scouting & Negotiation

Finding locations that fit the exact specifications for this project was a challenge. Knowing the client wanted a supermarket style grocery store, left options limited, even though there are so many of them. We approached large chains that simply said it was against their policy or didn’t respond. We quickly pivoted the plan and knew we needed to work with independently run businesses.

With research, we found a local grocery chain that was interested in learning more about the project. After chatting we found out that they have entertained filming in the past but had very negative experiences so they weren’t sure if they wanted to participate. They told us about their store being taken over, left a mess, and issues with payments. However, after hearing about how we run the shoot, all of the accommodations we were offering, as well as the client budget & payment terms, we secured the location. It’s extremely important to us that we leave facilities the way we find them, if not cleaner in some cases. We take extra time and care to ensure anything that has been moved has been replaced, garbage is removed, and we always treat the staff respectfully.

For the retail store we were able to negotiate a location with the Hudson Bay Company (HBC). Big win for us, given the client’s wish to showcase large retail stores rather than boutiques. Unfortunately the timeline for the website launch did not match HBC’s availability, as they were having a large winter sale at the time. We had to pivot the plan again and used the same approach as we did for the grocery store and searched independently. It was extremely important that the store was large enough to house clothing, homewares, shoes etc., to show a variety of settings and the scale of the store. We found a two storey independent retail store that checked all of the boxes. Again, we were told of reservations to these types of projects due to past experience and we were able to instill confidence to proceed.

Lastly, we operated the green screen shoot at the client’s downtown Toronto office location. Luckily for us, the location came with an office dog that kept everyone entertained for the day.

Talent Acquisition

Over the 3 photoshoots, we worked with 26 talented actors. We created a diversity and inclusion statement on our ad, as we wanted to encourage individuals from equity-seeking groups to apply. We vetted all of the applications and provided the agency and client with the short list to select from. Once the talent was selected, we hired them and sent detailed briefs for each photoshoot. Communicating with 26 individuals, the agency, the client, as well as our other client’s (as we were taking on other projects during this time as well), can be a challenge. It was important to put together as much information to send to the talent as possible, to avoid individual questions arising and inboxes filling.

It’s also really important to us to create a comfortable, organized and upbeat environment on set. Both the grocery and retail shoots were overnight, as we could not impede regular operations, which can be hard on people’s bodies and schedules. With that in mind, we made it a priority to ensure in advance that there would be enough chairs/space for everyone, as well as organized food, snacks & beverages. We find that the more the talent is taken care of; questions answered, information provided, thoughtful touches of hospitality, the more effective and efficient we can be and the better the results of the shoot.

Props

Clothing and props were a necessary part of the photoshoot. Given that some of the actors were playing the roles of employee, we needed uniforms that fit within the colour scheme and style of the rebrand. The agency provided us with general ideas for wardrobe and it was our responsibility to source it. At this point in the planning process, we were much closer to the shoot date and had to be smart about delivery times and what would be available in Canada.

We also had to keep in mind that there were multiple roles that needed to be filled. Not only did we need employee, we also needed a meat department worker, a manager, a supervisor, cashier vs stocker etc. Since our client specializes in technology, not running the businesses we were portraying, we really needed to research and take extra time to think from head to toe what these individuals would wear, while also considering how their hair would be worn and ensure we focused on health & safety/PPE.

Retail store customer in shoe section.
Retail store customer in shoe section.
Retail store customer shopping for shoes.
Retail store customer shopping for shoes.
Retail store employee completing on the job training modules with technology.
Retail store employee completing on the job training modules with technology.
Retail store employee
Retail store employee
Retail store employee with technology
Retail store employee with technology

The Shoot:

Team

Besides the talent, there were 3 of us on site executing the shoot. We had myself, checking in all of the talent, completing model releases, organizing catering, and keeping track of our time via the production schedule. We had Robert, the photographer, setting up all of the shots, photographing/filming, adjusting the lighting, directing the talent for the next setup etc. Then we had Bailey, the Creative Director from the agency, who was tethered in to the laptop to be able to see the photos as they were being taken. Bailey was able to direct the talent for when she wanted them to smile, look at the camera, look at the technology, interact with someone, tilt their head etc. It was a huge bonus to be tethered on this shoot to get those immediate adjustments. Bailey knew exactly what was required for the website, making it so all of the assets would be useable.

Gear

We brought in a Phase One camera for this multi-day shoot. This allowed Robert to utilize the Phase One for the photography and his own Nikon camera for the videography, as each setup we staged required both. Whenever we have a project that requires both photography & videography, it is imperative that we run two cameras to keep the shoot efficient and as a result, allows us to produce more assets. The Phase One camera had a lovely seamless tethering ability that allowed the Creative Director to view the images live. We always recommend this when conducting photoshoots of this scale, as we get immediate input if the direction needs to be pivoted and we love that the client can leave the shoot with confidence that we achieved exactly what they need.

Usage

The lifestyle photography images will be used for Axonify’s website, social media channels, advertising campaigns, internal communications, blog & client proposals. The imagery is timeless for Axonify to use for years to come. We provided the client with their own image library of over 500 edited images and 60 video clips. We believe it is essential for companies to conduct custom photoshoots for their business, as it tells a story of authenticity and connects consumers with the brand, as well as develops trust.

Retail store employee with shoe boxes for customer to try on
Retail store employee with shoe boxes for customer to try on
Retail store employee in men's clothing section.
Retail store employee in men’s clothing section.
Retail store customer shopping with employees blurred in the background
Retail store customer shopping with employees blurred in the background
Retail store employees training together at the checkout
Retail store employees training together at the checkout
Retail store employee cashing out customer
Retail store employee cashing out customer

Conclusion

We hope that this case study has provided you with some insights into our approach to photography and how we work with our clients to achieve their goals. If you have any questions, or if you would like to learn more about our services, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss your specific needs and see how we can help.

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