Using stock images vs. investing in custom photography when building your B2B brand.
One of the most important marketing decisions many B2B companies will face is how to best invest their limited marketing resources when building their brand. With the rise of affordable stock image libraries like iStock Photo and Adobe Stock Images, it can be tempting (especially in B2B) to get away with exclusively using stock images – but is this the right decision for your brand?
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Don’t get me wrong – I make wide use of stock imagery and love the convenience and variety of shots available in these resources and am amazed at the quality in most instances. I remember the days before affordable Royalty Free Stock image libraries existed… you had to pay through the nose and accept lots of restrictions on usage – leading to client confusion and (often) frustration.
I believe the question isn’t so much “if” you should use stock images but “how” and on a related note – when is it a “wise” investment to take some of your own images to build a unique and impactful B2B brand that separates you from the competition in the consumers’ mind (hence the definition of branding).
I’ll answer the first part first. I believe in using stock art in a number of ways. I like using textures and wallpaper graphics – but doing something to the images to make them your own. Maybe it’s a stylistic treatment or interesting crop – just don’t use the images straight up or you run the risk of looking generic or (worse) having people notice images used in other places (or even competitors). I also advise people to dig deeper when doing stock image research – beyond the first page of results when using popular keywords within a given industry – to help insulate against other competitors using the same images.
For stock images featuring people, a little more care should be taken when choosing images and where they will appear. Ask yourself, will this image be used in a way that represents the brand in the eyes of potential prospects and customers? Do we want to build our brand around images that we can’t control or protect?
My recommendation is to consider investing in a few “hero” images to represent the brand in the eyes of the customer. With some careful planning, you can avoid things in the shots that will instantly date the images or cause them to loose shelf life.
It is generally accepted that people retain much more of what they see and do than what they read or hear. This puts more emphasis on building your brand using images that are uniquely representative of your brand – especially the core messages and brand story you’re trying to communicate.
Reserve stock images for social posts that have short shelf lives or areas of your website and collateral in need of more generic images where the brand story itself isn’t being represented or communicated and you will be rewarded with a more memorable brand in the eyes of your customers and be protected from that embarrassing moment when you realize a competitor is using the same image as you are.