February 29, 2016
Bull$#!+ Meter: Stock Photography
By Christian Lindsey
It doesn’t take a trained eye to find bad stock photos in advertising. The signs are obvious. People looking at the camera with their dumb faces, wearing shirts adorned with logos of brands that don’t exist anymore, and people eating breakfast in the woods are just a few examples.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use stock photography as a resource. Not all clients have the budget for an extravagant photo shoot, or the benefit of 25,000 enthusiastic Instagram followers giving them content. What I’m saying is that the use of stock photography is beginning to become obvious when used in a campaign, and that’s when my bull$#!+ meter goes from zero to eleven.
What is this bull$#!+ meter? It’s the little horn that goes off in my head when a visual does not match a brand promise.
Our job at UPBrand Collaborative is to tell stories… believable ones that match a brand promise. Part of telling those stories is giving our clients creative assets that match their specific brands.
With a majority of advertising efforts moving to the digital space, it’s critical that a brand’s promise is present at every consumer touch point. Whether that’s a banner ad or an Instagram post, you should always make sure what you’re communicating matches the promise…especially on image-based posts.
When the visual content is out of whack with the brand image and promise, it can make a brand seem unbelievable and fake. The last thing you want to do as a brand is to spend thousands of dollars on advertising efforts and not get any interaction with your consumers. That’s a modern day advertising fail.
Why is brand image important? Because consumers have changed. They want to attach themselves to brands both physically and digitally. They want to be ambassadors for brands that have the same values as them. All it takes is a quick photo at a music festival with a hash tag and a consumer can become a part of a brands’ ecosystem. That immediate connection and ongoing relationship is very important in today’s constantly plugged in generation. The more a consumer can converse with their favorite brands the better, even if it’s just a photo taken with a stupid selfie stick.
So what does that say about today’s consumer? It means that today’s consumer is the brand. It also means the brand needs to stay true to its promise for it to have an ongoing relationship with its consumers. If there is ever a lack of consistency between the brand’s image and the values they share with consumers, the brand can seem like they’re just selling a product and not the lifestyle. You can easily achieve this disconnection by using one-size-fits-all stock photography that may have already been used by a different brand.
It is important for brands to have some user-generated, non-stock photography images in their online campaigns…it makes them look like they’re selling a lifestyle and not a product. So the next time you think about posting that photo of a smiling person eating a Belgian waffle in the woods that could be in the Pacific Northwest, just remember that my Bull$#!+ meter will be at 11.