I have been asked many times if stock images are really doing their job in marketing. All the pictures we see in advertising, using beautiful models, are always just a bit too perfect. Stock images are no different. We all know this. So why are marketers still using this "illusion"?
...Stock pics or not stock pics that is the question
?Is a picture really worth 1000 words? Or should the question be which kind of picture
I have been asked many times if stock images are really doing their job in marketing. All the pictures we see in advertising, using beautiful models, are always just a bit too perfect. Stock images are no different. We all know this. So why are marketers still using this "illusion"? Perhaps the target audience dismiss these images as fake, creating an emotional distance that is not desired to marketers? Or are people still buying into the perfect world advertisers create?
It has been suggested that when using pictures of real staff, the level of transparency goes up and the company shows its true face for the benefit of its clients. However for SMBs the question would be: Does the opportunity to use real staff and convey self-confidence and transparency outweigh the downside of exposing the true size of the business? A more abstract campaign might crate the desired illusion that the business is bigger.
Other questions are: would real images look as professional as the stock pictures? Would they convey the right message and provide the desired atmosphere? After all clients are used to the polished look of the stock images, so maybe it's best not to "rock the boat"?
Concept is key to good marketing content
Here is a fact - no one likes a fake image. "Canned Happiness" is something we can all smell a mile away. On the other hand, we all enjoy beauty and we like nice packaging- so a professional image with models is not always negative. The point is that beauty has to be part of a deeper concept - the true marketing driver is the concept. If people get what the image is trying to say, then it will work regardless of what the people in it look like. The beautiful smiling faces are not an added value, unless they fit with the general concept of the campaign.
Concept is also a key factor is deciding if you want to use stock images or use real staff. Concept will help you decide if you need to invest in a customized photo-shooting and what type of images you will want to produce. Perhaps a more abstract imaging is best to get your message across. Making use of unique connections to create associations to your product or service using images is a powerful and emotional marketing tool.
I like to mention the DOVE campaign for a concept that chose to use real people. They have been doing this for 12 years! It started with the iconic pictures of normal women in underwear and has been followed by various angles for empowering women (showing women that others see them differently, that women tend to be more critical of themselves, that looks not always affect one's carrier success). But even DOVE is choosing the people it works with very carefully. We need to realize that even if some of the campaigns are shot in the real world, editing is used for refining to create the perfect message. The DOVE campaigns are real life - professionalized.
Real life can look great!
Here is a logistic consideration. Your real staff images can look very professional if you forgo the cellphone "selfie" and use a professional photographer. So it's not a contradiction in terms to use your real staff for professional looking images. It is a question of budget, time and cooperation. Do you have the budget to hire a professional? Will your staff be cooperative and be willing to be photographed? Do they have the time for this? Will you be prepared to use touch ups to get the best atmosphere? (Thus loosing a bit of the "truth" of your pictures? Or is that totally against the concept?)
If you use a faded background or some graphic effects, your real life images do not necessarily have to reflect the real size of the company. If you use images of not only the staff, this too can obscure the company size.
Do not forget the text
A copywriter once told me that "No thousand images would be able to describe one word!" The power of words is still a key driver in marketing today - even within the digital channels. True, video rules and pictures catch the eye, but without text nothing would move on the web! Everything is tagged and labeled.
Marketers need to deliver the message in various formats. One decision maker likes to see a video and another prefers to see data in an excel chart. A third prefers to read an article. Many marketing leaders (including Neil Patel and Hubspot) say that a good content strategy needs to involve continuous blogging. The recommended blogging amount per company differs, but a good rule of thumb is 11 blogs per month if you are an SMB and want to generate significant exposure to your product, as is indicated by increasing traffic to your website.
Complex technological products and medical devices call for a more niche central approach. You still need the content to take your customer from the top of the funnel, via its middle and then to the bottom decision phase, but the audience is very targeted and the information they seek is derived from very specific interests. If digital marketing is a service you offer to technology clients, you know that quality marketing content is a key component in the services you provide.
This is why I started the OKR content house. With my team of writing specialists, I provide my clients a customized content writing service. The first stage includes understanding who the audience is and what types of content they require. A content plan with targeted themes and effective channels can then be generated and executed. Taking a look at published content and understanding its level of success is essential to tweaking and defining the next offer.
Creating marketing content that works is an ongoing effort. Over time you will see your web statistics go up. Quality content, geared to your niche audience will generate the buzz in your market - and it's well worth the effort.
To learn more, contact me today!
This post was originally published on my marketing blog: