They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed, imagery is an important way for complex B2B companies to convey what they do in a simple way. The problem is, too many brands don’t put much thought into the images that will reside on their websites, jazz up their marketing collateral, and bring their internal and external presentations to life. And the wrong pictures can hurt a brand.
Much like a brand’s color palette and typographic style, photography is a key component of what should be a consistent and clear visual vocabulary system. A brand’s photographic style should complement its strategic platform, highlight its personality attributes and demonstrate what makes it unique when compared with the competition.
Too many marketers, however, fall into the habit of using stock imagery that is far too generic. The availability, simplicity and low cost that goes along with stock purchases is enticing but much of what is available is too, well, “vanilla” to differentiate a company and its offerings.
Every company should create and collect photographs that can be part of a brand image library. Here’s how to create one:
- If you think it looks like stock, others will too. Search for stock imagery that looks genuine. Bad stock photography looks very staged and artificial. Use your gut instincts because observers of your brand communications will do the same.
- Cast a wide net. There are many stock houses out there and while some may share imagery, don’t limit yourself to looking at just one resource. Some stock houses also offer monthly unlimited download subscriptions—those can be great---but don’t feel like you can’t explore outside of that contract. Much like an all-you-can eat buffet, a lot of the things that are available should be left behind.
- Customize it. Making a selection on a stock image doesn’t need to be the end of the process. Sometimes converting a seemingly generic image to black and white or adding some other kind of unique spin on color hues can really add to the interest of a photograph. Just remember that you’re building on a system and be consistent.
- Ask the experts. Don’t be ashamed if you’re not born with a natural eye for photographic selection. Sometimes that is best left to those who live and breathe this kind of work on a daily basis. We run into a lot of clients who will come to us after having spent countless hours researching only to find themselves in a hole and out a lot of money.
- Go custom. Every company should tap a photographer. Hiring a professional photographer to photograph staff, facilities, products, etc., results in a trove of proprietary imagery. Most companies think that this option is expensive, but that’s simply not the case. Hiring one or two photographers to come in for a full day or two and capture candid moments and real-life collaboration can yield more quality imagery per dollar than purchasing ho-hum stock imagery.
When it comes to photography, brands get what they pay for. When putting together your marketing and communication plans, be sure to set aside a reasonable budget for top-quality images.