Is it a bad thing to use a stock image?

Posted in Advertising, Marketing, Social Media.
Marketing brisbane

There’s so many for and against arguments it’s hard to take a side on this one, but it is a question that comes up a lot within marketing circles – is it a bad thing to use a stock image?

Well, as usual, the answer is, it depends.

The case for:

  • if your budget is tight and if you have a specialised product or service where the chances of anyone else using the same stock image to promote their similar service is minimal, then sometimes stock images can suit your purpose (see my cute fox stock images as an example)
  • if you’re preparing a presentation and it needs some life added but you don’t own enough images, stock shots can play a good part here
  • your facebook posts will always do better if there’s an image involved, and now that they’re giving you free access to Shutterstock images for that precise purpose, there’s a great reason to keep your info fresh using stock imagery (see the quickbrownfox facebook page post on this for more detail)
  • it’s also true for other social media like LinkedIn and blogs – imagery can really bring these to life, so adding stock imagery can be a good way to achieve this without breaking the bank

The case against:

  • at the end of the day we’re talking about your brand image. So using someone else’s interpretation of that might be at odds with your purpose. In the quickbrownfox case, we are unlikely to be able to get a suitable fox to provide an appropriate facial expression at an achievable cost, so in this instance it falls into the ‘case for’. But generally your brand will need to showcase a skill, a mood, your people or give an insight into your brand’s personality which should come from within, not from an image library trying to hit multiple marks
  • photography is not as expensive as you think. At minimum, you need a hero image (or 2) and some support shots that help bring your brand to life so we’re not talking a 5 day shoot here necessarily. You will have invested in getting your logo, website design, copy writing, and collateral materials right – don’t let it all down with a stock image of ‘people shaking hands’ or ‘happy smiling corporate people’
  • you will own these images and no one else can use them without your permission. So you won’t find your competitors using exactly the same shot to promote their (perhaps inferior) product offer
  • imagery is emotive – it’s supposed to be. So make sure you don’t compromise on the emotion you evoke with your consumer – they’ll see right through it

At the end of the day it will come down to a combination of budget and intent. If you can, you should always aim to take and own your own shots. But for the right purpose and in the right circumstance, a stock shot might just do the trick.

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