This is a real ad that appeared on my homepage last week. I imagine the conversation between business’ and stock photo and video sellers goes something like this:
"So we'll need a photo to go with our online ad." "Well, that's easy with our automatic stock photo selection generator. The software analyses the title of your Ad, and selects the PERFECT PHOTO to sell your product." "And it's in complete harmony with the content of the ad?" "Completely." "Great. Well I can't see anything that could go wrong here. I'm just glad we're finally sharing with the public how funny we think lumbar pain is."
This is no doubt a failed campaign for this business, but it’s not just when extreme errors like this are made that damage to brands can occur. In fact, even using relevant stock images and video has the potential to degrade your credibility. With a recent increase in companies that offer a “Build Your Own Marketing Video” service, we wanted to take a moment to look at their effectiveness. Saving money up front is likely costing your money longer term. Here’s why:
Impersonal = Unseen
Stock footage is created with the intent to be universal. To be applicable to a wide variety of verticals across an equally wide variety of platforms. There’s no specific audience, instead it’s general enough to apply to the large majority. This is because the providers of this content want many companies to buy and use it. Who can blame them? The issue with this is that your brand value lies in the uniqueness that is you! We are inundated with amounts of content that our brains don’t have the capacity to process. Our focus and attention is finite and so we filter. If a video or image its not new, unique and personal, then your content is not going to make the cut. Research tells us that after repetitive exposure to the same or very similar images, most people actually stop seeing them, they scroll past them and your ad spend is wasted. Observe your own behavior the next time you log into a social network. Actively look for the stock images and videos in the paid placements and boosted posts in your feed, you’ll likely be surprised at the amount of bland, off-the-shelf content that you are unconsciously filtering out.
It is Expensive, But Not in the Way You Think
Stock footage might look like a cost-saving solution in the moment but you will pay for their use in other more expensive ways later on. Your company produces or sells a product or service that other companies produce or sell. You brand is what sets you apart from your competition, and it’s born from the your authentic differences. Authenticity builds buyer trust and THIS is of most value to your company, and losing it is the most costly. Using stock images (and yes, everyone knows when they’re looking at a stock image) degrades this trust. These images and video are not unique to you, they don’t feature you or your business or your product. They are, in short, a lie. Authenticity is like currency. Spend it wisely or it will be wasted.
You are Your Biggest Sales Tool
Your customers don’t remember your brand when it’s attached to easily forgettable fake, plastic and staged looking images and video. What they do remember from your visual content are the things that differentiate you - those quirky traits, that engaging origin story, or the pic of the office dog. The more “you” that you can include in your content marketing, the more it reinforces your brand and the more your brand will stick with them. As humans, we are hardwired to unconsciously scan our everyday surroundings, looking for abnormalities or “untruths”. When we were cavemen this mistrust kept us alive, nowadays it alerts us that the CGI character in the film we’re watching isn’t really there. In a similar way, our “6th sense” detects when your content is inauthentic too.
We hope that we’ve convinced you to avoid the stock footage and video trap, and instead invest wisely in your brand with content that tells your unique story. Want some help? We know how to create video that builds buyer trust that can be turned around quickly and within your budget. It’s what we love to do! Email us - firstname.lastname@example.org - we’d love to hear from you.