Why Your Brand Needs More than Just a Stock Image

Spice Up Your Brand: The Pitfalls of Stock Images and the Power of Art

Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party, and you decide to use a store-bought spice blend for your signature dish. It’s quick, it’s easy, but as your guests take their first bites, they can’t shake the feeling that they’ve tasted this exact flavor profile somewhere else. Similarly, in marketing, using stock images can lead to a lack of differentiation. Your competitors might be serving up the same visual ingredients, diluting the uniqueness of your brand.

Just as a pre-packaged spice blend may not perfectly complement the flavors of your dish, stock photos can feel ill-fitting and out of place in your brand’s narrative. They’re like trying to force a square peg into a round hole, often leaving your messaging feeling disjointed and inconsistent.

Your brand has its own identity, its own flavor, and stock images can water down that essence, leaving you with a bland, cookie-cutter presentation.

Stock Image

The Issue With Stock Images:

Stock images have become an integral part of every marketing campaign across various industries, this is thanks to their convenience, accessibility, and versatility. These images, which are pre-shot and available for licensing, provide marketers with a wide range of visual content to use in their campaigns without the need for expensive custom photoshoots or hiring a skilled graphic designer. As a result, they’ve proliferated in almost every facet of advertising and promotion.

Many brands worldwide use both free and paid generic looking stock images in their marketing. Platforms like Shutterstock and Adobe Stock offer subscription based plans that can cost up to $200 per month, for access to its library of images that don’t necessarily align with their brands core values, opting for the rationality of “good enough” rather than “perfect”.

The challenge then lies in distinguishing your brand from competitors who rely on ubiquitous stock images commonly seen online. Setting yourself apart is pivotal for crafting a successful campaign across various platforms, including websites, social media, blogs, emails, and print ads. So, how can you ensure your visual content resonates uniquely with your audience and reflects who you are as a brand amidst the sea of generic imagery?

Keep reading to find out our solution!

The Limitations of Stock Images in Branding:

How does this stock image make you feel?

You’re not alone if you’re struggling to find the right words to describe this image. Generic imagery like this is incredibly common online because it can adapt to fit a wide range of business identities, and that’s precisely why it’s so widely used.

Stock Images in Branding

We used Google Lens to determine how many businesses are currently utilizing this particular stock image to shape their brand identity. Our search revealed well over 100 different websites incorporating this image in various ways.

Not convinced? Drop the image into Google Lens feature in Google Search and explore the hundreds of uses for just this stock image alone.

This is just one instance among thousands of stock images available online and demonstrates why it is crucial for brands to break away from this cycle of relying solely on stock content. Stock imagery often falls short in capturing the uniqueness of your brand, along with the ideals and beliefs you aim to communicate to your clients and audience. Essentially, it limits your brand from authentically showcasing its identity.

However, there is a way to overcome this challenge… Art.

Ethos - © Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe
Ethos – © Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

Comparative Analysis: Stock Images vs. Art

For some time now, art has been relegated to galleries and one-time sales, but all of that has changed. Businesses such as Seminal are starting to showcase artists and their brilliant art to the world, enabling brands to collaborate with thousands of artists, licensing their art to craft marketing campaigns that not only reflect your brand’s identity but also resonate truly with your audience.

So why art?

Well, there are 3 main reasons why the implementation of art into your marketing campaigns will help you stand out and be noticed.

  1. It’s a Universal Language: This means that regardless of one’s walk of life, cultural background, location, age, or the language they speak, art bridges these gaps capable of resonating with audiences you never thought possible.

  2. It’s Visually Appealing: Art, unlike stock photography, is incredibly versatile due to its eye-catching visual appeal. It can be featured effortlessly across all your marketing endeavors, grabbing the attention of potential customers and making a lasting impression.

  3. It Evokes Emotion: This is maybe the most critical takeaway to utilizing art throughout your brand. By using art to tell a story or convey a message, you can tap into the feelings and emotions of your audience, which can be very powerful in terms of building brand loyalty and driving sales. This is called emotional marketing.

While stock images do similarly check each of these boxes they fall short in being able to do these things effectively especially eliciting an emotional response and with their multitude of drawbacks of being generic and widely used, the implementation of art in your marketing campaigns should be a no brainer

A study back in 2017 demonstrated exactly this, demonstrating how artworks had a perceived increase in the value of a product, calling it the “art infusion effect” they saw a noticeable increase in the measure of the product’s value, across metrics such as the product’s evaluation, willingness for people to buy and the willingness to pay. The study showcased how emotion acted as the fundamental mechanism through which art affects product and price evaluations.

Imagine you’re in charge of marketing for a beverage company, a restaurant chain, or even a construction firm. When it comes to showcasing your products or services, which would you choose? Generic, uninspired stock images that lack emotion and are all too familiar, or the dynamic power of art?

The Psychological Impact of Artwork:

As we now understand, emotion, art, and marketing are all interconnected. Let’s delve into precisely why this is the case, as grasping the reasons behind it is critical for developing your campaigns to perform at their best.

Sunflowers  © Vincent van Gogh
Sunflowers – © Vincent van Gogh

Which of these vases of sunflowers elicits the strongest emotional response from you? If you picked the image on the left, you most likely fall into the camp of most people. Artwork has the potential to evoke strong emotional responses from audiences in ways that stock images often cannot match, and here’s why:

Authenticity and Originality:

Artwork is often created with a personal touch or unique perspective by the artist. This authenticity and originality can resonate deeply with viewers, eliciting emotional connections that stock images, which are often mass-produced and lack personal expression, may not achieve.

Depth of Meaning:

Artwork frequently carries layers of meaning, symbolism, and subtext that invite viewers to interpret and engage with the piece on a deeper level. This complexity can trigger a wide range of emotions, from contemplation to empathy to introspection, as viewers explore the nuances of the artwork’s message.

Artistic Techniques:

Artists employ a variety of techniques, such as color choice, composition, texture, and brushwork, to convey emotion and atmosphere in their work. These techniques can create mood and evoke visceral responses from viewers, drawing them into the artwork’s world and eliciting emotional reactions that transcend the flat, often sterile aesthetics of stock images.

Subjectivity and Interpretation:

Artwork is inherently subjective, allowing viewers to project their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences onto the piece. This open-endedness can lead to a more personal and intimate connection with the artwork, as viewers see reflections of themselves or their own emotions mirrored in the piece.

As you can see artwork’s authenticity, depth, and subjective nature evoke much stronger emotions than stock images. Created with personal expression, rich symbolism, and artistic techniques, artworks provide immersive experiences that resonate deeply with viewers, fostering intimate connections and personal reflections.

Something that a lifeless photo of some sunflowers could never replicate.

Legal and Creative Limitations of Stock Images

Legal and Creative Limitations of Stock Images:

Another big problem with stock images? They come with a whole set of legal and creative limitations. Using them can be a real minefield, especially when it comes to copyright. You’ve got to watch out for restrictions on how many times you can use an image, how long you can use it for, and where you can use it. Plus, some stock image sites make you give credit to the creator every time you use their image – not exactly great for your brand. And let’s not forget the nightmare scenario of accidentally using an image without permission and ending up in court.

Checkout the copyright guidelines for using stock images here.

The Business Case for Investing in Custom Art:

So let’s say you’ve finally done away with stock images and switched to using art across your brand, first of all, Congratulations! But what success can your brand expect long-term? Beyond mere aesthetics, investing in art offers a myriad of strategic advantages that will elevate your brand identity and foster enduring loyalty, enabling you to begin crafting a distinctive timeless identity.

In today’s socially conscious landscape, consumers gravitate towards brands that embody values of creativity, inclusivity, and social responsibility. By aligning with art, brands signal their commitment to culture and creativity, resonating with consumers on a deeper level and bolstering their cultural relevance in an ever-evolving society. Brands that champion art not only enhance their image but also earn the admiration of consumers and stakeholders alike. By supporting artists and art initiatives, brands demonstrate their commitment to creativity, innovation, and community engagement, fostering trust, goodwill, and positive public perception.

Take, for instance, Andy Warhol’s collaboration with Absolut Vodka, massively enhanced Absolut’s brand image. Similarly, Takashi Murakami’s partnership with Louis Vuitton helped them attract a younger demographic.

These collaborations go beyond marketing; investing in arts allows brands to create content that remains relevant and resonant across generations, building a legacy of brand recognition and equity that withstands the test of time

By harnessing the creativity, storytelling prowess, and cultural relevance of art and artists, brands can forge deeper connections with customers, stand out in a crowded marketplace, and solidify their status as innovators and trendsetters. So, when you’re looking to breathe life into your brand and set yourself apart from the competition, think about how the art can spark unimaginable possibilities.

Octopus Clouds - © Mike Makatron
Octopus Clouds – © Mike Makatron

How to Transition to Using More Art in Brand Campaigns:

Luckily for you and your brand it has never been easier to transition away from stock imagery and enter the art world.

At Seminal we’ve built a platform to help you access some of the greatest artists in the world, allowing you to access 1000s of influential visual artists from all demographics to fit your brand and goals. Finding your perfect artist or artwork has never been easier taking only minutes, by using our advanced filters to search by age, gender, style, location, subculture or audience characteristics. Our all-in-one art platform will help to take your brand, marketing campaigns and consumer loyalty to the next level.

Leave crappy AI art and generic stock images behind. Leverage meaningful art from revered creators and artists, who have been featured in magazines, movies, galleries and album covers all over the world.

Take your brand and marketing campaigns to the next level, checkout Seminal today!

Goodbye Stock Images:

In conclusion, while stock images offer convenience, they often lack uniqueness and fail to resonate with audiences on an emotional level. By embracing art in marketing campaigns, brands can tap into universal language, visual appeal, and emotional connection, setting themselves apart from competitors. Transitioning to art not only enhances brand identity but also fosters enduring loyalty and cultural relevance. With platforms like Seminal, accessing a diverse range of influential artists has never been easier, offering brands the opportunity to create authentic, impactful campaigns that resonate deeply with their audience. Leave behind generic stock images and embrace the power of art to elevate your brand to new heights.

Want to learn a little more about Seminal before taking the plunge into the art world, checkout our explainer video here:

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