Today I attended a presentation by Sarah Mason Sears at S-Design, a graphic design firm in Oklahoma City. Sarah is the founder of S-Design and always has a pretty good take on marketing. Her talk today was on developing a marketing plan. During her talk she explained the importance of using custom imagery for your company versus stock photography and hit the nail right on the head.
Creating your own library of imagery is so crucial to building the brand of your company. There is a place for stock photos, but those should only be used in low importance marketing materials. Your own imagery is part of your brand and helps differentiate your company from all your competitors. Can you image a company like Harley Davidson or BMW or Coca Cola using stock imagery? Not a chance, especially when talking about their brand. The look and quality are critical to the image they portray.
You might say “Yea, but I am a small company and I can’t afford custom photography.” The cost of stock photography may be far more than you can imagine. The big cost is the lost opportunity cost. You are spending money but not maximizing your investment because you are trying to scrimp on a key part of your brand image. A great example of a small local company who does a great job of creating custom imagery is my regular client Darwin Motorcycles. I don’t do all their photography, but I do work on their key product launches and important bike rollouts. Over time they create a library of high quality custom imagery of their bikes and the people who ride them. This imagery helps define their brand.
As Sarah suggested, the best way for a company to start building their image library is to budget for professional photography for the year. Create a line item in the budget and then use that depending on the needs. You don’t need a pro photographer for everything, but for key events, key marketing programs, and important marketing materials that define your brand, nothing beats high quality visual imagery to define your brand.