Who the hell are these people?

The horror of stock photography

Oh the horror. We really do need to have a long hard look at ourselves in the world of business marketing. With all the talk of humanising the brand and being honest, why do we still litter our work with these people?  You know the ones, the super-serious yet smiley business models that have somehow been allowed to represent the world of B2B marketing.

We all recognise them. They are the go-to people that are wheeled out whenever a B2B marketer needs to put a face or image to their brand in their industry and help their audience truly understand who they are and what they stand for.  Resplendent in Saville Row threads, handshakes that John Wayne would die for and smiles that could land a jumbo jet at night, for years and years they have been slowly finding their way into the brochures, emails, web pages and posters of every industry across every land.

My own personal favourite is this one below – the four-way handshake cluster with independent adjudicator.  Seriously, what a handshake! Nothing says “we are very busy and important people and have just done one helluva deal” than the four-way shake.  So important are these people and this handshake that they actually insist on a 5th person in shot, to sit as if an independent adjudicator, monitoring and ensuring it’s all just so.

Arggh! No more stock photography!

This image is ethnically correct, sartorially correct and doubtless approved by the dental associations around the world.  But what do these soulless, ubiquitous portrayals of modern business life actually mean?

Who really believes that all business is done with handshakes , in front of gleaming glass buildings , by people with even more gleaming hair and teeth?

Depressingly, two years on, it seems this addiction to such bland imagery shows no signs of abating. Just Google the term “business to business” and switch to the images results to see what I mean.

And we wonder why B2B marketing may get a hard time when it comes to shaking off its dated, boring and stuffy image.

Isn’t it time we stopped and started to take a leaf out of the world of video?

For decades video was a rare treat for a marketer.   Often the reserve of the mega brands, the sheer cost of producing video was enough to leave 99.9% of us on the side line.  Hollywood-style production values were a must and a budget to match. But then one day we all had video production companies in our pockets and things changed. Today it’s possible with a mobile phone and a steady hand, to produce decent video in minutes and post it live on the web seconds later.

This shift has meant that millions of minutes of video is being recorded and uploaded to the web and with it the perception that we must only use HD video that may win an Oscar went to the cutting room floor. It also seems that the majority of viewers actually quite like this grainier, less-polished stuff too. It feels more real, more human.  More believable. So brands that start to produce more and more video of this type – quick interviews, testimonials or interviews, are making their brand feel more real, more connected with their audience.

So why not the same for images?

Surely we could all just apply the principle instead of defaulting to the soulless collection of stock photography that we have so often used. Can’t we all stand together and snap photos of real clients, real staff in real situations and make our brands feel more believable and realistic?

Ok, admittedly, the lady below will be looking for a new job – seemingly the most fickle of any staff, she appears as the face of support for so many companies (I found this little collection in less than ten minutes of looking). But accepting that, maybe we would find it easier to connect with our audience and for them to believe us and see us for who we really are and start to humanise our communication.

Support for everyone

Images courtesy of a lot of samey business websites and all rights reserved to the original creators.

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