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  • Chris Gib

Stock-holm syndrome Part 2: Rescuing Digital Marketing from the clutches of creative mediocrity

Stock video and photography is routinely used as part of the sales and marketing process to help augment the brand messaging and encourage potential customers to engage with a business and/or continue their buying journey.

In part 1 of this article, we looked at all the ways unconsidered use (or overuse) of stock images and videos can be dangerous and damaging to a brand or business. Abandoning the concept of stock altogether is not a viable solution, and the fact that the industry is still growing proves that it will remain a popular ‘go-to’ for the foreseeable future.

With a healthy dose of creativity and vision, stock can be enhanced, manipulated or replaced to elevate a brand’s visual and emotional connection with the outside world.

An ‘owned’ library

On the surface this might seem like an expensive vanity project but it could turn out to be one of the best investments a business can make. What is more honest and authentic than a tailored bespoke ‘owned’ library of stock images and videos featuring an organisation’s locations, people, products and solutions? Not only will the visuals be unique and engaging but also consider all the time and effort digital marketers and designers will save not having to trawl through thousands of stock libraries trying to source the perfect image or video that is a) appropriate, b) aligned with the brand identity and c) not already plastered across many other websites and print. Do not underestimate the power and cost-effectiveness of an adventurous photographer who knows what they’re doing.


A creative brain will be able to devise a multitude of stand-out techniques to manipulate stock images and videos. Elements such as borders, frames, bars, hues, shapes, transparencies and masks can easily be applied to standard stock photos or videos, morphing them into gripping visuals that can really enhance engagement. Ideally, the treatments being applied would be aligned with the wider branding guidelines to ensure uniformity across all collateral and digital assets. Take a look at this great example of how various treatments can be applied to make stock images and videos really pop!


No list of digital marketing solutions would be complete without mentioning Artificial Intelligence, although in this article we're referring specifically to AI image generation. Despite its spluttering start and comical renderings of human hands and faces, AI image generation has rapidly progressed since it became accessible to normal humans in 2020. Now, with sufficient prompting expertise, it might be the easiest, quickest and cheapest method to build a tailored library of images. With some additional design expertise, time, effort and budget, a business can even generate a raft of bespoke and authentic AI images featuring their own people, locations and products.

Animations or GIFs

By deploying GIFs and animations, a brand can really enhance the visuals contained within an online ecosystem which in turn increases engagement. GIFs and animations can be used to showcase products and services in action, provide exciting facts and stats or deliver powerful value statements and social proof. Movement and micro-interactions create a smoother and more focused user experience. On the downside, they require more resource to produce and might affect page-load speeds, but the trade-off might be justified when you consider the benefits of GIFs and animations versus generic stock resources.


User Generate Content is incredibly powerful. It is authentic and engaging because it’s focused on a specific product or service, and the story being told is a real customer’s lived and validated experience(s). UGC builds trust and credibility because people tend to believe recommendations and content made by their peers over messaging generated by a business’s sales & marketing functions. It is cost-effective and emotionally connective because its being created and shared by contented customers. UGC builds great brand equity, increases customer loyalty and provides valuable feedback. Granted, it might not always look particularly polished from a visually pleasing perceptive, but the concept is still more a powerful marketing tool than any professional and curated content that you’ll find in a stock library.

Bite-sized infographics

Education is engagement. A staged picture of 2 people sporting hard-hats and studying blueprints is less powerful than an easily-digestible graphic showing how a particular company’s service/solution has increased worksite safety by 40% in the last 12 months. Likewise, a simple chart highlighting specific challenges in a particular industry does more for the business which can solve that issue than a glossy photo of smiling office workers. Lean into visual micro-learning because the brain likes to retain information if it is visually appealing and appropriate with regard to customer challenges.

Apparently, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’, and in the current digital landscape, perhaps visuals deployed in routine marketing activities should focus more on enhancing brand originality, trust, authenticity, relationships and engagement. Use of stock video and photography is predicted to grow, but only a healthy dose of creativity will unlock its full potential to elevate and differentiate a brand to connect better with its customers.

To us, stock is like Marmite; some people love it and some hate it. What side of the fence are you on? (We love Marmite btw)

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