Apple, Google, Microsoft. According to Forbes Magazine, these are today’s most powerful brands—but you already knew that. In fact, very few people would be surprised to learn that these brands are the most recognizable and valuable in the world. But what makes the greats, great anyway? Branding isn’t a catchy fruit-shaped logo, and Nike isn’t Nike because of a powerful tagline. Those are things that brands have. What your brand is consists of your entire identity to the outside world. We have to ask ourselves, “what do people say about our company when we aren’t listening?” And while the big guys have hundreds of millions of dollars to throw behind their outreach efforts, we think it’s time all companies get a chance to control the narrative. Luckily, you already have one very powerful tool at your disposal: stock photos.

Although there are several ways businesses can transform stock photos into great content for their marketing and branding efforts, we’ve collected five of the most tried-and-true ideas to utilize stock photos easily, efficiently, and creatively.

Idea #1: Create a Mascot

Where would Planters be without the ever-classy Mr. Peanut? Who can imagine a world without the GEICO Gecko? Simply put, a classic way to brand your company is by choosing a mascot—a personification of your core values, mission, and character—and thanks to the advent of the digital age, you don’t need to hire someone to bring your brand persona to life. Simply choose an animal or figure that represents your company and collect stock photos for your marketing materials. Make the character your own by adding in a few unique alterations. For example, add a snazzy bowtie or other whimsical element in every picture. Add a catchy name and you’ve got yourself a mascot.

Branding Tee

Idea #2: Add Your Logo in Clever Ways

When choosing stock photos for your website or marketing collateral, never underestimate the power of a simple, unique logo—especially if it’s displayed in an innovative way. If you have a stock photo of a woman holding a book, why not copy and paste your logo onto the cover of the book to add subtle branding? You can also add your logo to signs, sheets of paper, doors, walls, and more. One rule of thumb: don’t use your logo more than once in each photo. It really only works when Warhol does it.

Coffee Brand

Idea #3: Consistency is Key

Ideally, your company will procure its own set of persons, animals, or objects to use in creating a unique brand identity. From there, consistently add your brand assets with stock photos as the backdrop and the sky’s the limit.

For more resource constrained companies, or ones without pre-existing brand assets, an alternate approach is to choose a stock collection that offers a wide selection of photos of the same person, animal, or object and then feature it consistently across variations of your creative. If using a person, just be sure that the stock image has a model release.

While we’re at it, keep your brand instantly recognizable by establishing your color palette and sticking to it. You’ve really hit the nail on the head when all your marketing materials—logos, advertisements, mascots, landing pages, etc.—can be instantly recognized without the addition of your business name.


Idea #4: Create Memes

Have we learned nothing from Grumpy Cat? Memes are quite possibly the hottest way of making people take notice of your brand using social media. Keep your outreach efforts light and engaging by taking stock photos and turning them into funny memes that advertise your product or business. Your audience will enjoy your sense of humor even as they appreciate your ingenuity. Before launching headfirst into memes, just be sure that humor fits with your brand identity and your audience; you wouldn’t see most cybersecurity firms using memes for instance.

Cat Meme

Idea #5: Add Your Products

Stock photos are a great way to advertise your product in almost a subliminal way. Depending on your creative marketing goals, you can add your products to the background of photos or have the models in the photos “hold” one of your products by photoshopping it in. These kinds of subtle, well-curated images have been gaining traction in recent years as consumers get bored with in-your-face ads—and depending on your product, it can help them imagine how your goods will fit in their better, more glamorous life.

Product Placement

Now that you have these tactics in your toolbelt, we hope you’ll never use a plain, boring stock photo again. Make every photo a new opportunity to add a little something extra to your marketing and accelerate your branding. Watch out, Apple!

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