When it comes to establishing a business, the strength of your brand matters if you’re hoping to stand out from the competition. To the consumer, your clients, and the public at large, your brand represents the good, and occasionally bad, aspects of your business. This means that everything about your brand, from your logo to business name to the design of your website, should both support and communicate your business’ unique identify.
So, if small business brand identify really means so much, why would you ever consider using stock images or art to represent your brand?
If your first response is to say, “Well, it’s cheap and available” you’re missing the bigger overall point. Stock art is the very opposite of establishing a unique, individual voice for your brand. Even more troubling, relying on stock art and images means you’re potentially pulling from the same stockpile as the competition. There’s nothing unique about displaying the same stock photo a competitor also uses on their own website, business card, or mailer. This is one of the primary reasons a small business owner should never purchase their company’s logo from so-called “logo stores” that sell generic templates.
While individually, these things may seem rather innocuous, but when combined they work to seriously undermine your brand’s credibility.
If your brand is the face of your business, doesn’t it deserve to have its own identity, something that uniquely your own? Here are a few reasons why using stock art and images could harm your small business’ brand.
It Robs Your Brand of Its Own Voice
Whether it’s the fabric used in the clothing you make, the attention and respect you pay clients, or the type of sprinkles added to your pastries, your small business is completely unlike any other. A successful brand should reflect that individuality, not hide behind a copyrighted image you paid a licensing fee to use.
Stock images, however, are designed to be incredibly generic. Take the image below, a standard stock photo of men and women at work in an office.
What message does this image impart? What emotion does it evoke? There’s nothing dynamic or even specific about anything in this type of photo. Heck, even the logo has been removed from the back of the laptop, which is clearly a Mac.
Your brand demands a strong point of view if you hope to stand out from the competition. Not an image that could easily be described as “people in a room.”
You Lose Brand Authenticity
Integrity, honesty, and transparency are all hallmarks of an authentic brand that seeks to establish a strong connection with its target audience. A recent survey found that 83 percent of consumers said that trust determines how loyal they stay to a particular brand.
Using stock photos on your website instead of actual photos of your employees or business may seem convenient – especially when considering turnover and expansion – but it robs your brand of any real authenticity. You now run the risk of alienating your customers and even your employees by showing a representation of your brand that doesn’t meet with reality.
Logos Featuring Stock Art Are Difficult to Trademark
McDonalds is synonymous with the company’s golden arches, just as Nike can advertise by simply showing casing its unmistakable swoosh. A well-designed logo can become inseparable from a business’ identity, so it’s in your best interest to ensure that you have the ability to trademark your logo. However, if you use stock art as part of your logo design, not only is it not unique, it’s also possible for anyone else who purchases that art to use it in their own logo.
In most cases, stock art images come with caveat that they cannot be used in trademarked images. Stock art licenses also provide all users the legal right to use that image. This means you’ll have a hard time trying to prevent the competition from using the same art that’s featured in your image. As mentioned previously, this is why using “logo stores” as the source of your business’ logo is a questionable idea at best.
You Increase the Risk of Brand Confusion
Let’s say that you and a top competitor select the same stock image to use as part of the home page of both business’ websites. Let’s go even further and say that you both select similar stock art components as part of each business’ logo. Suddenly, what really separates your brand from the competition in the eyes of the consumer? Not only could your logo be confused with the competition’s, customers may also be led astray due to the similar images found on both websites.
Losing a customer to the competition is never a happy scenario. Having that happen simply as a matter of brand confusion is enough to keep an entrepreneur up at night. What makes this type of scenario – which is more common than you might think – so painful is that it’s easily avoidable.
By establishing a unique brand identify from the outset, you can easily separate yourself from the competition in ways that are not easily copied or duplicated. The first time you lose a customer because they went to the wrong website or the competition suffers a serious PR hit that drags your similar looking brand down with them, you’ll seriously wish you spent more time crafting a unique small business brand identify rather taking the easy route.
Local Fresh Can Help Establish Your Small Business Brand Identity
At Local Fresh, we’ve helped dozens of small businesses establish their own unique identity online. From one-of-a-kind logos that enable businesses to stand out to dynamic websites that accurately represents a brand’s voice, Local Fresh can help tell your story. Click here to find out more about what Local Fresh can do for you.