Image libraries – the worst thing for brands

31 May, 2022

An advert for a brand currently running across multiple media

A promoted post for a different brand spotted on LinkedIn on the same day

I was very conflicted about writing this article, I have two principles that were at war with each other but in the end one won out. The first principle is that I really don’t like publicly disparaging other people’s work in our field, it seems small and mean spirited. I know first-hand how much hard work and thought goes into getting communications out into the world and to have them mocked by people who have no idea what it took is truly dispiriting. Furthermore, marketing is often already undervalued in the sector and doing it down doesn’t help with my second principle.

My second principle being that brands in financial services have got to start communicating better and to achieve that they have to be better valued by those not in marketing departments. Unfortunately two brands having exactly the same visual to convey two completely different messages running at the same time is just so problematic for me that I can’t help but point it out. Just this week I was on a panel with the FSForum where we discussed the problems of a media mix where FS brands are competing for attention not just between themselves, but against brands from other sectors. Sectors where the creative bar is much higher. The view I shared in that session is that brand colours and fonts are simply not enough to support a brand effectively in communications. And I feel these images prove it.

The advent of image libraries has meant that it has become all too easy to build communications based on a set of brand guidelines where an image is dropped in at the last moment because it is felt to fit vaguely with the message. What it ends up meaning though is that the image does nothing for the brand whatsoever and yet it uses up the most space. Hence why you can have the same image used twice by two completely different brands to communicate two completely different messages. Our principle is that images, copy and brand identity should all work absolutely hand-in-hand. They should be working as hard as possible to embed your message and brand in the minds of your target audience. If they’re not, why are they there?

Brand guidelines and image libraries have made the job of communications about writing some words, picking some pictures and making sure it obeys the “rules”. We believe communications are about building a brand indelibly in people’s minds with engaging and persuasive imagery and messages. Which is why our founding financial services brand has brand recall so strong that you can cover the logo of one of their ads and 99% of the target audience could tell you who the advertiser was. I would argue you could even just put an image we have created for them up on its own with no copy or brand design at all and a lot people would know who it was. Would either of these ads pass the hand over the logo test?