Without a doubt, visuals are a key piece of effective modern day marketing and branding. In recent years, we’ve seen a large spike in the number of visually focused social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok. If you want to effectively reach your audience, you must appeal to their visual senses. 

Although many brands are churning out killer visual content daily, for other businesses, designing, photographing, and editing brand visuals is overwhelming. And that’s completely understandable – not everyone is as jazzed about producing creative content as we are.

It can be tempting for brands to turn to stock photography as a way to secure visual assets for their website, marketing efforts, and other brand communication outlets. Which, unfortunately, very often results in a negative response from their target audience.

It’s a somewhat debated topic, but generally, stock images get a lot of hate. Why? Well… we’re all familiar with the overly cheesy images of corporate individuals going in for a high five or a creepy guy writing a message of inspiration on a whiteboard.


You’re probably thinking to yourself “Come on! Obviously, I wouldn’t use something that bad if I used stock photography” but it’s a slippery slope. You might have the best intentions when searching for stock photos related to “team-building” and “collaboration” but chances are you’ll end up with the stereotypical business people working together image that is still inevitably cringe-worthy.

Guaranteed, not all stock photos are as bad as these and there are definitely impactful, quality images out there available for purchase. In fact, there are some really incredible creatives supplying the visual assets on stock content sites. Regardless, we’re still against relying on stock visual content but not for the reasons you might think. 

Stock content isn’t inherently bad – we simply believe your brand can do so much better than that.  Here are the top reasons why we think you should prioritize custom brand content instead of resorting to stock photography:

Relevance and Revenue

Studies show that as humans, we pay closer attention to imagery that is actually relevant to the topic at hand and ignore images that aren’t. So that stock photo of a joyful room of employees high fiving over a table? Probably won’t increase your conversion rate. 

For example, in a test using Nike UGC vs stock photos, there was a 3xs increase in ad click-through when ads featuring user-generated content of individuals wearing the Nike products vs a generic stock photo. Another case study saw a 45% increase in quote requests from a digital marketing campaign that used a photo of their team vs a generic shot of happy people. 

If you really want to maximize your ad-spend, consider working with a creative partner to help you develop highly-effective custom brand content that is relevant to your target audience.


Brand authenticity is incredibly important for a brand’s overall success. Consumers are overwhelmed with the number of brands and resonate only with those who are sincere, authentic, and honest. It’s a critical deciding factor for brand choice for millennials and is highly important for gen X and baby boomers. Over 90% of millennials say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support.

Brand authenticity is built from a variety of factors and visual content is only one small part of the equation. However, it is a critical factor of your brand identity, marketing efforts, and digital media presence. Although stock photography may be higher quality than what your team is able to produce internally, it may still minimize your perceived authenticity, damage your brand image, and ultimately become a source of lost revenue.

Instead, use custom content that fully aligns with your brand voice and image to enhance your perceived authenticity.

Trust Building

Not unrelated to your perceived authenticity, building trust with your target audience is a critical factor in customer acquisition. According to Dragon Search Marketing, 61% of consumers are influenced by custom content and 78% of consumers will trust your brand if you create more customized content.

Sure, those happy, good-looking people may be what you’d aspire your brand to be but they’re not who your consumers would trust to save their company from a multi-million dollar security issue. Custom content allows you to maintain a higher level of transparency and direct connection to your brand, which in turn helps to build trust with your target audience and improves customer acquisition.


Probably one of the biggest con of stock imagery is that these creative assets can literally be purchased by anyone, which directly contradicts the #1 marketing goal of distinguishing yourself from everyone else. Did you know that Shutterstock online has 1.9 million users? Yep. That’s 1.9 million marketers pulling from the same bank of creative assets. 

And keep in mind, the people creating the stock photos do so with the purpose of creating them to have the widest appeal possible and be transferable to a variety of industries and applications. 

Do you really want to be mistaken for one of your competitors?

Showcase exactly what makes you, you.

Not every business is traditionally glamorous. We get it, it’s challenging to make an accounting firm look hip. But every business is unique in its own way and you should celebrate those differentiating qualities.  

Custom brand content not only allows you to create unique content that is specific to your brand and further differentiates you from the rest of the competition, but it also allows you to highlight your unique qualities! 

 Think about what makes your brand unique and highlight that in your imagery. Are you working in a traditionally corporate industry but your company utilizes a fun, creative coworking space? Cool! Show it. 

Check out some of our favorite examples of custom content


In theory, it seems a lot cheaper to buy stock content than it is to work with a content production team. Sure, for a short-term, need-a-creative-for-this-post-yesterday type of situation, stock content may be a quick and cost-effective way to source a piece of creative. But unfortunately, it’s also a gamble –  it could end up being a sunk cost for an image that is ineffective in the area of application.

If you’re playing the long-term game, custom branded content is 100% a better return on your investment. Why? Because at kaddie we believe that your custom branded content should pay for itself.  

We apply the concept of compounding to media: invest early and often. This framework gives brands the ultimate control over their budgets by turning customized content into a variable expense. If your content is driving revenue for you, great! Use it. If not, then you ditch it and don’t pay for it. Our model enables brands to achieve a better ROI by focusing their budgets on the performing content without the risk.  


The effectiveness of stock photography is a topic for debate and you’ll have to come to your own conclusions about whether or not it’s a good idea for your brand. But at Kaddie, we think it’s way smarter to work with a creative partner to assist you in developing world-class creative content that is customized specifically for your brand and your brand only

Better yet? Consider our model of custom brand content creation that allows you to continually refine and optimize that content to maximize your marketing impact. 

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our Instagram or say hello@kaddie.io to learn more about our creative capabilities!

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