Quiz: Are these the 15 most over-used stock photos in B2B marketing?

August 26, 2016

Okay, a picture says a thousand words – but in some cases the opening words are: “We were feeling lazy this morning so we just went with the first stock photo in the search results” or perhaps “we really don’t have anything different to say to the last brand you heard from – which is why we’re using exactly the same stock image.” 

As B2B marketers, we seem drawn to the same core set of stock photos like moths to a very familiar looking flame – so I decided it was time for some B2B stock image group therapy. Scroll down for the LinkedIn Marketing team’s nominations for the most over-used stock images in B2B marketing (including a few we’ve used ourselves). At the end of the post you’ll find your chance to vote on which of these is the most over-used stock shot of them all. We’d love to hear what you think – and we’ll reveal the results on our blog in a couple of weeks.

It’s not that these images have no value at all. Any visual element multiplies the engagement that content generates (our own data on engagement rates in the LinkedIn feed proves as much). However, a more imaginative, original visual captures attention in a more meaningful way – and sends a clearer and more distinctive message about your business in the process. Trying to avoid these 15 over-used stock shots is a great place to start. We’ve picked out the stock photos we’re sick of the sight of – now it’s your turn scroll down to see the images and take the quiz!

1. The roadsign to the future

It’s green and rectangular, with an arrow showing the way to greater success/effectiveness/wealth/ROI. Alternatively, it could be reminding you that next year is 2017 or that there are challenging/good/unpredictable times ahead. It’s the roadsign as prophet of the future.

2. The path divides

It happens all the time – you’re strolling through a picturesque wood when suddenly the path divides into two almost identical looking tracks, with no helpful footpath sign to point the way. What will you do? Which way will you trust to get you to your destination? Hang on – isn’t this the same feeling that you get when sitting in next year’s strategy meeting or deciding where to spend your marketing budget? Now if only there was a photo that captured the dilemma…

3. The power-dressed professional in the wild

Either he or she got badly lost on the way to the sales meeting – or there’s a none-too-subtle visual metaphor at work. They could be on top of a mountain, on the edge of a cliff, or (my personal favourite) standing next to a terrifyingly stormy ocean. Either way, they’re very inappropriately dressed for the experience. Someone call mountain rescue, quick!

4. The Minority Report interface

Okay, it’s a classic movie – but isn’t it about time we got over our B2B marketing Tom Cruise complex? How much of your day do you really spend pointing to magical transparent graphics that appear in mid-air? I know it’s supposed to make you look cutting-edge and digitally dynamic – but it really shows that you’re struggling to separate fiction from reality (and maybe that you’ve got no real tech of your own to talk about).

5. The connected cup of coffee

If smartphones aren’t busy being stared at in some generic way, then their other favourite spot to hang out is next to a latté. Sometimes it’s a cappuccino; sometimes it’s in a take-away cup; always, it’s just part of the visual wallpaper.

6. The chessboard

The chessboard stock image seems capable of saying almost anything – standing out from the crowd (when there’s one black piece surrounded by white ones), out-thinking the competition, negotiating the end-game, bringing two different departments together (that would be us in this blog post). Partly as a result, it tends to communicate nothing at all.

7. The airport window

The road warrior stands, silhouetted with their roll-on hand luggage staring out of a giant glass window as an airplane flies past. What is he or she thinking? Where are they going? What endless possibilities could that runway in the middle distance represent? It’s all too evocative for a poor B2B marketer to resist… It would be a lovely image if we didn’t see it so darn often.

8. The handshake

Firmly falling in the ‘we thought about this for exactly half a second’ category – surely this is the most mind-numbingly obvious stock image of them all…

9. The target

Unless it’s ousted by this one… it could be darts, it could be arrows. Either way they’re headed straight for the point they’re aimed at – rather like the targeting solution that the accompanying bit of content is trying to sell to you. Is it even possible to fit so many arrows into a single bullseye?

10. The laptop of success

Can you imagine working in an office where everyone whoops and punches the air every time an email arrives? Then and only then would this image be an accurate reflection of professional life…

11. The superhero

Forget saving the world. Art directors everywhere know that Superman’s real contribution was providing a handy, shirt-ripping metaphor for personal and professional transformation. Clark Kent, we salute you!

12. The idea

How can we capture the wonders of the human creative process? I know… let’s draw a light bulb on a chalkboard and position a thoughtful looking face just beneath it. We admit it’s a tricky brief – but there must be another way to answer it.

13. The brainstorm

Not sure this is it though… we’ve got ideas coming from everywhere! Quick, get some more colourful post-its to stick on our glass wall! Must all brainstorming sessions look this way?

14. Life’s a beach

Sadly, this must be the most dated type of stock image out there. It harkens back to a distant time (around 2002) when people believed that the internet would enable them to be on holiday permanently, whilst staying on top of everything going on in the office. The dream has long since died… but the stock image hasn’t.

15. The suited type looking at a phone

They could be male, they could be female. They’re usually rocking the smart casual look and inhabiting a train station or airport. They’re almost totally indistinguishable from the person looking at a mobile who you’ll encounter in a stock photograph tomorrow.