Earlier this week, Mediapost published an article on the rising demand for original content by brands. Citing recent research, the article states that “estimated budgets for producing content have grown steadily from 12.6% two years ago to 23.3%, today — and are on track to surpass 33% by 2017 — according to new research from The Content Council.” This is key to understanding where the professional photo licensing world will be in the next few years.
Two gravitational pulls are at work here. Social media and content marketing both of which require an endless supply of fresh material. Both need to be renewed on a constant, fast paced cycle. While the first generation of marketers might have been satisfied in recycling content found elsewhere in order to just occupy a space in these channels, it has now become a necessity for a brand looking to differentiate itself to produce strong original content:
-A brand can no longer be satisfied in just being on social media. With each other brands doing the same, the noise level has becomes deafening and customers don’t take notice anymore. It is just another drop in a sea of similar, bland and flatlined content. In order to stand out, they need original and bold visuals.
– Followers, likes or comments might be good for ego but they don’t do much to help the company’s bottom line. Marketers know that the key metric for social media and content marketing is engagement, or CTR. They need content that turn visitors into followers and followers into customers. All while respecting brand messaging and identity.
So where does professional photo licensing comes in ?
Stock photography has long been a major purveyor of content for brands looking for cheap and easy solutions. What was used once in a while for quarterly campaigns and irregular marketing efforts has naturally evolved into becoming a primary feeder for social media and content marketing. Something a company like Shutterstock, with its subscription model, has surfed very successfully, anticipating and delivering on the need for a flow rather than individual, sporadic needs. Stock photography, in other words, has been very useful as long as all that was needed was to occupy the field. However, it holds within its own limitations.
The fundamental nature of stock photography and the core business engine powering stock photo agencies is the multiplicity of use of the provided images. To be profitable, stock photography has to sell multiple times. For brands looking to amp up their social media signal, it is the enemy within. The possibility of using the same image as other brands for different messaging is exactly what they are trying to avoid. Furthermore, because of its business requirement ( multiple sales), stock photography is by its very nature a “one size fits all” product. Meaning that instead of empowering a brand message, it deludes it into what is known as “stocky” images, killing in the process the brand’s critical differentiation.”64% of respondents said engaging consumers with their content remains the biggest problem.”
My Tailor is rich
Marketers, thus, have no other choice than finding their content elsewhere. One clear path is partnering with companies that will help them create their own, for the sole and only purpose of their brand. They need content providers that can execute on the brand’s exclusive messaging, and because of the very nature of content marketing, in a continuous flow. Tailored-made subscription photography.
Luckily for brands, in a time where everyone is a photographer, opportunities are emerging. While it might have been expensive to have a few pro photographers on a retainer to produce a constant, high quality flow of brand targeted images (like Red Bull or Nike), it is much easier today, using the low-cost, unlimited UGC. We have seen experiments already in a few, time limited, very successful Instagram campaigns. Companies, like Mercedes, have hired Instagram influencers to create and post brand specific imagery over a period of a few months yielding impressive success. The next step will be to extend the variety of producers ( a mix of pros and casuals) as well as usage platforms ( Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Snapchat,….).
More and more, brands will need to find long-term, consistent content producers they can count on to receive an uninterrupted flow of tailor-made images in order to feed their content and social media marketing needs. They will need to partner with companies to manage these relationships, as none are equipped to handle this type of workflow in-house. In the US, with “advertisers expected to spend $39.84 per social media user — up 27% year-over-year — “, it is certainly an impressive opportunity which will probably see fulfilled by disruptive tech start-ups.