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5 Stock Photography Trends In Banking

How are financial institutions building their brands through imagery? Here are five of the main trends Getty Images has tracked across North America and Europe.

Since the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, Getty Images been tracking the changes in imagery used by financial services providers to represent their brand. (Getty is the world’s leading provider of stock imagery, and odds are that you’ve probably used some of their photography or video in your marketing at some point.) Getty says the once-popular depictions of aspiration and conspicuous wealth have disappeared, as financial brands pivot in a post-meltdown world. Here are the 5 major trends Getty identified.

(Note: All images are shown to illustrate concepts only, and are © Getty. Each image can be found on Getty’s website by clicking on the photo.)

1. Betting on Women

Today, women are more frequently the holders of the proverbial purse-strings, so it makes good sense that financial brands are showing more female faces in their campaigns. In the U.S. especially, women are now frequently the primary money-makers and decision-makers in their households. However, one crucial element when attacking this shift is to make sure that images of women aren’t stereotypical or full cliches. Getty says its top-selling images don’t contain lots of pink or piles of shopping bags. Contemporary females are shown looking empowered, relaxed, and balancing many roles. They are top execs, friends, mothers, partners. They can lead the charge at work and look after their loved ones, but they also take time for themselves. Getty’s top-selling shots feel effortless and natural, and celebrate the new female paradigm of strength, style, and self-worth.

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2. Unexpected Surprises

Getty noticed that financial imagery has become a lot less “buttoned-up” lately. The use of bold, artful images to illustrate classic concepts is unexpected, and it helps campaigns stand out from the fray. Color-soaked images of natural wonders, quirky pet snaps, atmospheric shots that would look equally at home on a gallery wall as on a banking website – these top-selling pictures might seem like unusual choices, yet they help change the perception that talk about money has to be dull.

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3. Simple Pleasures: The New Wealth

Though the economy shows signs of picking up since 2008, Getty says that image searches performed on its website suggest that markets are still shaky, wallets are getting thinner, and the word “occupy” has an entirely new connotation. Bottom line: People are reassessing what wealth really means. Is it about owning a home, or is it the milestones one celebrates between its walls? Is it about accumulating tons of stuff, or enjoying new experiences? Is it about what you buy, or how you can contribute? Getty says they are seeing lots of messaging around themes like “living life with meaning,” and “stopping to really appreciate the basics” — security, health, relationships, personal achievements. Our top selling financial shots revel in the simple things and reflect what we truly value — those moments and people that transcend any price.

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4. Focus on Small Business

Over the past years, Getty has noticed an increased interest in small business imagery, especially marketers in the financial services industry. Entrepreneurship is becoming a much-admired attribute, and many people aspire to own their own business one day. Some concepts have proven more popular than others: honesty, passion and determination.

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5. Ethical, Responsible and Trustworthy

Almost across the board, mainstream financial services providers have lost consumer trust. According to the Edelman 2012 Trust Barometer, “listening to customers needs,” “treating employees well,” and “having ethical business practices” were considered most important in rebuilding trust. Many financial service brands are starting or supporting projects that go beyond campaigns — reflecting a desire to reposition themselves as sincere, ethical and trustworthy.

A 30-second commercial for Citi’s 200th anniversary pitches the bank in the great manufacturing projects of the industrial age. The bank uses classic archival footage from Getty, which works as a signifier of both age and substance. Shots of the Berlin Wall coming down… the Panama Canal… the Space Shuttle… They portray themselves as instruments of human destiny and celebrate their role in history. It illustrates banks’ nostalgia for rosier times — back when people didn’t despise financial institutions so much — while also demonstrating one way banks are trying to repair their reputations: “See, we weren’t always this bad!”

A ‘Crisis of Belief’

One overriding theme was how people’s fundamental concepts of money has been shaken. People are questioning the basic underpinnings of their transactions, and wonder if the cash in their hands has some physical reference point in the world anymore. Consumers feel very real anxiety about financial issues — how wealth and asset values disappeared so quickly, how things once regarded as certainties rocked people’s worlds almost overnight.

Back in 2008, before the credit crunch, the meltdown in the markets and the chaos in international economies, Getty noted an underlying shift in consumer attitudes towards financial institutions. Getty argued at the time that a shift towards customer communications would necessitate an emphasis away from aspirational consumption.

This profound “crisis of belief” in money is shaping image trends in a big way. There is a palpable desire for authenticity, realism and visual storytelling, which are being played out in the financial services sector. Getty says consumers crave more documentary type shots and imagery that feels more raw and less “produced.”

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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  1. Mogaji Gbenga says:

    Am really happy I came across this write up, however I guess its more of the US Banks. I am actually working on this subject with the UK Banks to see how images used affects their Brand Equity.
    Santander are using Formula1 drivers, do customers see banking with a fast speed with santander? LloydTSB uses animated cartoon characters while Natwest and Halifax are using their staffs.
    Hope to share more with you on this. I really await your feedbacks.

  2. Santander is trying to make the most of its very expensive Formula 1 sponsorship, whether it makes any sense or not. The theory probably goes something like this: “We are after audience segment X. Many X consumers are Formula 1 fans. Therefore we can attract audience segment X by sponsoring Formula 1 and showcasing it in our advertising.” The truth is probably something more simple, like the CEO of Santander is a huge Formula 1 fan.

    Lloyds TSB use of animated characters may be an attempt to position the massive megabank as “easy” and “approachable.”

    Featuring staff in ads is one of the least original ideas in banking. The only thing less original is using customers/testimonials. NatWest is using employees right now because they have serious credibility issues. NatWest needs to show the experience, commitment, sincerity, etc., of its staff.

    It’s important to point out that none of the examples you cited Mogaji are using stock photos. They are using custom imagery unique to them, which is arguably a better way to build one’s brand.

  3. Mogaji Gbenga says:

    Guess I did not thick the button to notify me when there is an update to my comment. My apologies for replying after one year.

    Interestinly however, within that one year, alot seems to have changes, the bank advertsing landscape in UK has actually changed.

    I agree with your point on Satander but seems they have actually decided to go for more sporting celebrities instread of just formula 1, the inclusion of the Olympic Gold medalist and Golfer.

    Also, LloydsTSB has splited into Lloyds and TSB Bank with different advertising strategies, at least no more animated images for lloyds.

    My main concern however, is your idea on Banks using staffs, it apppeared you see it as a lazy man’s appoach, you described it as least original. Would you suggest stock images will be better for bank advertisement instead of custom image unique to them?

    Will pop in back to see your reply.


  4. It’s not that using photos of employees is “lazy” per se, it’s just not very unique or differentiated. There are literally thousands of financial institutions around the world who use photos of employees in their advertising. It’s hard to carve out a differentiated brand position when your tone, voice, messages and photographic style look like so many of your competitors.

    The other issue with using employee photos has to do with perspective/point of view. Many advertising copywriters make the mistake of talking from the self-centered perspective — statements about “we” and “our” and “us.” No one cares what you think about yourself, only what you can do for them. It’s much better to shift the PoV and talk about “you” (the consumer). This forces copywriters to concentrate on the consumer’s perspective, the consumer’s need, the consumer’s concerns. It’s very difficult to write copy attacking the “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM?) benefits that all good copy should when you’re busy talking about yourself.

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