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.

(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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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