The term “authenticity” has become ubiquitous in marketing circles. It comes up in discussions about everything from brand positioning to copy and visuals. Authentic messaging first started gaining momentum in 2017. Ever since, it’s been highlighted often as a media or marketing trend. What’s clear now is that authenticity is not just a trend — it’s a movement. Consumers have come to expect authenticity from brands. And brands who ignore consumer expectations are quickly left behind.
Why authentic messaging matters
When it comes to marketing, consumers know how to spot BS immediately. In Mark Schafer’s popular book Marketing Rebellion — The Most Human Company Wins, he explores this evolution. He writes, “… today, [businesses] are built on human impressions that help customers believe, belong, and find meaning.” This concept applies to all types of content consumption — not just marketing messaging.
Audiences have a strong desire to believe in something, feel a sense of belonging, and discover meaning in content. That idea presents a new challenge to anyone with a story to tell. And that includes marketers. To capture and hold someone’s attention in today’s visually crowded world, content needs to accomplish a few pretty complicated things. It needs to reflect the imperfect, yet emotionally compelling environment we all experience every day.
The good news is that marketing messaging often blends visual and verbal elements. That combination can be especially powerful for telling compelling stories and building emotional connections. The bad news is, even the most authentic messaging will likely miss the mark if you choose the wrong imagery to support it.
One of the most effective ways to make authentic messaging even more compelling is to incorporate visuals of real people in a real environments. However, it’s not always possible to capture custom content that will help tell your story. Time, budgets, and other logistics aren’t always a marketer’s friend — which is why content creators often rely on stock media. There has been a stigma in the past that stock media is wildly inauthentic. At Storyblocks, we’re working to change that perception. Stock media isn’t all cheesy shots of women eating salads in pristine, white kitchens. With our Re: Stock collections, you can find stunning content of people that pairs perfectly with your authentic messaging.
How visual content reinforces authentic messaging
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re looking for a stock content provider that has the goods to back up your company’s authentic messaging:
Exaggerated emotions don’t convey authenticity
Toned down is the way to go. The reality is that most settings and interactions in stock media are planned or somewhat scripted. But experienced stock content creators understand how to direct their subjects in ways that exude authenticity. When you use quality stock media, your audiences won’t be able to tell the that it isn’t custom content. Look for content that is believable to create authentic messaging.
Authentic content should be evocative
Even though you want to avoid over-exaggerated emotions, authenticity doesn’t mean “emotionless.” Interestingly, some stock media actors and models are actually family members or friends of the artist. Those relationships can make stock content feel very real and can help spark reactions that don’t look staged. You want your audience to feel something when watching your content and conveying real emotions, subtly will help you achieve that.
Represent your whole audience for a more authentic message
Diversity matters. Your message will resonate with more people when it represents more of the real world. Brands and companies that achieve the highest diversity scores in their advertising earn an 83% higher preference with consumers. When you’re creating messaging, consider all of the things that make your audience unique — that may be race, gender identity, sexuality, age, culture, body size, and more. Making sure your visuals acknowledge those facets of your audience help make your messaging truly inclusive.
Authentic content should look unfiltered
When you’re selecting stock content to reinforce your authentic messaging, style is everything. It’s important to balance your brand’s visual standards with the story you’re trying to tell. Over-styled settings and people can come across as unrelatable. User-generated content, which generally has a lo-fi look, is becoming the new standard for authenticity. For example, choose stock content that uses a first-person perspective or was shot on a handheld camera to achieve that user-generated vibe. Keep in mind, stock photos and videos can still be high-quality without looking like they were shot on a studio set.
Create more authentic content with Storyblocks
When you choose Storyblocks for Business, you won’t have to search far for authentic stock content. We work with contributors around the globe who provide the genuine portrayals of people your audience craves. As a result, you’ll be able to tell more authentic stories with unlimited access to our expansive stock video, audio, and images libraries.
Learn about everything you’ll get with a Storyblocks business license.
Editor’s note: We updated this article to include additional information. It was originally published on February 12, 2020.