• Aftergame AftershaveHave you seen the new ad where the NFL linebacker is selling an aftershave while wearing an evening gown? You know, the one where his chest hair shows lumpy through the exquisite, red-carpet style dress?

    Neither have I. There isn’t one. Gillette is smart enough not to try that.

    I wish I could say the same for small businesses, whose ads fill local magazines, phone books, and web sites. No, they don’t cross-dress in their staff pictures, but they force their brand into inappropriate fits all the time—through their questionable stock photography choices.

    From my professional experience, I can tell you that here’s how it works: “Hey, I’ve got this really cool picture. Let’s come up with a tag line that matches the picture for this ad [or postcard or online banner ad]. I want something that will grab their attention—something creative.” Using puns and/or stretches, you can create a headline that bridges the gap, words that explain the picture.

    The problem? The picture shouldn’t need explaining. You’re letting the artwork determine their message, instead of allowing your message to drive the aesthetics. Sometimes, you can get away with this, when your images closely relate to the service or product you provide. The rest of the time, though, the solutions will be forced—often to a comedic level. Indirect connections create a visual dissonance that is often loud enough to push people past your message.

    So, don’t be a cross-dressing advertiser.

    Before you choose your next stock photography, ask these five questions:

    1. What would my message be, if there were no picture?
    2. Does this picture illustrate that message without explanation?
    3. Does this image also match my clientele, my prospect, and my brand?
    4. Is this photograph “best foot forward” (illustrating the peak of my capability) or dishonest (illustrating something I am not or I am not selling)?
    5. Is this image available for purchase, or did I take it illegally from the Internet or another source?

    I buy hundreds of stock images a year for biplane and its clients. I’ve found that sites with price tags give you a better selection and save you time from sifting through poor-fit and/or lower-quality images. But even if the images you acquire are free, you’re wasting money—and, more importantly, brand capital—when you buy the wrong ones.

    Taking it Personally

    I notice the change in me most, when I see the old me in other people. One of the biggest spiritual transitions I face is letting God out of the confines by which I used to define him, Christianity, faith, and the church. I’m finding him more creative, more gracious, and more sensible than the superstitious deity I had tried to appease.

    The problem of forcing God into a contrived, me-shaped box, is that he becomes the kind of God I’d be: vindictive, superstitious, rules-oriented, OCD. My insecurities become his—and not in a good way. My traditions shackle his undefinable essence and limit the potential he has hoped for me since before Eden. I replace intimacy with religiousness, fulfillment with sin management.

    When we attempt to box and package the infinite, we stunt our growth and maybe even put a barrier between our souls and his voice. When we define God by our man-made lists, we distance ourselves from a vibrant relationship in which we feel his pleasure. When we wrap our faith in our putrid, self-washed rags, we waft the stink of humanism over his new creation. And maybe worst of all: when we narrow our view of God, we make it difficult for others to see him in us.

    Photo(s) used by permission with purchase from iStockPhoto.com
    This entry was posted on Thursday, September 24th, 2009 at 1:30 pm and is filed under Adverpreneur, Branding, Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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