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Creative Shutterstock

Shutterstock on why it is better to have a good story than to try and tell one


By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

December 17, 2019 | 8 min read

It’s been almost a year since Shutterstock launched its ‘It’s not stock, it’s Shutterstock’ campaign, the most notable part being its parody of Fyre Festival using only stock images.


Shutterstock on why it’s better to have a good story than to try and tell one

Speaking to The Drum this year as the campaign was being taken out to local markets, Shutterstock chief marketing officer Lou Weiss said its first campaign in six years was focused on telling an existing story it already had.

“One of the things that we realized is that the customers who know us and love us are really clear about what makes us different and special. But not everybody is clear about this because we haven't necessarily told that story in an integrated way across time, across places, across geographies, across campaigns, across sources and across lines of business," he says.

"We realized that as a marketer, it's this fantastic situation where the actual story is better than the one that's been told, which is unusual because it's easier to tell a good story than it is to have a good story,”

The idea of the campaign was to only use Shutterstock assets, to show its story, as well as tell it.

“We're really showing rather than telling what you can do with our stuff. We're acting no more and no less like a customer of Shutterstock and using assets to tell our story in the same way that we empower the world's storytellers to tell their story,” explains Weiss.

The reason this is important is that Shutterstock wants a long-term relationship with its customers and subscribers and this can only come via an authentic story told within its marketing, according to Weiss.

“Brand authenticity shines through and brand inauthenticity shines through. Customer's, whether they are B2B customers or B2C, your consumers are too savvy, there are too much social media, there's too much user-generated content for a brand that lacks authenticity and tries to tell the story that they can't deliver on," he explains.

"Maybe you can sell something to somebody once because of good marketing or good sales, but the word's going to get out and when you sell to a whole bunch of people something that you don't deliver on.

He continues: "In this day and age if you want, particularly if you're in a long-term relationship as we are with our customers, getting the story out ahead of the truth is actually not good for business if you want to work at the same place next year,”

The Shutterstock campaign taps into a wider trend for B2B marketers taking a more emotional, creative approach to marketing. Previously, B2B marketing had been labelled as stunted or unemotional, but many leaders in the industry are calling time on this stereotype, including Weiss.

“B2B customers do not stop being humans and they do not stop being human when they walk in the door of the place where they work. They want to be moved. They want to be attached to brands and associated with brands that are in line with how they see themselves," he explains.

"They want meaning, and we think we're addressing that in two related but distinctly powerful ways. The first is, we're showing what you can do with our stuff, which is empowering to the people who are prospective customers or actual customers."

He adds: "And number two, one of the things we've heard over and over again since we launched the ‘It's Not Stock, It's Shutterstock’ campaign, from clients, from prospects, is you guys are doing the kind of marketing that we want to be doing."

Being a case study for emotional, creative marketing plays right into the effectiveness of the campaign messaging. This is something Weiss is very cognisant of, having a career that started in performance marketing and veering more recently into broader brand marketing.

“Sometimes there is internal marketing group hesitation to be brave or to take chances, particularly if you're in a performance-oriented culture. Shutterstock is a very performance-oriented culture. I am actually a performance marketer who grew into brand about halfway through their career but I never stopped being a performance marketer and we are entirely ROI-driven," he says.

"We're succeeding with this campaign, the inside of that is it's empowering to prospective customers to show them you can do the marketing that your gut tells you you want to do in a performance way. If you don't, you'll do good branding that will drive long-term value and create awareness and equity but may not allow you to hit the performance metrics that you're targeted with. We've got to do both at the same time."

However, as Wiess mentioned, if the product isn’t great or delivering on the ‘authentic’ messaging of the campaign, it will all fall apart. It is why Shutterstock is investing in local content so that it has a library that’s relevant culturally and geographically as the business grows.

“We've got 1.9 million customers and every one of them has a target audience segmentation and people that they're trying to attract. It could be a local brand trying to attract local people by showing local content, in any one of the 150 plus countries we do business in and any one of the 21 languages, 11 currencies, et cetera," he says.

"It could be somebody in Tokyo who's preparing for the Olympics next year, who's trying to attract Australians or trying to attract some other locale or nationality. We've got to have it all because if you don't have fresh current versions of all of that local content, you're not going to meet the needs of the consumer base."

“A company doesn't get to choose who its target customers are, the businesses that it's in defines that and you need to represent your audience. You need to represent your target in your marketing. You need to represent your target in your media. You need to represent your target in your editorial coverage. If we don't have that stuff then we're not meeting the need, which is why we add more than a million and a half assets every single week of the year, to keep constant and fresh, the repository of what we can offer,” he adds.

The issue of having locally relevant images has plagued markets like the Asia Pacific for a long time, with many criticising the major players for not having enough Asian faces in its stock image library. However, many newcomers are setting up trying to address this, giving Shutterstock further reason to invest in global content.

Almost a year on from the launch of the campaign and the message still rings as authentic, and the Fyre Festival ad is still one of the most talked-about ads fo the year, but with greater competition on the horizon, Shutterstock has to keep its marketing fresh.

Creative Shutterstock

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