Millions of downloads later, the stock houses such as could easily announce their victory over custom photo houses. After all, their downloaded digital photographs have literally dominated print ads, literature, public relations communications and all forms of electronic media from Websites to iPods to Webinars.

So what am I talking about? What’s wrong with stock photography?

Well let’s start with some basics. When planning a brand marketing campaign most marketers put “differentiation” at the top of their requirements. They want their campaign to stand out, cause reaction and grab attention. Using a photograph that has been downloaded 1,851 times before like the one below defies that objective doesn’t it?

Downloading stock photographs… Or this one that has been downloaded 999 times.

Let’s be clear. 999 is the number of downloads, but after the image has been downloaded it is licensed for “unlimited use” which means it can be used as many times as the owner of the usage rights license likes. Take a hospital that runs print ads, direct mailings and Website campaigns in multiple locations. It’s not inconceivable this one image would be used 100,000 times during the course of their campaign. And remember, there were 999 downloads of this photograph making the potential views of this image in the millions.

Now back to you. The next time you are preparing a very important product launch and you choose an image that has literally run all over the U.S. and the world, ask yourself the question: What does this image say about my Brand? Does it say I am different than all other brands?