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Differentiate Your Brand and Build Credibility with Your Photography

howard bank

Differentiate Your Brand and Build Credibility with Your Photography

Having prospects and clients wonder if your advertising is authentic is a marketer’s worst nightmare. “A lot of advertising is trying to convince someone why they should buy your product and build credibility,” explains Erica Starr, Director of Marketing, SVP at Howard Bank. “If you see the same photo in five different brands, you wonder if it is real.”

If you put energy and resources (financial, creative, and otherwise) into a campaign, then you want the ability to tell the powers that be the campaign was not only a success, but it resonated with your audience in a meaningful way.

For the team at Howard Bank, choosing custom fine art website photos and creating a custom “stock” photo library helped them connect with their clients and reinforce their brand. “You should look at your imagery like your value proposition — it should differentiate you,” says Starr. “If you’re using the same imagery as the bank down the street, you’re diluting the brand. If someone comes across that same ad or image in someone else’s brand, you’ve diluted why someone should use your business.”

“We Care About Here”

When the time came to redesign their website, Starr and her team wanted to feature local, authentic images that reflected their messaging. “It’s a credibility thing, especially on what your brand is,” says Starr. “1st Mariner was the same as Howard, and we’re a local bank. 1st Mariner’s tagline was ‘Baltimore’s Community Bank. We Built this Bank for You.’ Howard Bank is ‘We Care about Here.’ It’s a focus on location and where we are.”

Coyle Studios created custom fine art images showcasing the neighborhoods where the bank had branches. Baltimore, Ellicott City, Dundalk, Annapolis, and Harford County were a few of locations John spent time photographing. “We wanted to make sure the images that we used reflected our brand, and that was very much local. We wanted shots where people could go, ‘Oh that’s here’ in order to emphasize that you’re dealing with a local bank. We were looking for iconic images in and around Baltimore and the counties surrounding it,” explains Starr. “We say that we’re from here. There’s a good chance that you’ll run into our bankers at the grocery store.”

The images would take center stage on the website and create a visual impact as soon as someone opened a page. “Our site was very text heavy with no banners, and the only images you saw were the homepage banners. We wanted it to be visual. If you have images up that portray the content of the site and/or brand, I think that does a better job than text quite honestly,” says Starr. “The combination of the text and words — it’s the full package.”

Creating Employee Engagement

In addition to custom fine art website photos, Howard Bank wanted to create a custom “stock” photo library. Using Howard Bank employees in the photos was important to the team. Employee involvement reinforced the corporate culture and allowed the company to show their audience how proud they were of their team. “People were really excited to be in those photos,” says Starr. “There is brand loyalty there. It says something about your brand that you want to use your own people. Our people are the biggest thing that differentiates us, and we want to tell the world about that.”

It can be difficult to convince employees to be in marketing photos. Some folks can be camera shy, and others don’t want to be featured at all. Howard Bank created a corporate culture including employee input, and all of the employees who were a part of this marketing photo shoot were helpful and fun to photograph. “We’ve done a good job of keeping employees a part of the entire process. They were part of the interviews, focus groups, and surveys for our rebrand, and [featuring employees] was an easy sell,” explains Starr.

As with any photo shoot, the key to custom marketing photos is being organized and having a plan. Inventing shots the day of the photo shoot can impact your ability to be productive and keep employees engaged. “You really need to figure out what you need to capture. Understand your brand and what kind of imagery you want to use in that brand,” advises Starr. “The more organized you can be with communication, getting buy in, and planning, the more willing they will be to participate.”

For Howard Bank, custom fine art website photos and authentic marketing images helped transform their website and marketing efforts. With these photos, they are able to connect with clients and stay true to their brand. “We’re very much a neighborhood, Smalltimore place,” says Starr. “If you can find art that people relate to, it’s part of the package. It’s one hundred percent something to consider to think about.”


To learn more about authentic marketing images, check out our post, “Making Marketing Matter: Build an Audience with Your Photos.”