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You Need A Header Image That Hums

March 2, 2021

Plant with long tubular red flowers with hummingbirds swarming all around worms underground custom illustration attracts more attention than stock photosblank vertical space, 16 pixels highI count 32 hummingbirds in the above illustration.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Hmmm.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I mean, Hummmm.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What’s going on??blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Well, it’s a competition to see who can attract the most visitors.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The custom illustration (with the pencil root) is the clear winner.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The losers, down there with the worms, include 5 stock photos and The Same Meme Everyone Uses.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Let’s take a closer look at the losers, and why they lost.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Person At Laptopblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Two examples.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I’ve seen this young woman biting her pencil many times. What’s causing her pretend anxiety??blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Then there’s the barely-glimpsed-person at a laptop with a cup of coffee. Whoa!– a china cup instead of a mug. Pretty radical…blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

stock photos young woman at laptop biting pencil shot of open laptop desk cup coffee

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highHappy People At Meetingblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

How many times have you seen happy people gathered around a computer?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Why are they all so happy??blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What the heck are they looking at??blank vertical space, 32 pixels highHappy people standing sitting around laptop computer pointing looking at screen

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highSand Through The Hourglassblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

One of the great stock photo cliches.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The one of the right kills me: a disembodied hand holding an hourglass with red sand shot against a distracting faux stone wall– nice!!blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

stock photos hand holding hourglass at beach sands of time hand sculpture holding hourglass with red sand

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highThe Same Meme Everyone Usesblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I’m talking about the Gene Wilder-Willie Wonka meme. It even has its own Wikipedia entry, Condescending Wonka.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

There are hundreds of them: same screen-grab, different words.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They’re funny, but they’re all sarcastic and condescending– which makes them a little dicey for a business blog.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highmemes Gene Wilder still photo from Willie Wonka movie you hate Mondays? and you just graduated? big deal tell me more

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highThe Drink By The Ocean At Sunsetblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Millions of variations.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

How about a toast (clink!) or a Mason jar on Sunset Bay??blank vertical space, 32 pixels highhands holding glasses toasting each other at sunset on beach drink in Mason jar on table with harbor at sunset in background

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highThe Laughing Guy With The Beardblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I have to admit, I get a kick out of this guy. He’s everywhere.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

His most popular shot seems to be Hey Look, I Have A Post-It Note On My Head. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen it.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highlaughing guy with blond hair beard at computer with post-it note on his forehead which says Be Happy

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highYou don’t have to settle for the Post-It Note, though. He’s very versatile.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

He can do a phone and a laptop at the same time, and he can also combine Happy People with Workplace Diversity.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highstock photos happy grinning guy with blond beard with cell phone at computer same guy with two young execs woman black guy looking at iPad

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highHe’s a busy guy, but he also finds time to work out– impressive!!blank vertical space, 32 pixels highstock photo guy with blond beard working out at gym with weights doing pushups

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highNice photos.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Well, maybe except for the creepy hand with the hourglass.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

So why are they all losers when it comes to header images?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Because stock photos are essentially invisible. We scroll right past them.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

We know they’re fake. Just window dressing.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

We know that look.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

We see them over and over again because so many people use the same or similar photos.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

People use them because they’re free or cheap. Strictly a pro forma thing: a blog post needs a header image, so slap one in whether it attracts visitors or not.

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highThe Advantages Of A Custom Imageblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Why create or commission a custom image for your brand?blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

1. Because they get people to stop scrolling. They attract attention because they’re different.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

2. They’re customized for your brand and target audience. By contrast, stock images are generic.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

3. They help you tell your story in new ways. Illustration is visual storytelling.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

4. Commission an image, and you get a collaborator. Someone who will see things with fresh eyes and contribute new ideas.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

5. A custom image can act as a talk trigger, creating word of mouth.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

6. A custom image will reflect and amplify the copy to better communicate your brand message to the reader.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

7. A custom image can create what marketing expert Andrew Davis calls a curiosity gap, and make the reader want to know more.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

8. Ideally a custom image can be broken into spot images and repurposed. It’s a matter of design, so you need to discuss it ahead of time with the person creating the image for you.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Not everyone knows how to create a custom image, not everyone can afford to commission one.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I understand that.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

But a custom illustration might be more affordable than you think.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I provide free estimates and a range of options.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It never hurts to ask.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

4.4 million blog posts get published every day.

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highYou need a way to stand out.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Think hummingbirds. You need something that will catch their eye.
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*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       * blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, editorial, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Freddy J. Nager creative strategist USC professor marketing communication

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A penny for your thoughts. I'm on a tight budget here.

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