Veer Receives Top Marks from Buyers

Posted on 11/4/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

While stock-industry insiders and analysts tend to focus most of their attention on the Big Three, it is noteworthy that buyers often look to a less publicized, smaller company: the Alberta, Canada-based Veer. In a recent survey of stock-photo buyers conducted by the Piper Jaffray investment bank, Veer outranked Getty Images, Jupiterimages, Corbis, Punchstock, Mastefile and Fotosearch, emerging as today’s preferred royalty-free brand among high-end image buyers.

In taking a deeper look at the company, reasons for this success become apparent. Veer has a history of technological innovation, offers a distinctly different product mix, maintains a strict standard of product quality, and fosters a culture of respect for its buyers, employees and the society at large.

Technological innovation

The privately held Veer has offices in the U.S., Canada and Germany, handling sales through a call center and an award-winning Web site. The company has a decade-long history of business and technological leadership, including several first-to-market entries. It was first to direct-market digital visual content in 1985, sell PostScript fonts on disk in 1987, provide stock images on CD in 1988 and develop CD unlocking technology in 1989. Perhaps most importantly, Veer was the first to build a one-stop e-commerce Web site for visual content and software in 1997, and the site continues to rank in the top tier of stock providers today.

Relevant product mix
In this reporter’s opinion, Veer’s array of products accounts for much of its popularity with the high-end buyer. Positioning itself as a company that provides “elements for creativity,” Veer licenses not only photography, illustration and footage clips, but also font software.

This demonstrates a unique understanding of the needs of advertising art directors and graphic designers, who often seek coordinating typographic treatments at the same time they choose images. To facilitate this process, Veer offers individual font software and supports it with a proprietary online font preview tool called Flont.

This bundling strategy is clearly beneficial for both sides. It enables the buyer to spend less time sourcing the needed elements of a given project, while affording Veer the potential of a larger, multiple-product sale to the same customer.

Quality of offering

Selection and quality of images were rated as most important by 94% of respondents to the Piper Jaffray survey. Veer spokesperson Tracy Gauson says that the company’s image mix, which combines well-known brands with innovative style leaders and products not widely available, is largely responsible for its popularity with creatives.

New products are added monthly, keeping the product line fresh. Veer produces its own collections, including brands such as the royalty-free Fancy, the rights-managed Solus, the Hispanic-image collection Somos and the type library Umbrella. Third-party products are filtered and expert-sourced. “Lines and individual collections are intensively reviewed for visual and technical quality by our experienced product managers and in-house creative team,” says Gauson.

Image collections are edited very tightly. The total inventory is markedly smaller than those of Getty and Corbis, consisting of 600,000 single images and 2,500 royalty-free CD titles. Yet Veer’s popularity with the professional segment underscores this customer type’s appreciation for relevance of search results, cited as the second most important quality of a stock provider in the Piper Jaffray survey.

Service for buyers and employees alike
Gauson also places a high emphasis on customer service. Veer offers free research services for images and fonts, develops free tools like Flont and encourages personalized client relations. “Our employees have a great deal of knowledge and add an extra-personal touch to their interactions with customers,” she elaborates.

While such sentiments are routinely expressed by others, they are easier to believe from a company that ranks as high with its customers as it does with its employees. In October, Veer was named one of Canada’s 100 best places to work for the second consecutive year. Veer also scored in the top 35 in the region of Alberta. The competition, sponsored by MediaCorp and Macleans magazine, acknowledged Veer’s unique employee benefits, including: fitness, learning and creative allowances; bikes for employee use; paid days off; snacks and social time every Friday afternoon; excellent medical, paramedical and dental insurance, and flexible work options.

Marketing by engagement
According to Gauson, Veer also works hard to promote its brand in unusual ways. “We aim to inspire, to show creatives what they can do with Veer through, our marketing pieces and merchandise.” The company seeks customer engagement, encouraging interaction through its consistently maintained blog, The Skinny, and the Lightboxing program that pits two designers against each other in a contest using Veer-provided visual elements.

There is also something to be said for Veer’s Creatives Care program, which is timely in a culture of increased social awareness among creatives and corporations alike. Started in 2005, Creatives Care produces and sells merchandise featuring work by well-known contemporary designers. Proceeds go to organizations that help the creative community when in need.

Currently, a T-shirt created by Marian Bantjes is helping raise funds for hurricane victims in the United States, with profits from its sale divided equally between the American Red Cross and the Disaster Relief fund of the American Institute for Graphic Arts, a professional association for design. “We are looking to build the program out next year,” adds Gauson.

# # #

In an industry currently faced with the stiffest competition in its history, Veer offers others a lesson in maintaining product relevance. It is important to remember that among high-end buyers, pricing is viewed as critical by only half. While cost has certainly become more relevant with the advent of microstock, considerations such as product quality, technological superiority, ease of use, customer service and social responsibility can become bankable assets that help stock retailers survive into the next phase of the industry’s evolution.

Copyright © 2007 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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