Face it: much industrial marketing material is drop-dead dull. But it needn't be. If a company that manages hazardous waste can make what it does look appealing, there's hope for every marketer.

In its latest brochure, Evergreen Environmental Group, in Crestwood, Ky., traded mundane photos of microbes and test tubes for colorful back-to-nature illustrations. "The old brochure didn't say who we are," says Jerry McCandless, president of $4.2-million Evergreen. He opted to portray the end result (a cleaner environment) rather than the engineering means. Customers and prospects have commented favorably on the new brochure, which features an artist's rendition of a deer drinking from a stream.

Likewise, Geoffrey Swett, the marketing director for Remediation Technologies (ReTec) in Tucson, searched for images that would do his customers proud. "I looked long and hard to find decent photos of refineries and hazardous-waste dumps," he says.

Swett and his Seattle ad agency, McKnight & Co., shopped the stock-photography collections, where handsome, albeit recycled, photos can often be had on the cheap. A small Seattle photo agency, West Stock, supplied seven of the eight industrial slides that grace the cover of ReTec's new and improved company brochure. The rented images lend a clean, artistic touch to the down-and-dirty industries ReTec targets, such as oil refining.

The stock photos also allowed ReTec to customize marketing collateral for eight different niches inexpensively. The same eight color slides appear on the cover of ReTec's marketing folder; and in the qualification pack inside, with one difference: the slide appropriate to the industry being targeted is highlighted in color while the rest are run in black and white. The cost for the multiple usage: about $2,300.

ReTec also tailors its trade-show booth using some stock photos. Still, stock images aren't a panacea. For instance, the company must pay for each and every usage. Also, a rival could rent the same image. Says Denise Gaffney, president of McKnight, "There's no substitute for an on-site photo."

ReTec recently hired a seasoned environmental photographer to shoot a customer site. The cost: about $3,000 for the shoot and photo rights -- but one picture has already yielded a high-ticket sales lead after appearing in ReTec's newsletter. A photo taken for ReTec in 1992 made the cover of Oil & Gas Journal and remains a valuable reprint in ReTec's qualification pack.

In any industry plagued by me-too-ism, sharp images can cut through the marketing clutter. ReTec's sales grew 36% last year, to $32 million, in a flat industry.

-- Susan Greco and Phaedra Hise

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Stock Photos, Smart Look
A snappy shot of nuts and bolts. A black-and-white photo of a 1950s factory. An engraving of a tree. You name it, some stock house has it. The cost varies with factors such as photo placement and circulation. A small photo inside a brochure that's mailed to select clients costs much less than the same image splashed across a trade-show booth.

We asked a handful of stock houses what they charge for onetime rental of an image to be used as a quarter-page interior shot or as the cover of an 8H-by-11-inch brochure with a print run of 10,000. Remember, every cost, including search fees, is negotiable. For a free directory of nearly 100 photo agencies nationwide, fax a request on corporate letterhead to the Picture Agency Council of America (507-645-7066).

Stock house Specialty Quarter-page interior Cover
Adventure Photo 805-643-7751 Sports, wildlife, environmental $375 $790
Bettmann Archive 212-777-6200 Historic, news (UPI photos) $500, $350 b/w $600, $400 b/w
Comstock 800-225-2727 From lifestyle to industrial $550 $1,000
f/Stop Pictures 802-885-5261 Rural America $300 $800
The Stock Market 212-684-7878 Science, high tech, geography $425 $1,000
Westlight 800-622-2028 From backgrounds to boardrooms $325 $700

Source: Photo agencies. n