Businesses and brands have been slow to move with the times as it relates to how they visually market their brand and products. However, the world is increasingly diverse and multicultural, meaning these businesses need to quickly catch up if they are to continue engaging their customers and growing their business.
Historically, major consumer brands such as Coca Cola have been at the center of campaigns for diversity. In the 1950’s, during the American civil rights movement, Coca-Cola began featuring African Americans in advertising, despite the segregation policy at soda fountains. These laws were not indicative of the company’s policy, though Coca-Cola was aware of the need to connect with all of their customers and stood by that mission for the greater good of the business.
In today’s turbulent political climate, brands across all industries are beginning to take a stronger stance more than ever before. Kellogg Company pulled its ad spend from one of the largest conservative media outlets in America, Breitbart News Network, citing differences in values during the 2016 U.S. election. CoverGirl launched its much-celebrated campaign for diversity and inclusion in late 2016, featuring its first-ever male model and a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.
In a time where images and video content dominate our feeds, visual choices are critical considerations as a brand looks to stand out from the crowd and connect with their audience.
Recently conducted research by Shutterstock and Censuswide surveyed 500 UK marketers on their choice of images. The findings show marketers are shifting their approach to selecting images and they are increasingly using images that are racially and sexually diverse, to be more aligned with modern day society. 79% of the marketers surveyed confirmed they are using more images of homosexual couples, and 71% are choosing more racially diverse images.
Not only are consumers and media quick to call out those brands that lack diversity in their campaigns but also employees, investors, partners and other stakeholders are less tolerant of sameness and they are turning to brands that better reflect them and their needs.
The study shows marketers are aware of the need to be more inclusive in the images they choose for advertising campaigns, not simply to promote a brand message (30%) but to better reflect modern day society (71%).
Non-traditional family images are also popular with 66% of marketers choosing these types of images more.
There is still much work to be done before diversity in brand imagery becomes a norm. Just 28% of marketers surveyed in financial services used images of diversity in the past year. Compare this to the HR sector, where 60% of HR marketers recently used images of diversity. Naturally HR companies prioritize messages of inclusivity and diversity, but why not those in financial services?
Regardless of the motivations, brands have a responsibility to understand how their campaigns engage or exclude certain audiences. By carefully weighing up the risks and rewards involved they can make a thoughtful decisions on how to broaden or refine their visual repertoire that appeals to a variety of customers and audiences.
Check out "Creative Trends Influencing Advertising In 2017" at 3:30PM on Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Advertising Week Europe.
About the Author
Robyn Lange is Shutterstock’s in-house Curator, highlighting the best of the 125 million images in the collection. She developed an extensive knowledge of image libraries through 20 years spent as a photo editor. Working for publications such as Time, Vogue, and, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, she has worked closely with some of the most talented photographers in the industry and produced elaborate photo shoots across the world.