A growing desire to go beyond the surface for full authenticity in diversity and inclusion, sustainability and technology is driving the creation and utilization of visual imagery and video.
This is the view of Kate Rourke, Head of Creative Insights Asia Pacific at Getty Images and iStock, who catches up Chief Marketing Officer A recent visit to Sydney to discuss macro consumer and market trends influencing how it develops a catalog of photo and video galleries, and how brands use visuals to communicate information.
These trends are also highlighted to the company’s B2B customer base through its VisualGPS insights engine, which combines more than 2.5 billion search data points from the Getty website with downloads and keywords from more than 880,000 authorized customers and thematically divided popular visuals. It is supported by custom research that the organization conducts regularly with research polling group YouGov.
As Rourke explains, VisualGPS looks at macro trends through four identified “forces” – sustainability, authenticity, technology and health. These trends are driving more or less consumer engagement and buying behavior across geographies, generations, genders, and employment.
Here, Rourke talks about how Getty is responding to these trends, and how Covid is impacting the goals achieved through visual and video imagery.
CMO: What are the macro trends driving your own visual creative strategy in 2022?
Kate Rock: On a broader level, from a technological standpoint, the metaverse is something we are very concerned about. Everyone is talking about it and we as a business are very interested.
From a Covid perspective, what we’ve seen is a major and rapid shift in the direction of our entire lives, from home gyms to online learning and work. This has impacted the world of work and how we see it, we’re seeing a shift to hybrid work, and the consequences of that. It’s not just a show of sitting at home with a laptop, it’s how you can be inspired.
Diversity and Inclusion [D&I] is another important part of what we’re working on. It’s not just about who the characters in the image are, but whether we include everyone and how we do it. At Getty, we look at this from an intersectional perspective — we all have these different lenses that we identify with, and that evolve over time. Interestingly, when you look at the crossover perspective, you can see where certain groups are missed or excluded.
Then, what we tried and did was layer it with all the other trends we were looking at, like metaverse. For example, we see a trend in the metaverse where there are more men than women in the younger generation. And then it tries to think about this from a visual perspective – do we also tend to be more male, but do we really want to change that presentation? Because there are a lot of female players. We’re trying to understand where the balance is and how it looks in order to shoot from its back.
What is still missing from a D&I perspective?
Locke: This is an ongoing evolution. When talking to many businesses, we know that diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of everything they do, and that gender diversity comes along with racial diversity. But when you compare men in business to women in business, we still see more men. It’s always surprising given that we’ve been talking about it for a while, but it’s still a reality.
We are doing a lot of research [for D&I] Revolve around unconscious bias and be aware of it. We have these biases unknowingly, so we sometimes default to certain visuals. So we did a lot of work and built a list of questions…that helps us think about when we imagine women, for example, do we think about all the other areas, so we don’t default to a female-dominated lifestyle environment that’s good, Or shopping with friends. It’s about broadening the story to more truly represent what women are doing now.
Another is to look at it in terms of age. People over 60 are generally considered more relaxed and less likely to do business or be alone. It’s interesting because their generation is more likely to live alone, but they are almost always with family, husband or wife. While these elements are improving, if we’re really trying to represent what’s going on in society today, it’s not quite there yet visually.
It’s interesting that the points you make around Getty/iStock need to challenge preconceived notions of what things should look like and be accountable for changing perceptions. Are there other generational differences that challenge how we should think about visual images?
Locke: Age groups over 60 experience bias when viewed as too old. And Gen Z is biased in terms of inexperience. This often results in them not being visualized for work or even taking work seriously.
Gen Z really wants realism in terms of what different generations want to see. But ultimately, it’s about relevance. One thing we’ve found in common across all generations is this idea of correlation. Not everyone in the picture looks like us, but it’s something we can relate to, whether it’s the emotion, the setting, or what’s going on. However, Gen Z prefers visual realism and prefers to see people who are more like themselves, as well as physical variety.
How about the pursuit of sustainability – how is this reflected in the choice of images and the way we use them?
Locke: We tend to think sustainable lifestyles are suitable for Gen Z. In fact, our research shows that the older we get, the stronger our drive towards sustainability becomes. That could be because we have higher salaries and the ability to make those environmental choices, energy suppliers or supermarkets of our choice. But Gen Z is more vocal about it and more likely to support any brand that demonstrates sustainable practices more broadly, especially when it comes to everyday purchases. But when we look at sustainability visuals, we almost never see 60+ people shopping for sustainability.
It’s also about representing the entire cycle visually. What we know about consumers, and what may be stronger among younger generations, is to want to see a more diverse story of how companies are reducing their carbon footprint, how they can demonstrate throughout the process that they have these ethical business practices . They also want to see what’s going on behind the scenes and gain transparency in the process and what’s being posted externally. It’s one thing to say we’re green and our packaging is recyclable, but consumers increasingly want to understand the process from start to finish. This is the turn of the story that people want to see.
Another aspect of sustainability is the desire to understand the workforce and individuals behind ongoing sustainable projects. It humanizes the sustainability story and makes it more relevant. Through testing, we see that images of majestic solar or wind farms often feel abstract and objective. We found that people wanted to bring it back to the human story and personalize it more so they could relate more to it.
Read more: De-marketing: How marketers can avoid becoming a sustainability issue
Is this desire for a more human element a result of the pandemic? We’re sure to see more and more brands embrace nostalgia and relationships knowing that this is a particularly resonant moment.
Locke: It will definitely accelerate due to Covid. When the financial crisis hit, we found that the willingness to demonstrate sustainability dropped completely. And with Covid, it stayed and then accelerated.
Likewise, with Covid, our environment matters to us. We were all trapped indoors, and we started seeing positive stories very quickly, like wildlife being spotted in the canals of Venice as cruise ships disappeared. If we work to increase environmental awareness, we quickly see the benefits and how things can be improved.
Another trend we are witnessing is the rise of the creator economy. How did Getty/iStock solve this problem? What does this mean for your business model?
Locke: When Instagram really took off, we saw the emergence of what we call the “Instagram aesthetic” and the trend to choose content with an Instagram feel to customers. We can quickly see that it is affecting image selection – for example, lens flare is particularly popular. Making pictures look like Instagram has never been part of our brief because we have 350,000 contributors and we want every style.
Now, it’s no longer a stylistic thing. Where the creator economy comes into play is the force driving realism. Everyone wants to add a layer of realism to the visuals and capture the moments that are there in time to be real, and then show life as it is without filters.
There was a time before 2016 when people wanted things to be real. It means showing real people. It still exists. This next level of “authenticity” shows not only real people, but also real families or a real couple. Given where we are now, we know this is very popular.
Then there is another layer. We created a series called Show Us that not only shows what’s real in front of the camera, but also the people behind it and the people who tell the story. It involves different perspectives not only in front of the camera but also behind the camera. I believe this will increasingly affect these different requirements.
Will this change the way you present and work with contributors?
Locke: With the Show Us series, both women and non-binary characters can choose their own keywords. So, as a customer of our product, you will be able to see how that person wants to be represented. Behind the camera, the important factor is to ensure that the people shooting the content are women and non-binary people.
We’re always working hard to increase this diversity, and we’ve given many grants to recruit more contributors because it’s not as easy as it seems. We will continue to work hard and continue to do that.
Don’t miss out on a wealth of insights and content from CMO A/NZ and subscribe to our weekly CMO Digest newsletter and information service here.
You can also follow CMOs on Twitter: @CMOA Australiato join the CMO Conversation on LinkedIn: ANZfollow our regular updates Via CMO Australia’s Linkedin company page