3 research-backed resolutions for improving visual communication in 2021

It’s time for marketers to set and implement content resolutions for 2021 – starting with visual content. Petra O’Halloran outlines what consumers will respond to when it comes to visual communication.

2020 is finally behind us – well, sort of.

Though 2021 is already looking more hopeful, there are issues that the pandemic has either accelerated or that transcend COVID-19 altogether. For many, issues like inclusion, sustainability and the everyday impacts of technology will still be top-of-mind in 2021.

Consumers are quite literally expecting to see brands step up in these areas. According to research for iStock’s creative insights platform Visual GPS, completed in partnership with global market research firm YouGov, 61 percent of people want information through visuals when making a decision on what products or brands to buy from.

Additionally, the research indicates that consumers respond to advertising they consider inclusive and reflective of their values. Between ongoing economic uncertainty and more media consumption than ever, it’s an especially crucial year for businesses to get visual communication right.

Here are three New Year’s resolutions to help you do exactly that.

Get moving with more video

Over the last five years, video use from our customers has more than doubled in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ). Statista estimates that the number of digital video viewers worldwide will hit more than 3.1 billion by 2023.

We’ve been hearing about the importance of video for a while, and you may already be incorporating it. But the advantages of moving images aren’t going away – the overwhelming majority of marketers say it helps drive leads and conversions. It’s also simply a better medium for depicting complex processes or abstract ideas and keeps users engaged on webpages and social.

Of course, not everyone has the budget for video shoots. Stock footage can complement your existing footage or even work as a standalone ad, all while keeping costs down. Lastly, it’s best to give audiences options by mixing video with text, stills photography or illustrations, helping you stretch budgets even further.

A first step for this month: Do a quick content audit of your current assets. Think about what you’ll need to communicate throughout the year, then think about where video might be more effective than still images. Wherever you find gaps, consider how you could fill them with stock footage or repurpose footage you already have.

Go deeper on diversity, but remember authenticity is important, too

Our Visual GPS research suggests there are still big representation gaps in advertising and that it could be affecting your bottom line. Despite eight in 10 consumers saying they expect brands to be consistently committed to diversity and inclusion, only four in 10 feel accurately represented.

This means businesses have to go further than simply including different types of people in their marketing. Seventy-nine percent of ANZ consumers feel it isn’t enough to have people of various ethnicities, backgrounds and appearances in advertisements, and that companies need to do a better job at capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures. And a 2019 study found that 92 percent of brands show people of colour but only 15 percent are culturally represented by more than their skin colour.

Look for imagery that represents diversity in body types, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability and faith – but also captures moments that feel real. Across all demographics, consumers are drawn to images with personality and authenticity, so prioritise images of real people connecting with real emotion.

A first step for this month: Assemble a diverse working group that can help evaluate your asset library with an eye for inclusivity and authenticity. Are people with disabilities represented? Are older people exclusively shown in care homes? Do any images feel posed or unrelatable? Document any groups you feel should be represented more often – or represented in a more authentic way – and then give yourself a deadline for finding more representative imagery.

Capture the ‘new normal’ and hopes for the ‘next normal’

In the past year, iStock has seen a 2157 percent increase in searches for ‘working from home’ a 1818 percent increase in ‘telehealth’ and a 590 percent increase in ‘video conference’. Life has changed for many of us, and you can engage audiences by using imagery that reflects those changes.

Technology plays a big role in many of those changes but ANZ consumers have mixed feelings. While most say tech helps them stay connected, many are also wary about data privacy and cyber security. Try to capture real life by incorporating tech in your imagery but minimise feelings of distrust by keeping people at the fore and prioritising everyday moments.

Likewise, it’s important to strike a balance when depicting sustainability. Eighty-five percent of ANZ consumers expect companies to be environmentally aware in all of their advertising and communications. Small details – like avoiding single-use plastics – can reflect sustainable choices, while images that show the positive impacts of groups or businesses can speak to consumers’ hopes for a greener future.

In all cases, look for authentic moments that balance what life is like today with hopes for tomorrow.

A first step for this month: Depending on your communications and advertising, set a goal to use a specific number of images or video that reflect broad trends, greater tech use and sustainable lifestyle choices.

Petra O’Halloran is the creative research project manager at iStock.

Image from iStock. Credit: AzmanL