Visual content and consumer behavior: Realness, wellness, technology, sustainability

Check out the insights from Getty's global report on the state of visual impact today.

Earlier this week, Getty released the results from its new global report – Visual GPS – which dives into the forces around visual content driving consumer preferences and purchasing decisions.

The survey, which includes insights from 10,000 consumers across 26 countries and 13 languages, reveals that four key forces are behind most consumer behaviors and decision making: Realness, wellness, technology and sustainability.

Campaign US caught up with Dr. Rebecca Swift, global head of creative insights at Getty Images, to hear her biggest takeaways from the report.

Below are the findings that she finds "not only relevant, but truly actionable—and concepts brands both big and small can take to heart."


1)       First off, we’ve found that sustainability is important to consumers of all ages, across geographies and cultures. Popular opinion might suggest that sustainability is something favored or supported primarily by younger generations, but that’s simply not the case. This is a bit of a "mic-drop" sort of finding as it contradicts what most of us may have been led to believe—as sustainability is most often visualized as a young-person’s concern.

2)       Secondly, there’s a definite push/pull dynamic when it comes to sustainability, which we’re calling the "consumption conundrum." Consumers recognize the importance of sustainable choices and behaviors, but prioritize their own convenience and needs. For instance, although half of consumers say they only buy products from brands that try to be eco-friendly, roughly just as many (48 percent) also say that although they know they should care more about the environment, convenience consistently takes priority. As we view it, this conundrum means there’s an opportunity for brands to partner with consumers to help close the gap between attitudes and actions. Furthermore, of consumers who identify as "passionate about sustainability," 95 percent say that they always recycle and 94 percent say they do everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint… which begs the question as to whether there may also be a gap between self-perception and reality. The visuals we tend to see typically reflect the convenience concern, with much of the "sustainable-forward" imagery featuring reusable bags and water bottles.

3)       According to our findings, two-thirds of consumers (68 percent) say it’s important to them that the companies they buy from celebrate diversity "of all kinds." In fact, it’s not only important, but it directly corresponds with their purchasing decisions. Roughly a third (33 percent) said they have boycotted a brand that went against their values in the past two years, and nearly the same percentage (34 percent) said that they started purchasing from a brand that supported a cause they believe in. Despite these statistics, the visualization of inclusivity is not keeping pace with consumers’ desire.

4)       You might assume people tend to value physical health over mental health, but our research suggests that not only do consumers place a high value on both (88 percent and 90 percent, respectively), but an equally high value. This tells us that brands should consistently concern themselves with visualizing both mental and physical health, whenever and wherever it makes sense, although fitness-based imagery is often the norm, as opposed to imagery depicting wellbeing and self-care.

5)       If you look at the visuals you see day-in and day-out, you’ll notice that we don’t often see the wellbeing of older generations depicted in imagery. We believe this is a missed opportunity, as we know from our findings that the percentage of older generations which value overall wellbeing and "living by one’s principles" is greater than that of younger generations. Specifically, 67 percent of Baby Boomers and 53 percent of GenX stated this as important to them, as opposed to 46 percent of millennials and 34 percent of GenZ respondents. As we see it, there’s a clear correlation between its importance and age.

6)       Of all the driving forces in people’s lives, technology is arguably the one that creates the greatest amount of dynamic tension. People know they need it and have accepted it into their lives as a connector, but also feel the downside. Quantitatively, the younger you are, the more likely you are to feel as though your life isn’t as great as the lives of others because of time spent on social media, with 65 percent of GenZ, 55 percent of Millennials, 37 percent of GenX and 20 percent of Baby Boomers stating they believe this. Although this might not be a shocking statistic in and of itself, taken as a whole, 42 percent of people feel this way and 41 percent would go so far as to say that some of their relationships have been damaged by the use of technology. From a visual standpoint, we believe that there’s a clear opportunity in terms of depicting the connections made possible by technology as 97 percent of our consumer surveyed stated that tech makes them feel more connected.

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