Building brand loyalty through authentic and relatable visuals

Businesses have faced an exceptionally challenging environment during 2020.

Building brand loyalty through authentic and relatable visuals

Businesses have faced an exceptionally challenging environment during 2020. While Covid-19 has affected people’s purchasing decisions, recent political events and protests have also had a direct impact on what consumers now expect from brands. In particular, consumers have been quick to call out businesses who take a tokenistic approach to showing diversity and inclusion. 

Yet getting what we at iStock refer to as ‘Realness’ right, is no mean feat. In order to help us better understand the forces driving consumer decision making, and how that affects the visual content they engage with, iStock’s parent company Getty Images launched its ongoing research, titled Visual GPS. The research digs deeper into the issues which people care about and just what that means for businesses ‘ large or small.

Inclusivity and diversity are more important than ever

As part of the research, a recent survey of over 5,000 people globally found that six in ten prefer to buy from brands which represent people like themselves. Yet, it appears that brands fall short in consumer’s eyes ‘ of people who have faced discrimination only 14% stated they are well-represented in advertising, and business communications are only marginally better at 15%.

It’s perhaps no surprise then, that searches for diverse images across our platforms increased by 200% between May and June 2020, and terms including ‘unity’ and ‘equality’ increased by 500% in the same period. 

So, what does this mean for small businesses? Making a few references to diversity in your marketing simply misses the mark. The majority of consumers expect brands to demonstrate a consistent commitment to inclusivity and diversity, with nearly eight in ten stating it isn’t enough to have people of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and appearances in advertising but that they expect companies to do a better job at capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures. Therefore, thoughtful communications which speak directly to your customer’s lived experiences will create greater cut through.

Understanding the issues which affect your customers will enable you to create more targeted marketing. The recent survey revealed that most people encounter bias, with six in ten feeling they have been discriminated against. Interestingly, the research found that it’s body type which the majority of consumers across demographics refer to when they talk about diversity in advertising. 79% agree that brands should show different body shapes, and, of those consumers who have felt discriminated against in the past, the largest percentage felt it was because of their size, whether too curvy, heavy, skinny or tall. In addition, three quarters of those aged 50+ who said they’ve experienced discrimination, stated it was due to age. 

So, when it comes to engaging with your customers, select visuals which avoid perpetuating stereotypes and instead embrace diversity in all forms ‘ e.g. when you market to 50+, choose visuals which highlights the happy, multi-dimensional and varied lives we know they lead rather than focusing on just their age.

The seven communities every brand must appeal to

In order to create truly inclusive advertising, there are seven key communities we’ve outlined which should be considered. These are Race & Ethnicity, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Bodies, Ability, Age and Religion.

Keeping these seven communities in mind when building your campaigns will ensure that no customer segment feels excluded. Getting inclusion right is important, as consumers are not afraid to call out businesses who fall short. The initial Visual GPS research showed that roughly a third had boycotted a brand which went against their values in the past two years. On the flip side, however, approximately just as many started purchasing a brand that supported a cause they believe in. Which just goes to show, effective value-based marketing creates a lasting impact.

Meaningfully connect with your audience to create long-lasting relationships

If your brand tells a consistent and committed story, it is more likely that your potential customers will engage. Engaged customers become loyal customers. Loyal customers are the backbone of any business.

Forging greater connections with your audiences through thoughtful and considered visual storying that is inclusive can be achieved if businesses choose to go beyond normative and traditional depictions of bodies, ages, genders, races and abilities. 

Jacqueline Bourke
Jacqueline Bourke

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