More diversity in marketing imagery

The imagery in marketing is undergoing a transformation: Diversity motifs that depict societal diversity, such as gender, sexual orientation, or origin, are increasingly in demand. This was revealed by an independent study conducted by the image agency Shutterstock in collaboration with the market researcher Censuswide on the use of diversity images. Additionally, the image selection not only unveiled significant generational differences among marketers but also various country-specific motivations.

the younger, the more diverse

The industry’s evolution is evident as marketing experts from Generations Y (1980 to 2000s) and Z (approximately 1995 to 2010s) worldwide selected more images of models from different ethnicities, same-sex couples, individuals with disabilities, or transgender/gender-fluid/androgynous models for their campaigns last year compared to marketing professionals from Generation X (1965 to 1980s) or the Baby Boomer generation (from 1955 to the late 1960s). “The study highlights that marketers from Generation X understand the value of diversity images in campaigns but use them less frequently compared to marketing experts from Generations Y and Z,” emphasized Lou Weiss, CMO of Shutterstock.

Diversity reflects modern society

And why is that? According to the study, young marketers use more diverse motifs because they increasingly visualize their own beliefs regarding ethnicity, gender, and abilities within their marketing campaigns. For example, 20% of German marketers began using more images with diverse ethnic models last year, with over half of them justifying this by reflecting the modern society. Globally, all surveyed marketers agree that there is still room for improvement in using diversity images in marketing campaigns (Australia: 87%; Brazil: 95%; Germany: 86%; UK: 88%; USA: 89%).

Diversity gets more clicks

Especially for targeting in marketing campaigns, ethnic diversity is considered particularly relevant – 62% of German marketers share this opinion. When evaluating criteria for image selection, 32% of marketing executives from Germany believed that the images should evoke an emotional reaction. An equal number of decision-makers also considered it important that the images in marketing campaigns are easily shareable. Indeed, diversity sparks curiosity and polarization.

Country-specific Preferences

In contrast, Brazilian (44%) and Australian (38%) marketers assigned greater importance to the connection between motif and brand message, while British (45%) and American (37%) decision-makers favored motifs that best represent modern society. Regional preferences also exist in image selection. According to the study, Brazilian marketers are globally leading in using images with models of different ethnicities, same-sex couples, and people with disabilities. On the other hand, British marketers seem to have a fondness for non-professional models as well as gender-fluid, non-binary, and androgynous models in their marketing campaigns. Is this a nod to David Bowie?

Thorough Research

For this study, over 2,500 marketing experts from Australia, Brazil, Germany, the USA, and the UK were surveyed in October on how they made decisions regarding the imagery of their campaigns in the past year. The study is an extension of previous investigations by Shutterstock on how marketing professionals select and use images in 2016 (UK) and 2017 (Australia, UK, and USA).