Marketing and Comms
Recycle Your Plastics, Not Your Visuals:
A Modern Marketer’s Guide to Sustainability

By refreshing these assets, matching consumer sentiment and upleveling authentic storytelling, brands can better reflect the increasingly conscious world around them and create stronger connections to audiences yearning to make a difference.

Sustainability and climate change awareness have topped headlines and corporate agendas as consumers gain deeper awareness of their environmental impact. According to iStock’s VisualGPS research, 90 percent of North Americans practice sustainability on a consistent basis, and 75 percent believe they have personally made progress towards living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

As consumers grow more eco-conscious, they’re looking for brands across industries to take the same strides. Whether we’re talking about the automotive industry, consumer packaged goods (CPG) or beyond, it’s vital to update marketing visuals to best meet audiences’ evolving sentiments and reflect their lifestyle choices. Below are best practices for marketers looking to strike a deeper emotional chord with consumers — particularly, when it comes to effectively incorporating sustainability-driven assets into their visual storytelling and standing out with their commitments to the cause.

CPG

Consumers are actively looking for brands to embody the same values that they hold. This tracks all the more with younger generations: VisualGPS found that 69 percent of Millennials/Gen Z and 53 percent of older consumers only buy products from brands that make an effort to be sustainable. While brands across all industries can feature these practices within their marketing materials, there is a significant opportunity for the CPG industry, in particular, to better depict these behaviors.

Within marketing campaigns, visual content and even packaging, CPG brands can highlight the nuances of a sustainable lifestyle beyond recycling. This can include, for example, depicting customers using reusable bags, metal straws or water bottles; or showing consumers composting food scraps and cooking with leftovers. Marketers looking to enhance their storytelling can also bring these scenes to life, using video content to tell more complex stories about sustainability and daily actions consumers can take. These are tiny editorial shifts that can go a long way in gaining customer loyalty and establishing a brand’s authentic commitment to sustainability.

Automotive

Anxiety around climate change is at an all-time high, with one-third of US adults surveyed by VisualGPS saying they spend more time thinking about the climate now than they did pre-pandemic. To address these concerns and spearhead change, mobility providers and automakers can rev up marketing materials by including references to sustainable practices and offerings. At the very least, instead of depicting a single passenger in a car, brands can leverage photo and video content that showcase travelers carpooling.

Many of these changes are increasingly becoming the norm for consumers, and marketers can celebrate consumer contributions and accelerate societal adoption by reflecting these efforts. By making these simple shifts, mobility service providers, manufacturers and dealers can acknowledge and help ease climate fears by leaning into simple but impactful, climate-conscious behaviors.

Business

VisualGPS research shows that 53 percent of consumers doubt companies’ sustainability claims, expressing a need for these organizations to make their dedication clear.

From the rise of ESG investing to firmer commitments around corporate social responsibility, more companies are taking action — but they still have a long way to go. While their values may have shifted, businesses must take up sustainability in all aspects of their work, including marketing. The visuals utilized by the business world still fall short — and may unintentionally be feeding consumers’ skepticism.

First, brands should refrain from using tired, cliched visuals within their corporate communication. While well-intentioned, images of polar bears, melting ice caps and trees do not speak directly to what companies are doing to combat climate change. Instead, opt for relevant imagery and video that speaks to companies’ direct action and solutions — from solar panels and community gardens to recycling and zero-waste packaging initiatives.

With the shift towards sustainability comes a reckoning for brands. As consumers continue to embrace more conscious values and lifestyles, brands must update their visual marketing strategies and embody these values within their content. By refreshing these assets, matching consumer sentiment and upleveling authentic storytelling, brands can better reflect the increasingly conscious consumer world around them and create stronger connections to audiences yearning to make a difference.

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