Published 3 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: courtesy of Getty Images
Here are three key considerations worth keeping in mind as you endeavor to find, create and use fresh, relevant visual content to communicate your brand’s
commitment to sustainability — and even more importantly, inspire customers to action.
We’ve all seen them. An image of a polar bear on a melting ice cap. A koala
singed by fire in the middle of a blackened forest. A city skyline, barely
visible through smog and pollution.
In the early 2000s, these and other images emerged as the visual icons for
climate change. Jarring at first, they forced us to pay attention and gave us a
visible shorthand for understanding environmental issues when we saw them. Yet
over the years, they’ve grown familiar, commonplace, and have admittedly lost
some currency with repeated exposure.
So, what now? It’s time to move on — or perhaps it’s more fair to say, move
It’s imperative that brands and businesses further visualize and introduce
sustainable concepts to their audiences and customers through their advertising
and marketing. But more than that, we need a new wave of provocative images —
visual icons 2.0! — to continue to elicit emotional response and inspire action.
If social responsibility and striving for a healthier planet isn’t enough, then
know this: Authentically embedding sustainability into your storytelling
directly impacts your business value and bottom line.
Join us for a transformational experience at SB Brand-Led Culture Change — May 8-10 in Minneapolis. This event brings together hundreds of brand leaders eager to delve into radical lifestyle shifts and sustainable consumer behavior change at scale. The trends driving cultural acceleration are already underway, and you can be at the forefront of this transformative movement.
By not making sustainability a core component of your visual storytelling and
identity, you’re leaving customers, purchasing power, and potential
environmental impact on the table. According to data from Visual
GPS — a research effort
by Getty Images through which thousands of customers across 26 different
countries were surveyed — 81 percent of customers expect businesses to be
environmentally aware in all of their advertising and customer communications.
Even more notably, roughly half of customers say they only buy products from
brands that make an effort to be eco-friendly, willing to spend as much as 15
percent more for products or services that are sustainably made and which align
with their values.
What does that mean? Sustainability isn’t just good for the environment and for
us — it’s good for business, too.
As a whole, brands and businesses are fortunately trending in the right
direction. Since last year, Getty Images searches for imagery illustrating
“sustainability” and “sustainable living” have increased by 142 percent and 201
percent, respectively. But the goal now is to take this general, baseline
visualization of sustainability and expand its scope with visuals that
illustrate new, future-forward concepts — such as “circular economy” and “energy
As brands, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help customers bridge
the gap between intention and
but to do that, we need to move the conversation forward — which of course begs
the question, how?
Here are three key considerations worth keeping in mind as you endeavor to find,
create and use fresh, relevant visual content to communicate your brand’s
commitment to sustainability — and even more importantly, inspire customers to
Sustainability is often thought to be a younger generation’s movement — but
that’s not true. Our data shows that sustainability is important to people
of all ages across geographies and cultures, with 9 out of 10 respondents
saying they believe the way we treat our planet now will have a significant
impact on the future. They also said that brands must intentionally include
representation across ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation, gender
identification, religion and culture — which further emphasizes our popular
understanding that we all play a critical role in bettering the future of
our planet. Which means that our collective visual storytelling should also
represent that. Consider the following for each generation:
Visual language is a powerful tool for shaping people’s views — so much so
that customers are twice as likely to be drawn to visuals that show how
their own actions impact the natural world. Visual GPS has further shown
that people believe that some of the best ways to positively impact the
planet include recycling, stopping the use of single-use
switching to environmentally friendly products and using renewable energy
sources for home power; it’s up to brands to reflect and expand upon these
actions in their visual communications.
Consider ditching visuals that prioritize takeaway coffee cups and plastic
straws; and instead, treat them as part of the background — while
highlighting innovative sustainable practices, technologies and industries.
No one knows what the next 50 years will look like, or what the next
sustainable trend might look like — although we’ll likely find fresh ways to
reduce our carbon footprints. While that can seem daunting, don’t run away
from it. Last year, visuals depicting “decluttering” and “veganism” were on
the rise, while this year has been the year of protest. Activism comes in
all shapes and sizes — the more you showcase the spectrum, the more you’ll
appeal to your customers.
The bottom line: The push to reimagine the visual make-up of sustainability is
happening, with or without you. But it’d be a lot better for the planet, your
customers and your business if you joined the fight.
Published Oct 30, 2020 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Dr. Rebecca Swift is Global Head of Creative Insights at Getty Images, based in London.