How Discrimination is Driving Inclusion

Trends / Realness
Brianna R / 500px
Jacqueline Bourke
May 7, 2020
Our unprecedented access to cameras is changing our visual landscape. Against a backdrop of fake news and image manipulation, there is an expectation that visuals are representative of real people and the world around us. This is having a profound and sustained impact on consumer expectations of how brands tell their story and who are the ‘faces’ in these stories. According to our latest Visual GPS market research, over two‑thirds of consumers say it is important to them that the companies they buy from celebrate diversity of all kinds. Consumers expect to see themselves, their loved ones, and their everyday life included honestly in advertising.

Why does this matter for brands? Because it drives purchasing choices. Consumers are pushing back against brands that are not transparent, honest, and real. People are not afraid to make decisions, depending on what they see. In our latest Visual GPS market research, consumers told us that 33% have boycotted a brand that went against their values in the past two years. Proactively, 34% of consumers surveyed say they have started purchasing from a brand that supported a cause they believe in.

Getting realness and inclusion right has never been more relevant in the ‘new normal’. We currently find ourselves living with a high degree of uncertainty during a global pandemic that affects everyone. In order to establish brand trust through visual storytelling, truth, tolerance, and transparency are key. It is important to remember the need to be inclusive in our visual choices by showing the world as it is.
The Age of Inclusion: It’s Personal
Why does inclusion matter for consumers? Because inclusion for many is deeply personal. 57% of consumers surveyed said they have been affected by bias in their everyday lives. Discrimination is driving the need for inclusion in brand advertising. 51% of consumers said they have been discriminated against because of body size, shape or type. 37% because of lifestyle choices. 30% because of gender. 27% because of their religion and 25% because of their race.  Our market research also found that discrimination is also felt more commonly by the younger generations and women.

Consumers understand the power of perception shifting visuals that break with stereotypes and show not only themselves but others who have not previously been seen in advertising. 80% of consumers surveyed said companies need to show people with all body shapes and types. We are living in an age of inclusion where tolerance, authenticity, transparency, and standing for what you believe in is key. Consumers are speaking with their wallets.  

Brands need to make sure that the visual content selected is a reflection of the audience—it shows that you see them, accept them for who they are, and welcome them to interact with you and your brand. And it’s not just those in affected groups who have been discriminated against. People, overall, want to see the sentiment of inclusion expressed by the companies and brands they do business with. So how do you this? By keeping it real.
"Tolerance, authenticity, transparency, and standing for what you believe in is key. Consumers are speaking with their wallets."
Getting Inclusion Right is worth the effort
Representing the breadth and depth of your target audience is difficult. Over 70% of the consultation we do at Getty Images with our customers is in visualizing diversity and inclusion. The integrity and realness of inclusive visuals are up for debate meaning that brands are having to go further to prove their visuals are real. Retouching, for example, is less popular and many brands are taking strong stances on the practice. More importantly, however, it is about the whole journey, from subject to photographer/videographer to the consumer. If you are showing, for example, somebody who has a disability, it cannot be a model pretending. Don’t try to fake real.

Getting inclusive representation right is worth the effort. Deloitte’s ‘The Value of Diversity in Advertising’ study 2019 found that brands with inclusive advertising saw a 44% stock increase over two years. Google's 2019 study on inclusive ads found that 64% of people took some sort of action after seeing an ad that they considered to be diverse or inclusive. At Getty Images we have championed the creation of inclusive visuals of real people through partnerships with Dove,, Verizon Media, National Disability Leadership Alliance, Refinery 29, and AARP to ensure 'real' representation avoids tokenism and shows true intersectionality of experience, perspectives and authentic lives that resonate with consumers today.
So remember, realness and inclusion are not just hot topics in the media, in the arts or increasingly in the business world. It is a miscalculation to call this a trend. For many inclusion in advertising is deeply personal, driven by experiences of discrimination. It is an ongoing story about long overdue acceptance of our differences, empathy for how others experience the world, and the ability to bring our whole selves to everything we do, personally and professionally. Tokenism and visualizing underrepresented communities as isolated from the rest of the world doesn’t evolve the visual language forward, but showing how everyone interacts and lives their daily lives as authentically as possible shows everyone has a seat at the proverbial advertising table.

Getting inclusion right is not only the right thing to do but is worth the effort.
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