Technology Across Generations

Trends / Technology
Catherine Falls Commercial
Sandra Michalska
Jul 8, 2022
The global pandemic has pushed companies over the technology tipping point. With much of the world moving online, digital technologies are being integrated into all business areas. While the European Union has made digital transformation one of its priorities1, it also escalated its regulatory crusade aimed at the Big Tech companies of Silicon Valley2. Where EU governors cite data privacy as a bone of contention, European consumer sentiment is in agreement. According to Getty Images' VisualGPS market research, 6 in 10 Europeans feel empowered by all the technology available to them, however, 8 in 10 mind if companies collect and use their data behind the scenes.

This is the paradox of the digital era. At Getty Images, we have been tracking consumers’ sentiments towards technology, and while we have seen a growing desire for more personalised services, it comes with a critical privacy caveat. What’s more, the latest Edelman Trust Barometer shows that global trust in the technology sector has dropped in the last 10 years3, even though tech usage has certainly accelerated, and we see that reflected in visual storytelling. During the last five years, we have seen continued growth in visuals depicting digital transformation, data processing, or artificial intelligence. Traditionally, visual representations of technology follow similar patterns: blue‑toned photography that shows always‑on data and digital connections through motion and computer graphic overlays, that focus on the abstract concept of innovation. But are they resonating with the audience? Understanding which visuals inspire trust and engagement prompted us to take a closer look at the most significant differences—and a few similarities—between generations when it comes to visualising technology.
When choosing visuals, it's important to convey transparency to inspire digital trust. Consider warm visuals with comforting or unexpected colours and visual metaphors that are easy to understand. Our image testing shows that EMEA consumers across all generations prefer to see warmer and more inviting visuals, and the need for transparency in visual strategy is shared by all.

However, there are some significant differences when it comes to different generations' relationships to technology. People see technology through its purpose and added value, and both of them vary across generations—influencing consumers' preferred visual choices. Blue padlocks, digital overlays and fingerprints that we often see in tech visuals do work for certain generations especially when they come with surprising visual approaches.
Generation Z and Millennials
According to our latest VisualGPS research, Generation Z and Millennials are more likely to compromise their data for personalisation. Yet it doesn’t mean that they are not privacy‑conscious. Nearly 8 in 10 European Gen Z and Millennials want to see companies taking more measures to protect their identity. When the news broke about WhatsApp sharing data with Facebook, the exodus towards encrypted messaging apps like Signal began. While they want privacy protection, at the same time, they also want to take full advantage of the positive impacts of technology. So how to make sense of the privacy paradox for this demographic? Our research shows that conceptual visuals that are strongly associated with the tech‑like themes heighten the curiosity and inspiration among younger EMEA consumers. Interestingly, they are open to a wide variety of visual styles, including people‑centred visual storytelling. When concentrating on people, they are more likely to resonate with visuals that show the power of technology to assist or improve our daily life.

At the same time, more than half of Gen Z and Millennials think that communicating online has worsened their relationships. VisualGPS research on the relationship between technology and mental health has shown that visuals focused on mental health perform better among Gen Z, as they struggle to control their social media use.
Generation X and Baby Boomers
After the events of the last year, people are craving connection with family, friends and pets, and images that show intergenerational stories resonate most with Generation X and Baby Boomers. While nearly a half of Gen Z and Millennial consumers blame social media for making their relationship worse, the situation is inverted for Gen X and Baby Boomers: 7 in 10 say technology helps them feel connected to others. So, visuals that stand out for this generation show authentic moments of everyday life, which connect with them on an emotional level and elevate the specialness of little moments of connection.  

So, when crafting your visual storytelling for this demographic, it is important to demonstrate the power of technology to bring people together. Visuals that convey bonding and emotional connection will resonate with the current life situation of this generation.
[1] Digital transformation: importance, benefits and EU policy (EU Monitor)
[2] Europe to slap new regulations on Big Tech, beating U.S. to the punch (Washington Post)
[3] 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer (Edelman)
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