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    Q&A: Kate Rourke – APAC Consumers Expect Brands to Focus on Sustainability and Inclusiveness

    Q&A: Kate Rourke – APAC Consumers Expect Brands to Focus on Sustainability and Inclusiveness

    Kate is the Head of Creative Insights in APAC for Getty Images, and iStock.

    By Bobby McGill - Dec 8, 2020

    We recently spoke with Kate Rourke, the APAC Head of Creative Insights for Getty Images & iStock, to learn more about market research tools rolled out this year including Visual GPS which helps brands better map out their visual strategy when engaging consumers.

    As Rourke told us, “With over three quarters (84%) of all communications being visual, the impact imagery has on consumers is evident and it’s become more and more evident that imagery can have an impact on their purchasing decisions with brands.”

    Over the course of our conversation, Rourke talks about how Visual GPS works, recent research from the APAC region showing increasing expectations from consumers that brands be more environmentally aware, along with being more diverse and inclusive, image search trends during COVID-19, and more.


    Tell us more about the methodology behind Getty Images research

    This year, Getty Images launched Visual GPS, a first-of-its-kind solution to help Getty Images and iStock customers navigate their visual strategy. Building on our 25 years of visual trend experience, Getty Images partnered with YouGov, a global market research firm, to survey more than 10,000 consumers and professionals in 13 languages across 26 countries.

    Visual GPS leverages our proprietary insights and search data, from over one billion searches annually. The research details key insights relating to consumer decision making, to show what’s important to today’s consumers, what kind of visual content engages them, and ultimately, what leads them to make decisions.

    Visual GPS looks at four key Forces — Sustainability, Realness, Technology, and Wellness – which drive consumer engagement and purchasing behavior across geographies, generations, gender, and employment. The term “Forces” came about through a combination of interviews, observations, and visual analysis by our Creative Insights team, and were further explored through our custom studies with YouGov.

    Each of the Forces reveals important findings around what concerns consumers and how brands and businesses can respond, helping them navigate the crowded visual landscape and select the visuals which resonate best with their target audience.

    Earlier this year your research found that 87% of people across the Asia Pacific expect companies to be environmentally aware in all their advertising and communications. Tell us more about this trend and how brands can react to it

    The Visual GPS data tells us that sustainability is now more important than ever to consumers, irrespective of age, gender or geography — it simply matters to all. Despite COVID-19, people in the Asia Pacific today still strongly state concern around climate and sustainability and are passionate about the changes they are making in their everyday choices to be more sustainable. This includes actively reducing the amount of plastic they use and 69% saying they are doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint.

    “For companies, it is about being more open and broader around what inclusion is for people and the diverse ways in which it can be shown.”

    Our customer search data also shows that ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable living’ are trending up within the region. We see this as a clear call to action for brands and businesses – the Visual GPS data tells us that people want to see sustainability normalized in advertising and visual communications, especially as interest in the environment during the COVID-19 crisis has become inextricably linked to wellness.

    With consumer awareness heightened, there is a strong expectation for brands and businesses to be equally as passionate about climate and sustainability concerns and to be doing everything they can to help the environment. As a brand or business, making sure you are being sustainable in your visual choices and being aware of those (often subtle) details, such as showing someone out shopping with a reusable bag instead of a plastic one, will resonate strongly with consumers and you will also see the benefits as 60% of people in the Asia Pacific say they would purchase from a brand that was eco-friendly.

    You recently partnered with Climate Visuals, a program for climate change photography, to present Visualising Sustainability Guidelines. Tell us more about that

    We believe you can’t be what you can’t see and the same goes for sustainability. For real change to happen, consumers need to be able to visualize the impact of sustainability. This includes seeing positive changes being made to help the environment, new innovations or technologies happening around us, and equally how we can inspire change in each other through visuals. In response to the Visual GPS research, Getty Images partnered with Climate Visuals, the world’s only evidence-backed program for climate change photography, to present Visualising Sustainability Guidelines.

    ‘At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw a quick shift in our customers wanting to visualize the new realities of the world, including mask-wearing, as well as increased customer search terms around ‘social distancing’, ‘working from home’, ‘new normal’, ‘online learning’ and ‘home workout'”

    The guidelines help brands and businesses use fresh and relevant visual content to communicate their commitment to sustainability and incite the change we all want. They are intended to provide practical recommendations to inspire real positive change, and go beyond the typical icons of sustainability and climate change, such as polar bears on melting ice caps, and illustrate new sustainable concepts that are inclusive, representative, and show real solutions/outcomes for a more sustainable future.

    You said in a recent interview that brands need to be inclusive in their visual choices and that “people want and expect imagery to be representative of themselves and the world they see around them.” Can you expand on that?

    The Visual GPS report shows us how the importance of intersectionality around diversity and inclusion continues to increase and evolve. 84% of people in the Asia Pacific feel that it isn’t enough to have people of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and appearances in advertisements, but companies need to do a better job at capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures, compared to 79% globally.

    This means a greater understanding of consumers in the Asia Pacific, staying away from stereotypes that we know are no longer true, and thinking about the various intersections that make up people and their lives. For companies, it is about being more open and broader around what inclusion is for people and the diverse ways in which it can be shown.

    With over three quarters (84%) of all communications being visual, the impact imagery has on consumers is evident and it’s become more and more crucial how imagery can have an impact on their purchasing decisions with brands. There’s a clear appetite to tell, hear and see inclusive stories, but brands and businesses must go beyond tokenistic inclusion – and pick imagery that evokes an emotion and captures the essence of real life, with real people. This includes representation of all body shapes and types, age, gender and even being sensitive to the current times, showing the new normal as is for your area.

    Your research also found an increase in searches around “diversity”. What are some of the trends you’re seeing?

    Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and despite massive changes in people’s lives, the need for more inclusion has only intensified among people in the Asia Pacific. In the last six months, we are seeing above expected customer searches increase on our site for “businesswoman”, “active senior”, “diverse family”, and even searches for “Black lives matter” have become newly significant in countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore.

    “Our customer search data also shows that ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable living’ are trending up within the region. We see this as a clear call to action for brands and businesses.”

    Top images for seniors are showing both men and women leading full and vibrant lifestyles with their friends, being healthy and confident in their older years, as well as increasingly in business. In terms of the gender balance within the region, people are becoming more aware of this as we are seeing men portrayed as caregivers, as the ones taking care of the children rather than just seen as the playful dad, and women are being seen as true collaborators and decision-makers within a business environment, with the focus less on their beauty and more about being part of and leading a team.

    With that, consumers in the Asia Pacific feel empowered to make the change individually when it comes to creating a more diverse and inclusive society. They know the importance and influence they have as individuals to help make that change based on our Visual GPS findings. This includes how 75% of people believe how they have the power to help influence and shape the future. And 92% say it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure equality among races. This leaves a significant opportunity for brands and businesses to make intentional content choices that drive authentic and inclusive representation in visual communications.

    Are there any notable search trends that have become more prominent in Asia during the pandemic?

    At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw a quick shift in our customers wanting to visualize the new realities of the world, including mask-wearing, as well as increased customer search terms around “social distancing”, “working from home”, “new normal”, “online learning” and “home workout”. These terms continue to be on the rise as wellness and technology remain important elements during this time. Especially in relation to our physical and mental health, staying connected with family and friends and as remote work and schooling continue to be part of the new normal.

    What has been interesting is seeing the results from our Visual GPS research during this time. 98% of consumers in the Asia Pacific feel there will be long term results from this pandemic, with people re-thinking their priorities and making changes to their lifestyles charting the highest long-term outcome. Interestingly enough, we found from the more detailed responses that consumer behaviors and views remained strong on the issues they were passionate about even before the pandemic – specifically around diversity and inclusion, and sustainability – things brands and businesses must keep in mind as we continue to navigate into 2021.

     

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