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Getty Images’ New Visual GPS Project Aims to Represent What’s Authentic

Getty Images, a pioneer in the visual trend landscape, is onto its next ambitious project: Visual GPS. The report’s multi-faceted approach leverages Getty Images internal search data, insights from the content powerhouse’s visual experts, and the latest market research, delivering a one-of-a-kind guide to finding the right images and videos to connect with consumers around the world.

In a world so inundated with information, and disinformation — political debates and rallies, news cycles, environmental activism, provocative imagery and videos, filtered posts on social media — brands are finding it harder than ever to connect to consumers.

It’s become equally straining to conjure up new strategies that could keep consumers engaged for more than eight seconds before scrolling further down their Instagram feeds. 

visual Gps
Photo Credit: Metamorworks

Brands can’t continue to use the excuse that the market is over-saturated because  competition has arguably always been there, in relative ebbs and flows, but it has always been there.

The only way to beat it today is with a carefully executed strategy coupled with in-depth research on consumers’ visual preferences, complaints, gaps, and behavioral patterns.

Understanding the ins-and-outs of media’s effect on consumers’ expectations and reactions to what they see.

Enter Getty Images’ 25 years of experience in visual insight, its over 375 million assets, and 310,000 contributors, and their project Visual GPS that launched earlier this week. 

Getty Images Visual GPS
Photo Credit: Willie B. Thomas

Getty Images’ Creative Insights team — made up of curators, futurists, archivists, and art directors — is using the one billion annual searches conducted on its two websites, and, to better understand consumer preferences. 

This project was conducted in partnership with YouGov, a market research firm, that has compiled data from over 10,000 consumers across 26 countries and 13 languages. 

The research has revealed that while most consumers care about their own well-being as well as that of their families and the environment, they find that technology has not been easy to navigate when it comes to acting on their beliefs and intentions.


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Information overwhelm has caused a disconnect among consumers. Though visual content is more quickly accessible now, it’s harder to find the kind that’s truly resonant and authentic; that captures not only ideal moments but moments of works-in-progress, of real effort, of difference, and of commonality.

Stereotypical imagery in the wellness, realness, technology and sustainability segments are pervasive and the stigmas associated with them, make room for consequential issues between consumers and visual-media brands.

The four foregoing categories have been identified, by Visual GPS, as the main “Forces” that determine consumers’ preferences and decision-making.

While those “Forces” might vary in intensity over time, depending on location and demographics, each force is mutually inclusive and can cause new “Forces” to emerge as trends change. 

Getty Images
Photo Credit: Emma Kim

“We live in an increasingly visual world. Having the perfect image, video, or illustration can mean the difference between connecting with your audience or simply being bypassed,” said Ken Mainardis, Senior Vice President of Content at Getty Images.

“It can be difficult to choose visual content that will resonate with your target consumer unless you understand what’s important to your customers and what drives their decision making — this is the problem Visual GPS seeks to solve.”

At an event moderated, on February 25, by Senior Director of Creative Research at Getty Images Dr. Rebecca Swift, experts on realness, wellness, technology, and sustainability explained how every brand can consider those categories in conjunction with their relations to various geographies, demographics, industries, and generations to create and select effective imagery. 

Experts included John Antoniello, creative director at Publicis Sapient, Tatiana Kuzmowycz, creative director at ClassPass, Kate O’Neil, founder of KO Insights, and Tan Copsey, senior director of Projects and Partnerships at Climate Nexus, relatively.

Some of the findings, that Dr. Swift has reiterated to not only be “relevant, but truly actionable,” go against popular opinion when it comes to consumers’ intentions towards the “Forces.”

To dispel the first misconception, she says, sustainability is not a sheerly “young person’s concern.” It is important for people across generations, cultures, and geographies.

Photo Credit: Vm

The gap is not in generational misunderstandings about the urgency of global warming, but it’s in what the Visual GPS has identified as the “consumption conundrum.”

Around half of consumers report that they only purchase products from eco-friendly brands, but while 48 percent of consumers are aware of that urgency, they still prefer convenience. 

That awareness but lack of action towards what’s right suggests that change is completely possible and that brands can manifest it. Instead of, say, creating visuals that reflect only young people’s involvement in environmental efforts, more should represent those seniors who, too, put in just as much effort into ensuring their grandchildren’s future well-being.

And in tailoring attention to the mentioned “convenience approach,” images shouldn’t just be limited to reusable bags and water bottles.

“Our research shows us there is an opportunity for companies and brands to help consumers bridge the gap between their attitudes and their actions,” said Dr. Swift.

Photo Credit: SolStock

“Visual GPS shows us that sustainability is a universal concern across generations, gender, and regions — the potential for positive action is huge but consumers won’t engage if brands are not speaking to these issues in authentic visual terms.”

As important as sustainability, consumers are also invested in brands that keep to the promise of diversity and transparency. According to Dr. Swift,  33 percent of consumers, in the past two years, have boycotted a brand with whose values they didn’t agree.

An additional 34 percent have started purchasing from brands whose values they support. However, inclusivity (such as the kind pertaining to body shape, gender, age, demographics), hasn’t kept up to speed with consumers’ expectations.

Getty Images
Photo Credit: Nick David

Another misconception to dispel is the notion that people care more about physical health than mental health, but in fact, research suggests that both are highly valued; 88 percent of consumers value physical health and 90 percent value mental health.

Rather than associating well-being merely with fitness-related images, brands should create more imagery showing mental self-care.

Dr. Swift also noted that much of the visuals related to well-being almost always depict young people, but statistics show that older generations value “living by one’s principles” to a greater capacity.

Only 46 percent of millennials and 34 percent of Gen Z value wholesome well-being, as compared to 67 percent of Baby Boomers and 53 percent of GenX.

Visual Gps
Photo Credit: Sophie Mayanne

Technology, more than any of the other “Forces,” presents a tense contradiction in the ways that consumers regard it.

Sixty-five percent of Gen Z and 55 percent of millennials think that technology has worsened their ability to maintain relationships, in part because of how much they depend on building connections through social media, while a greater percentage of GenX and Baby Boomers reflect on technology as a “connector.” 

Regardless of that ambivalence, 97 percent of the respondents surveyed for Visual GPS say that technology has helped them feel connected, a statistic that is also promising for brands to consider.

Instead of depicting the downsides of technology, such as an image of a group of teenagers sitting side-by-side and interacting only with their phones, brands can represent technology’s advantages. Additionally, its ability to connect people beyond any physical barriers.

Photo Credit: Talia Herman

Even with such an information-saturated visual market, Visual GPS offers brands ready-made solutions for reaching and maintaining consumers’ interests. All it takes is getting to know what speaks to consumers’ lived lives.