iStock Releases 2021 Visual Trends To Support SMBs And SMEs

Diverse group of friends exercising together outside during the COVID pandemic and wearing face masks.
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

iStock has released its top visual communications trends to help small and medium-sized businesses better plan their brand and performance marketing for 2021.

Experts from across iStock have identified key emerging trends that they claim will resonate with consumers after a year of disruption—from major political events, the impact of COVID-19, effects of climate change, and social change.

These are the key trends to keep your eye on in 2021, according to iStock.

Responsible depictions of sustainability

In iStock’s global consumer survey, Visual GPS, conducted earlier this year, 81 per cent of respondents said they expect companies to be environmentally aware in all their advertising communications.

Half of respondents said they only buy products from brands that try to be eco-friendly.

“With the outcome of the American election, it seems that sustainability will be high on the agenda in 2021,” Dr. Rebecca Swift, global head of creative insights, iStock said.

“Businesses should look for images, video and illustrations that convey their commitment to sustainability issues and visualise the concrete actions their customers can take that will pave the way to a better, more sustainable future.”

Accurately and inclusively represent your customers

Representation is key, with 80 per cent of consumers in the Visual GPS study saying it isn’t enough for brands to feature people from diverse backgrounds in advertising—they expect to see authentic representations of different cultures and lifestyles.

Dr. Swift explains: “Our data and research tells us that in addition to the moral responsibility for companies to do the right thing, there’s a clear appetite from consumers to tell, hear and see inclusive stories.

“Check out for ideas and at the very least try using visuals that portray different groups within communities—different ages, genders or abilities—this will foster greater connection between you and your consumer.”

Soothing colour schemes

After a stressful year, a trend for soothing and reassuring colours is already emerging. Tones are warmer and palettes are balanced and muted to communicate calm.

Peter Noah, director, marketing and brand creative, iStock said: “Data visualisation and graphics will continue to be important, but consumers are looking for reassuring clarity, so flat colours, simple shapes and straightforward type styling will be most effective as we move into the new year.”

Social first

With consumers socialising less in person now, the need to stay connected and access information is driving stronger than ever social engagement, iStock said.

But with this, the need for brands to reflect the “authentic lives” of their consumers is more important than ever.

Sixty percent of respondents in the Visual GPS survey said they prefer to buy from brands that are founded by or represent people like themselves, according to iStock.

“Businesses must think social-first when communicating with their audiences, but authenticity will be key to building a connection across digital channels,” Meredith McCracken, vice president, CRM and sales marketing, iStock said.

“There has already been an evolution toward incorporating more authenticity in the tone, copy, and imagery in marketing but that need has become ever more important during this pandemic, and particularly when it comes to social media where people engage with brands in their personal feeds.”

Video is booming

Consumers are watching more video than ever before, and most of these videos are viewed via social media, iStock said.

Brands that represent real people in authentic environments in video formats will make better connections with their audiences.

Alwyn Gosford, Senior Video Art Director, iStock, said: “Brands must design videos with social media consumption in mind—vertical formats, which are more easily viewed on mobile phones, will work best.

“Subtitles or graphics will be important as social videos are frequently viewed without sound, and brevity is key—several videos of 30–60 seconds will be more effective than one video of over two minutes.”

Roughly a third (33 per cent) of respondents to iStock’s Visual GPS survey have boycotted a brand that went against their values in the past two years.

With seismic shifts in the consumer landscape in 2020, it’s more important than ever that businesses do their research to understand what consumers expect and use the right visuals to connect with their audiences.

You can find more information on iStock’s Visual GPS here.

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