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4 Forces Shaping Visual Storytelling + Content Marketing Today

Published on Aug 17, 2021

4 Forces Shaping Visual Storytelling + Content Marketing Today
Anastasia Dyakovskaya
Anastasia Dyakovskaya studioID

As a global leader in visual culture, Getty Images has its finger on the pulse of what’s happening across the world and — with its ever-growing imagery archive — is helping shape where we’re headed. The company has revolutionized representation with content partnerships with Dove, LeanIn.org, National Disability Leadership Alliance, Refinery 29, AARP, and more that have helped redefine how we see and understand one another and ourselves. 

Now, Getty’s new Visual GPS report offers a new way to think about visual storytelling by shining a light on four intertwining forces that are shaping our society today: Wellness, Technology, Sustainability, and Realness. Read on to learn what they’re about, and how they’re impacting brands and businesses at large.  


According to the Getty Images Visual GPS report — which defines Wellness as physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, familial, and communal well-being —

“the number one characteristic that people want in their life is the health and well-being of one’s self and family members.”

And research reveals that a heightened focus on self-care and mental health awareness, as well as mindfulness and social connection, are the main drivers behind this powerful force.

Artist: Liana Finck

“Emotional and mental well-being is at the forefront with many people in active pursuit of understanding how to manage their emotions, create productive habits, get more from social interactions, and reduce stress,” Getty says, and brands are getting in on the action.

Recess, a CBD beverage company that claims its drinks offer calm and clarity, recently released a print publication to help readers “remain calm while re-learning how to be a human again” post-pandemic quarantines and lockdowns. 

Artist: Brian Rea 

“The Recess Guide to Re-entering Society” was the perfect way to reinforce the company’s commitment to its audience’s well-being while staying true to its unique brand voice. The zine featured tongue-in-cheek advice on topics like dating, fashion, and hugging your friends, as well as thoughtful artwork revolving around mental health and the realities we’re all having to deal with today. The project boasts many creative contributors — including The New York Times’ Modern Love’s Brian Rea, who designed the cover. Readers might also recognize New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck, “whose illustrations perfectly capture the complicated emotions that come with transitioning from pandemic isolation to a bustling re-opened society.” 

Artist: Adrian Brandon

Visual Thinking: The Recess website is a pastel dream with cartoon clouds floating by in the background to up the chill factor even more. Its message of calm couldn’t be clearer. But as a trending force and business category, Wellness can encompass that and so much more. 

The experts at Getty Images say, “It’s up to brands to take more of a 360-degree view of a life lived well.”

Tip for Visual Visionaries: To start exploring the space more fully, Getty Images suggests searching for phrases and keywords like “emotional and spiritual health,” “being mindful,” “living our values,” “celebrating goodness” and “connecting with friends.” 


Technological innovation is at an all-time high with no signs of stopping in sight, and it comes with an enormous impact on all of our lives. “Consider how much easier Alexa/Siri or even predictive text make it for us to get through our busy days,” says the Getty Images Creative Insights Team. “The next decade will see improved datasets, more AI-driven tech innovation, increased use of facial recognition, and more of our devices talking to each other and ‘collaborating’ on our behalf” to anticipate and fulfill our needs.

A dark side has emerged as well, of course, made up of smartphone addiction, cyberbullying, data breaches, and other internet nightmares. But “it’s not necessarily devices that drive decisions,” the report says.

Instead, “it’s people’s relationship to tech and the way they choose to interact with it that will determine what connects” and what destroys.

Brands and businesses have a responsibility to use tech for good, and many major players are making incredible strides with efforts across apps, digital experiences, and augmented and virtual reality

One company that knows what it’s doing is Corona — which this year became the first global beverage brand to achieve a new zero plastic footprint. Among their new initiatives is one with Oceanic Global that aims to clean up 100 seashores and eliminate 1 million pounds of plastic from these beaches and their business by 2025. But where does tech come in? To commemorate World Ocean Week and encourage people to consume less and recyle, the brand’s #ProtectOurBeaches campaign released an AR experience called “Plastic Reality.”

After answering a set of questions to estimate their annual plastic footprint, users are presented with a visual representation of that data as virtual trash piles up all around them. “Seeing your full year’s worth of plastic in your living room is truly eye-opening,” says Global VP of Marketing Felipe Ambra.

“Hopefully [it] will inspire people to reduce their personal plastic use and their impact on the environment.”   

Visual Thinking: If you’re not quite ready to build your own custom AR experience, “integrating app and smart tech usage into lifestyle, travel, healthcare, industry, education, and business content” is one way to inject a future-forward, tech savvy sensibility into your brand language. 

Tip for Visual Visionaries: Another way, according to the creative team at Getty Images, is depicting “how we might live our lives or how the tech might look in the years to come.” They recommend searching for terms like “connecting digitally,” “technological innovation,” “everyday technology,” and other relevant specifics that connect with your customers and well as your company mission. 


As environmental fears and challenges become more frequent realities, Sustainability is a force on everyone’s mind — and one that should be a priority for every business. In fact, the Visual GPS report goes so far as to say that

“it’s now shameful, both as a consumer as well as a business, if you are not showing what you are doing in order to help the climate crisis.” 

With rising trends in minimalism and conscious consumption, to responsible travel and reusable, compostable, and plant-based alternatives, Sustainability is thankfully starting to bleed into more and more aspects of our daily lives. Research at Getty Images shows that an immense variety of “stories are being told around the changes individuals are making to be more sustainable…[and] this is an opportunity for companies and brands to partner with consumers in their efforts.

“There’s a move towards consuming less, and leading a simpler pared down life,” which is why Ikea’s new Fortune Favours the Frugal campaign is so on the mark. Highlighting the benefits of thrift and moderation in the face of ecological uncertainty, the video spot and accompanying visuals show the many different ways its possible to make a difference and live more sustainably — as well as what could happen if we don’t: in this case, a meteor made of junk barely missing our planet. 

Visual Thinking: “We can’t change what we cannot see and we need to see the environmental impact that our behavior is having on the world,” Getty Images says. Brands need to find ways to articulate the threat while illustrating new ways of doing things and how people can implement positive change. 

Tip for Visual Visionaries: Another thing to keep in mind? “Often bottles, cups, and straws are small elements of a larger scene, but it’s important to rethink what’s in the image or video and whether it meets modern standards…[and] while the color green, plants and trees, the recycling sign, and wind turbines are popular visual icons, Sustainability is becoming an expectation across all subject matter.” To get inspired, Getty recommends searching for phrases like “buying eco-friendly products,” “reusable water bottle,” “going vegan,” and “living a sustainable lifestyle.” 


In this evolving landscape, there’s no more room for faking it. No matter who we are or what kind of content we’re interacting with, people expect Realness and authenticity at home and at work as well as from the brands they choose to engage with. According to Visual GPS,

“It’s 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.” 

Across the board, businesses have come forward to reimagine their products, practices, marketing tactics, and more to fit these expectations and lead their audiences into this new age — defined by tolerance and transparency. From celebrating LGBTQ+ communities to activating anti-racist initiatives and rebranding to embrace body positivity, brands and companies that stand for honesty, equality, and inclusivity above all are resonating more and more right now and will continue to do so in the years to come.

Visa’s latest rebrand — which features a new brand symbol that’s a literal equal sign in its signature blue and yellow stripes — aims to join the movement and show consumers that it’s not just a credit card company, but a service that benefits, connects, and works for all kinds of people around the globe, together.

“Visualizing underrepresented communities as isolated from the rest of the world doesn’t evolve the visual language forward, but showing how everyone interacts and has a seat at the proverbial table does,” and that’s exactly what the new “Meet Visa” campaign is all about. 

Visual Thinking: “Over 70% of the consultation we do with our customers is in visualizing diversity and inclusion,” say Getty Images experts. “We’ve found that the imagery that works well is social, positive, dynamic, and candid.”

Tip fo Visual Visionaries: Try searching for “authenticity in business,” “celebrate diversity,” “belonging to a community,” and “participating in activities that make a difference” to see what they’re talking about. 

Bottom line? “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.”