One of the first things to remember is that the images you choose in your marketing materials convey your values – intentional or not. And today’s consumers are very savvy. They expect companies consider inclusion and accessibility. In fact, a Google survey from 2019 indicates that customers are more likely to consider doing business with a company if they feel the images are diverse and inclusive.
Diversity isn’t just about skin colour. It includes culture, social status, sexual orientation and gender identity, age, and disability. In addition, you want to avoid reinforcing stereotypes. Images should represent people as everyday people doing everyday things. For example, people of all ages and abilities can participate in sports.
Sources of Diverse Images
With the number of stock photo sites on the internet, you should have no problem finding diverse images. The site Indigenous Images provides stock photos of Canadian Indigenous peoples and supports Indigenous artists. Getty Images, rawpixel, iStockphoto, Adobe Stock and Shutterstock. are excellent sources of images of people across the cultural, socio-economic, and gender spectrum.
Inclusion and Accessibility in Images
Using images of people from all walks of life greatly benefits inclusion. But we must be mindful of implied bias, such as having a white male appear as the authority figure. Or having a group of white, cis, non-disabled people around a table while marginalized groups are in the background. Also, ensure you are sensitive to cultural appropriation. (Cher’s music video provides an example of what not to do).
Perhaps you decide to avoid using real people in your images. That might be an excellent choice for your business. But you should still consider accessibility for people who can’t see the photos by using captions and alt-attributes.
Most people are familiar with image captions. These words, usually visible beside the image, provide a brief description. Alt-attributes are words that provide alternate information for the graphic if it is not displayed. You don’t usually see alt-attributes on a website unless you hover over or disable images.
Pay attention to how you describe the image for both captions and alt-attributes. Give everyone in the photo equal treatment. Use names for everyone or describe them as a group, such as “professor teaching to university students in a chemistry lab.”
Hot Tip: Good quality alt-attributes for images and videos improve search engine optimization on your website. Check out this article on Best Practices by Google.
We all know that businesses in public buildings need to be accessible to everyone. If your business is your website, it should still be accessible to everyone. Create a sitemap so people can navigate your site without using menus. Choose themes and colour schemes to increase visual contrast. Check out these tools to help you verify and improve your website accessibility. And by the way, accessible websites rank higher in search engines too.
It may take a little more work to incorporate inclusion and accessibility into your website and images. However, customers will better perceive your brand, which may lead to business growth.
Ashwell, Sabrina J. “The ACS Guide to Scholarly Communication.” ASC Publications, American Chemical Society, 1 Jan. 2020, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acsguide.60101.
Bauer, Sydney. “The Atlantic Tried to Artistically Show Gender Dysphoria on Its Cover. Instead It Damaged the Trust of Transgender Readers.” Poynter, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Inc, 8 Sept. 2020, www.poynter.org/ethics-trust/2020/the-atlantic-tried-artistically-show-gender-dysphoria-cover-instead-damaged-trust-transgender-readers/.
Campaign Monitor. “Why Diverse Images in Marketing Are Important.” Campaign Monitor, CM Group, 28 June 2022, www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/diverse-images-brand-value/.
Director, Managing, and Joey Tackett. “How to Choose Diverse and Inclusive Photos.” Forum One, Forum One, 17 Mar. 2022, www.forumone.com/insights/blog/how-to-choose-diverse-and-inclusive-photos/.
Dixon-Fyle, Sundiatu, et al. “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 6 Apr. 2022, www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters.
Editors, Food & Wine. “Editor’s Note: Why a Recipe Is More than a Recipe.” Food & Wine, Food & Wine, 22 Jan. 2021, www.foodandwine.com/news/editors-note-why-a-recipe-is-more-than-a-recipe.
Zalis, Shelley. “Perceptions on Diversity & Inclusion.” Think with Google, Google, Nov. 2019, www.thinkwithgoogle.com/future-of-marketing/management-and-culture/diversity-and-inclusion/thought-leadership-marketing-diversity-inclusion/.