Ever notice how often brands consistently limit the images they use to young, white, straight, able-bodied, cisgender people?
There is a frustrating lack of diversity in marketing.
While the trend is shifting slightly, it’s a change that is way overdue, and there is still progress to be made.
There is a whole world of difference in the people around us, and if you want to be truly inclusive in your marketing, it’s time to start thinking about the diversity of your existing audience, and who you want to be in your audience – and ensure that same diversity is reflected in the images you use to promote your business.
Defining Diversity In Marketing
Diversity doesn’t end with gender, race, or ethnicity. It also honors a variety of abilities, cultures, ages, sexual orientations, and statuses.
Stereotypes can misrepresent and oversimplify groups by suggesting common standards.
These stereotypes imply certain people do certain things in given situations.
For example, images used in marketing commonly stereotype women as always cleaning, romance as heterosexual, and families as monochromatic (all one race), etc. This can lead to racism, ageism, sexism, and leave out several other non-diverse groups.
All too often, many diverse populations are simply left out. Many brands have gravitated toward young, white, straight, able-bodied cisgender men for decades.
This has left out the vast majority of people across the world – women, ethnic groups, various cultures, disabled people, and gender non-conforming people to name a few– the list goes on!
In fact, in a 2019 study of film-based advertising, the number of male models outnumbered the number of female models two-to-one. That’s twice as many men to women characters in ads – and men were given twice the screen time & speaking roles, and were depicted as funny and/or leaders, whereas women were largely oversexualized.
People with disabilities only represented 2.2% of the characters in ads, while 19% of the population has a disability…and the number of LGTQIA+ people is advertising was even fewer.
Dismal statistics, at best.
Leading by Example
For far too long, images have depicted a specific look in the models used, often leading the reader to believe they should want to be like that image. That is not reality and shouldn’t be the way people learn to view themselves.
Unfortunately, that same 2019 study I mentioned above also found that only 7.2% of characters had large body types, whereas 39% of the general population are larger in actuality – and large people are stereotyped in advertising, often depicted as lazy, or shown eating/drinking more often than smaller bodied people.
Body positivity is important and as a “plus size” woman I love seeing ads that feature larger models. Take Torrid, for example. This business caters to plus-size fashion and does so very well by highlighting a variety of bigger-bodied women of different shapes and sizes.
I’ve also seen some pretty great ads on social, where a gender-diverse person is promoting menstrual products. There were so many amazing, beautiful comments. People were finally feeling seen for the first time. So much praise was given to the company.
Catering to a more diverse population in your brand imaging is not only the right thing to do as a human, but it is also the single most effective way to grow your brand.
By making more people feel seen in the images you use, you will, by default, connect with a wider audience.
My Favorite Diverse Stock Photo Resources
So, how can you make sure you’re being diverse in your marketing? Take a look at your images and see if everyone looks the same.
Remember, you aren’t just looking at physical appearance, but stereotypes and other characteristics of diversity – age, LGBTQIA+, religion, location, culture, etc.
Here are some places to can find free diversified images:
- https://genderphotos.vice.com/ – The Gender Spectrum Collection is a free LGBTQ+ stock photo library
- https://www.wocintechchat.com/blog/wocintechphotos – stock photos of women of color in tech
- https://nappy.co/ – Beautiful photos of Black and Brown people, for free.
Or, if you have the budget to access paid stock photo sites, try one of these on for size:
- https://tonl.co/ – culturally diverse stock photos representing the true world we live in.
- https://www.diversityphotos.com/ – visual content that authentically represents our global community.
- https://createherstock.com/ – Authentic stock images featuring melanated women.
- https://www.blackillustrations.com/ – Beautiful illustrations of Black people for your next digital project
- https://Depositphoto.com – This is a more general stock footage site where you are able to search by age, ethnicity, and/or gender.
In the end, being inclusive is kind and also good for business.
You care about people – show that your brand and business care too. Show that you are willing to go the extra mile to find images and create diverse content.