The Impact of Imagery in Today’s Socially Conscious World

Don’t just take a stand on social issues. Stand out with powerful visuals.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Cavan + Adobe

by Meredith Cooper

posted on 12-03-2019

In 2014, The Ocean Agency discovered an eerie sight off the coast of Hawaii. Huge patches of coral were a ghostly white, signifying extreme stress and potential death. To capture images of the bleached coral, they developed a special camera, the Seaview SVII, to use Google Street View’s 360-degree technology underwater. Then they teamed up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to publicize the crisis and give the world a virtual view.

Almost every major news outlet used the images, reaching 2.4 billion people with over $25 million worth of free media coverage. Coral bleaching became one of the biggest climate change stories of the year. And their Netflix documentary, “Chasing Coral,” received numerous awards, including the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and an Emmy for Outstanding Nature Documentary.

Image source: Adobe Stock / The Ocean Agency

That’s the impact of powerful imagery. It can do more to grab our attention, our hearts, and our wallets than mere words ever could.

The power of taking a stand

Like The Ocean Agency, brands need to take a stand for causes they believe in — especially to stay relevant in this era of social responsibility. It’s no longer enough to offer a stellar product or service. Brands have to demonstrate shared values, from social justice to sustainability. At Adobe, we call it taking a Brand Stand.

According to a study by Edelman, 64% of consumers make buying decisions based on a company’s social or political stance. And a Fortune/NP Strategy poll found that 80% of respondents ages 25 to 34 want to work for “engaged companies” and would be willing to take a pay cut to do so.

CEOs are getting on board, too. At the August 2019 Business Roundtable, 200 CEOs worked to redefine the purpose of a corporation, stating that they shouldn’t just advance the interests of the shareholders, but invest in their employees, deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers, and support their communities and the environment.

Image source: Adobe Stock / Cavan for Adobe

Whether it’s demonstrating inclusivity in the workplace or creating an awareness campaign for a cause you believe in, purpose-driven creative — your narrative about the stance you’re taking — can connect you with belief-driven buyers. And when you add powerful visuals to your story, you bring it to life. You let people see the unseen. You ignite their passions. And you motivate them to take action — all of which is good for business.

Connecting with consumers through globally relevant and inclusive visuals can improve your talent acquisition and retention, boost your brand perception, and turn customers into advocates.

But authenticity is key. You must ensure that your purpose-driven creative aligns with both your brand values and your customers’ values.

Image source: Adobe Stock / aryfahmed

Not just a voice — a visual voice

As more companies speak out, it’s getting harder to be heard. But with creativity and powerful imagery, you can cut through the noise.

The Ocean Agency knows this well. A few years after finding the bleached coral, they captured another beautiful but disturbing set of images: brilliantly glowing corals. The colors act like a sunscreen in a final attempt to defend against deadly high water temperatures. To draw further attention to the coral crisis, The Ocean Agency teamed up with the Pantone Color Institute and Adobe Stock on Glowing Glowing Gone, a campaign that taps into the creative strengths of each partner to accelerate ocean and climate action.

Image source: Adobe Stock / The Ocean Agency

“We’re making coral’s final glowing plea impossible to ignore.” — Richard Vevers, Founder and CEO, The Ocean Agency

First, Pantone analyzed the images and created three new colors representing the hues of climate change: Glowing Yellow, Glowing Blue, and Glowing Purple. Next, Adobe Stock curated two new collections: one of underwater imagery from The Ocean Agency and another inspired by the new Pantone color palette. Proceeds from the sale of The Ocean Agency’s images go to supporting its mission to protect our oceans.

The campaign then kicked off a design challenge, which invited creatives to submit work using the three glowing colors in support of the cause. Artwork will be featured in Times Square, on WeTransfer wallpaper, and at conferences and events for ocean policies.

Igniting action through imagery

The Glowing Glowing Gone campaign has inspired several brands to take action, including the World Surf League (WSL), which used the fluorescent colors and imagery in all branding for the 2019 Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o, presented by Hurley event. The colors could be seen on everything from jerseys to signage, including a billboard in New York City.

World Surf League jerseys at the 2019 Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o surfing event

WSL’s use of the Glowing Going Gone imagery a great example of how to align a social cause with a brand, because a healthy ocean is critical to their mission.

Creativity can be a catalyst for change

There are all kinds of ways to tell your story and make your visual voice heard. You can collaborate with nonprofit partners who share your values. Launch advertising and social media campaigns to raise awareness of an issue. Use virtual reality to connect with socially conscious consumers.

To get five tips for amplifying your visual voice with purpose-driven creative, download Make Your Visual Voice Heard. You’ll learn new ways to connect with belief-driven consumers and see how collaboration can extend your message beyond your usual audience.

Image source: Adobe Stock /

However you make your visual voice heard, Adobe Stock for enterprise can help you build outstanding experiences with over 180 million powerful, thought-provoking, and globally relevant visuals — including photos, illustrations, videos, 3D assets, and templates. Check out our latest collections here.

With this vast wealth of imagery at your fingertips, you can turn an ordinary story into an extraordinary one. And ensure your visual voice comes across as strong, credible, and powerful, which are essential for capturing the attention of today’s socially conscious consumers. Boosting brand perception — and building brand loyalty.

Topics: Creativity

Products: Stock