How Marketers Should Deal With the Delta Variant According to Data

How Marketers Should Deal with the Delta Variant According to Data

What sort of images are consumers clicking on in light of the latest pandemic news? Shutterstock.AI tracks fresh data to find out.

When COVID-19 cases began soaring in the United States in March 2020, marketers pulled imagery of travel and physical touch from their ad rotations, and consumers stopped clicking on that content, too. Each new development in the pandemic since then has impacted how creatives show everyday life. With masks or without? Indoors or out? 

The latest development marketers are grappling with is the spread of the highly-contagious Delta variant. After an aggressive vaccine rollout, at least in parts of the world, it seemed as if choosing imagery that reflected the overall optimism of the moment might be the best way to go. 

But now, with Delta making its way across the globe, is that still the case? What types of images and videos are consumers reliably clicking on, considering the latest news? 

Rather than simply wonder, let’s track creative data in real-time using Shutterstock.AI. But, first . . .

How Does Shutterstock.AI Work?

Computer vision can “see” and understand content within imagery and videos. It can also determine what content features—from colors to facial expressions—drive performance for any audience, brand, or industry. 

Every asset in the Shutterstock.AI data set is tagged with 49,000 visual creative dimensions, including:

Colors: AI tracks which colors and color combinations are within each piece of content.Objects Present: This includes everything—from furniture to food—that can be seen.Faces: AI understands facial expressions and the number of faces within each piece.Settings: Does this content depict an office? Or a park? Or a front porch? Video Components: How many scene changes are in a piece? What’s its length? 

On a daily basis, algorithms analyze all 49,000 of these creative dimensions. This means the AI combs through over 600 billion creative data points to ensure accuracy in its predictions. While this is a quick process for AI, it’d take a human multiple lifetimes to complete.

Once artificial intelligence has gone through these creative dimensions, its algorithms uncover patterns between them. By discovering patterns and outliers, AI identifies trends like: What colors are driving the highest click-through rate (CTR) right now? Are there certain objects, such as specific vehicles or dog breeds, that drive the highest conversion rates? 

In other words, artificial intelligence can deliver a better understanding of an audience’s creative preferences. 

So, what does it tell us about how to deal with the Delta variant? Let’s dive in . . .

Tips for Dealing with the Delta Variant

#1: Lean into Kissing Content

Multiracial Couple Kissing Gay Couple Kissing Mature Couple Kissing Images of people kissing have a 1429% higher CTR than images of people shaking hands. Images via eva_blanco, keymoon, and MJTH.

Despite fears of the Delta variant, it seems consumers are craving human touch. In fact, the click-through rate (CTR) on images and video of people kissing went up 584% since May and a whopping 1900% since December 2020. 

Content that shows people hugging is also super-clickable. Hugs have a 56% higher CTR today than they did in June and a 111% higher CTR today than they did a year ago.

Seniors Hugging Friends Hugging Affectionate Couple Images of people hugging have also gone up considerably. Images via Sabrina Bracher, Rido, and mavo.

But, shaking hands? Not so much. In a time when the use of dating apps is at an all-time high, it seems people want to see a greater degree of intimacy in their feeds, ads . . . and, perhaps, futures.

#2: Show People Sleeping

The clickability of health-related content has peaked and dropped throughout the pandemic. At the moment, the most engaging images in the category depict sleep.

Boy and Dogs SleepingAsian Child SleepingSleeping in HammockImages of people sleeping is 900% more engaging than images of hospitals. Opt for imagery of people resting over photos of emergency rooms, doctors, or medication. Images via Cavan Images, MIA Studio, and Vladimir Gjorgiev.

Perhaps that’s because some people have been getting more sleep during the pandemic. Or, perhaps it’s because they’ve been getting less (a phenomenon known as “coronasomnia“). In any case, consumers seem to have rest on the brain, and marketers should tap into that.

#3: Ditch the Masks (in Photos), Rep the Vaccine

Many people have returned to mask-wearing given the rise of the Delta variant (and the CDC has updated its guidelines, too). But overall, consumers are tired of seeing masks in their ads. In fact, images featuring mouths and smiles are trending upward in engagement, with a 12% higher CTR than images with masks.

Senior Patient Vaccine Child Vaccine Vaccine in Shoulder Vaccine in Shoulder Include diverse images of vaccine patients. Images via Mareen Fischinger / Westend61, Wavebreak Media, Maskot Images, and SeventyFour.

With new fears brought on by the latest COVID mutation, vaccination rates have gone up—and so has engagement rates for vaccine-related content. Imagery and videos depicting injections currently have their highest CTRs of any point within the last year. 

Kid Washing HandsWoman Washing HandsMan Washing HandsAlso highly clickable? Washing hands. Images via 5D Media, Esdras Silva de Morais, and Tonkla foto.

Hand-washing images are also engaging again, with a 94% higher CTR than they had in June of this year. 

#4: Capture the Party

People want to party! At least, they want to click on images of parties.

Marketers are unlikely to depict crowded get-togethers in their content right now (AI tells us that parties are being shown 48% less than they were in 2020), but these types of images have a 122% higher CTR than they did last year. 

Music Concert Friends Toasting Music Festival Interest in images of people at festivals or intimate get-togethers are on the rise. Images via zeljkodan, Jacob Lund, and Courtney Chavanell.

That said, the quarantined lifestyle of 2020 still resonates with many, with some slight shifts in focus: Images of people working out and playing video games declined in clickability by 53% and 12%, respectively; and audiences are now more likely to click on content of people reading books at home.

Reading a Book Grocery Service Shopping Online Content depicting computers and food delivery hold the same high CTRs as they did at this time last summer. Images via Yulia Grigoryeva, VesnaArt, and Maskot Images.

#5: Highlight Travel Methods Instead of Tourists

Travel has changed. For a while, it completely ceased. Now, people want to pack a bag and take off on their next adventure, but many are remaining cautious. So, how are audiences interacting with travel content given this uncertainty? 

Currently, buses, trains, and airplanes all have high engagement metrics. In a somewhat surprising twist, busses have the highest CTR. There’s no obvious explanation for why this is, especially considering the difficulties city busses and long-haul bus services have experienced throughout the pandemic. But, it’s something to keep in mind when selecting content.

Bus Service Downtown Chicago Metro Center Station Strangely, busses have the highest CTR among modes of travel. Images via Ceri Breeze, f11photo, and Lux Blue.

CTRs for content showing airplanes rose 111% within the last month, but airports are significantly less likely to garner clicks. Across all travel-related content researched, artificial intelligence found that airports have the lowest CTR. Tourists are also dropping in engagement, with a 29% lower CTR than they had in June. 

Plane DockAirplane BackgroundAirplane at Sunset If you’re creating travel-centric content, AI says to opt for imagery of actual airplanes, rather than imagery of airports full of traveling tourists. Images via Dave Reede / All Canada, BOOCYS, and muratart.

For more marketing tips and advice, take a look at these articles:

10 FREE Color Palettes for Sports Branding and MarketingMaking Influencer Marketing Work for Your BusinessConstant Contact Users See a Boost in Email Marketing Performance Thanks to Eye-Catching Visuals5 Key Digital Marketing Skills to Know (or to Outsource)What Images Marketing Agencies Are Looking for in 2021

Cover image via Rido.

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